With only a few days to go until Taste of Wicklow 2022, some of Wicklow’s top chefs are preparing to bring some innovative new dishes to the table.
Kicking off this Friday, June 26, the three day event will see Wicklow Town play host to a wide array of foodie festivities including a VIP Midsummer Launch Banquet, Artisan Food Stalls, a Craft Village and more. However, it is the Chef’s Theatre that will really put Wicklow food in the spotlight, as a slew of celebrity chefs take to the stage to showcase some of their top dishes.
One of them is chef and food writer, Tadgh Byrne. He describes himself as a “locavore chef”, meaning that his dishes comprise only or principally of locally-grown or produced food. In his demo at this year’s Taste of Wicklow, he plans to serve up something that marries local ingredients and traditions with modern concepts.
"I’m heavily involved with Wicklow Naturally, the food and drink network for County Wicklow,” he explained. “I have helped to develop signature dishes for Wicklow. This weekend, I’m going to show one of the dishes we came up with called “Wicklow Stampy”. It is very similar to boxty or potato cake, very easy to make and very versatile. You can pair it with lots of things. I am going to prepare it with local pudding and bacon.”
While Wicklow Stampy will be Tadgh’s dish of the day this year, it wasn’t his first thought when he was invited to do the demo.
"I actually tried to get badger meat as I would like to try to get people to eat more badger. I was going to do bunny burgers as well but decided to go with something else for this year,” he explained.
While Byrne has yet to try badger meat himself, he believes they can be a sustainable food source where they are being killed already, as they do not require land, feed or fertiliser.
“I did an MA in Food Studies and have a food historian background and it is thought that people used to eat badger here,” he continued. “When I tell people about the idea, they are curious and shocked at the same time. It could be a thing down the line but I think we need to win people’s hearts and minds. People aren’t ready for badger.”
Having grown up in Portugal, Tadgh’s dishes are heavily influenced by Mediterranean flavours. A five-year stint as manager of a Middle Eastern restaurant in Melbourne has also impacted how he approaches his dishes, with many of them including lots of herbs, spices and yoghurt.
While Tadgh will be at the event representing Wicklow Naturally, he is also there representing his own company – Fed Up Catering. This Arklow-based catering company operates around County Wicklow, Dublin and North Wexford for corporate and private events.
"The company name comes originally from falconry. When birds of prey eat, they get very lazy. The bird doesn’t want to go hunting because it is already full. It is said to be fed up,” he explained. “Of course, humans can also be fed up as well!”
Tadgh will take to the stage at 5 p.m. on Saturday.
Another Wicklow-based chef who is getting prepped for this weekend is raw/ living food chef Veronica O’Reilly from Healthy Habits in Wicklow town. With her new dish “NikNib”, Veronica will showcase how delicious and versatile raw ingredients can be.
"People don’t realise they already eat living food. They eat an apple or salad often, but when they think of raw food, they often think of sushi or steak tartare,” she explained. “The dish I will be making is a vegan option. I’m calling it NikNib. In my book, I have a recipe for chocolate mousse so I decided a mocha mousse would be gorgeous.”
"Nick’s Coffee is nearby so I used their coffee and a new kid on the block called Nibbed chocolate. Their chocolate is very easy to work with and versatile. I will also include some hazelnut milk and carrigeen,” she added.
With her demo, Veronica hopes to share the benefits of raw food with others, a message she has shared in her recently published cookbook, Raw in a Cold Climate 2.
"If you’re trying to improve your health, having a bit more living food in your diet would help as it naturally is full of enzymes, vitamins and minerals.”
Veronica will take to the stage on Sunday at 5 p.m.
Full details of the Taste of Wicklow schedule can be found on their website.