Tuesday 16 January 2018

Turf meets surf: farmers' market pitches up by sea

Organic veg, gourmet breads and delicious cupcakes will tempt your taste buds at Blackrock, says Lucinda O'Sullivan

There's nothing that adds a bit of colour and buzz to a town centre like a farmers' market, with its myriad stalls, umbrellas and canopies, and equally colourful stallholders enthusiastically selling their wares. It brings people out to see what is going on and then they very often end up spending a few bob in some of the shops as well. Markets are a great way too for people to test a new business, to try out new products on a ready-made group of people who are already into food or all things arty. I have seen many do really well; some even moving on to take shop units, whilst others prefer to keep costs down and enjoy the nomadic nature of market life.

Blackrock Market has long been popular, tucked away under an arch off Main Street in the south Dublin seaside suburb. It sells everything from bric-a-brac to vintage clothes, bean bags to doll's houses, food products to spices and soaps, but a new Saturday farmers' market has also just kicked off on Main Street, which hopefully will blossom.

Among the eclectic bunch of traders I met was Frank Murawski from Germany who is selling German sausages -- bratwurst, a non-smoked pork sausage with herbs. Frank is in fact a "master chef in the kitchen" and has worked in many hotels and restaurants. He has also been at George's Bakery in Slane, Co Meath. You will find Frank and his bratwurst at the Howth Farmers' Market, and Harcourt Street and Christchurch Markets. He has been doing this for about five years.

Sharing a stall with Frank at the Blackrock Market was Astrid Ripp, also from Germany, but who moved to Ireland six years ago "also for the sausages". Astrid is based in Galway, where she relocated three years ago, with her "Ripp's German Gourmet Food". Having done Irish dancing for two years in Germany, she came over for a training week to learn from the best of Irish dancers. "Whilst I was here I figured there was no shop or anything around Temple Bar doing this sort of food, and so the idea was born. I had done the same job in Germany for 15 years and I was looking for a change, so the idea of bratwurst in Ireland was born. I started with a small trailer around Dublin but, because I particularly love Galway and the Connemara area, I moved there three years ago."

She still comes to Dublin for the markets and this was her first day at Blackrock. She also does events like the Tall Ships. Try her delicious-looking big pretzels with cheese or cinnamon and sugar and other flavours which sell for €2/€3.

Next door was the El Burrito Loco stand of Anna Maria Brophy, a business which she has been operating for a year. She has also been in the Harcourt Street Market. "I have Spanish roots and recently came to Ireland -- just four years ago." Anna Maria has been living in Barcelona and takes her Brophy surname from her Irish father. "I am specialising in Spanish and Mexican cuisine at the markets and I had been doing the same in Spain." You can have your chicken or beef burritos at €7 served with Spanish rice, black or pinto beans, fresh coriander, cheese, guacamole and sour cream, or you can have a veggie burrito at €5 -- all served with salsa. Yum!

Declan Cassidy of the Gourmet Grub Bakery is a familiar figure at the markets. The bakery is based in Castleknock, Dublin and Newbridge, Co Kildare, and also does a lot of private and corporate catering. GGB does pies, quiches, sausages rolls, savoury plaits, cheesecakes, savoury and sweet items, and Declan was very pleased with his first day at Blackrock.

"The girls from Brown Sugar Hair Salon came out and there was great atmosphere and they said it was great to have something new on the street." Declan does Leopardstown Market on a Friday, Marlay Park on a Sunday, and Cherrywood Lunchtime Market on a Wednesday. See www. gourmetgrubbakery.com.

Another well-known name on the market scene is Denis Healy's organic vegetables, which is based in Co Wicklow. Here I met "the brother, Peter" who was overseeing a wonderful colourful display of organic vegetables, from sweet potatoes to asparagus to beautiful white leeks. There really was a huge range of fresh fruit and vegetables on the stand, so if you want this great array on your doorstep, make sure you get down and support them. Go visit www.organicdelights.ie.

Next door was the most fabulous display of mouthwatering breads at a stall being manned by Oggi Nanthai from Mongolia, who has been in Ireland for five years. "We have very healthy breads, sugar-free, dairy-free, egg-free, and soda-seed breads." Pasta dura, sourdough, spelt sourdough, spelt seed, traditional soda bread, mixed seed soda bread, apple and poppyseed loaf, and oatbran and linseed loaves are priced generally between €2.50 and €4.

Jackie Tiag and her husband Philip are originally from Malaysia. They live in Co Meath, near Enfield, and have a home bakery business. They have a great range of cakes such as Belgian milk chocolate rocky road at €2 each. There were lots of cupcakes, muffins, brown bread, yeast-free oatmeal breads, and hi-fibre multi-seed breads, pear and almond tarts, Bakewell tarts and much more.

Jackie and Philip say they would ideally like to get a coffee shop premises from which to sell their produce. They are finding rents and particularly council rates very high which make it very difficult to have a viable business. At their prices they need to sell a lot and have a high footfall. Go along for a nibble of some of their delicious Belgian chocolate goodies.

Pure Foods is one of the great success stores emanating from the markets, and has come a long way in a short time. The whole ethos of the products, marketing and image has a very pristine feel -- totally appropriate to their 'pure' name. At Pure they manage to make their products taste luxurious and scrumptious -- and you don't feel in any way hard done by; in fact, quite the opposite.

Mother and daughter Mary and Ruth Hussey are the brains behind the business and perhaps they do it so well because they are both themselves coeliac. They started their gluten, wheat, and yeast-free bakery in November 2010, just 18 months ago. They have now just taken a unit in the original Blackrock Market with a baker on site.

"We started out in farmers' markets because we wanted to test the water, and we found there was a huge demand for fresh stuff rather than vacuum-packed, long shelf-life. So that's what we were aiming for: fresh, high quality. There is no cross-contamination because we have a totally dedicated new kitchen here, so we got Coeliac Society approval.

"So, as I say, we kind of tested it out at the farmers' markets, and then we just called in to different places, and they were very happy to take our individually wrapped slices. It is great now that people will know we are here in Blackrock as a base. We are going to go online now because we find people can't get a lot of this sort of food down the country and there is a demand."

I came home with brown bread, carrot cake, and sweet potato and pecan loaf -- and they were all delicious. Have a look at www.purefood.ie.

Sunday Independent

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