Real Food, Real Easy – Val’s Kitchen is a wonderful Recipe Book

There are a lot of cookbooks on the Irish market today and there are a lot of people buying them! However many of these books of recipes sit on an overstuffed bookshelf filled with other cookbooks that rarely get read and even less often, get used! But now and then a cookbook comes along that has real homely recipes in it, that know that your family will eat, learn from and carry with them into their own future.

Valerie O’Connor is a food writer, cook, teacher, organic horticulturist and photographer, from Limerick and she has recently brought out such a book based on her food blog, Val’s Kitchen which celebrates it’s 10th Birthday this year and this cookbook really ticks all the right boxes!

Val’s Kitchen – Real Food, Real Easy takes the reader through a series of tasty food journeys based on the pleasures of real life modern eating, but it’s unpretentious and true to the reasoning of an old fashioned kitchen. From the first chapter to the last, Val talks you through her own kitchen pantry and cupboards and explains the logic of why she uses particular ingredients. This book is so readable that it’s almost like she’s sitting chatting with you at your own kitchen table – and she’s great company!

How to make perfect Omelets

Val’s Kitchen dances through the average day starting off with how to make your own granola, how to cook porridge, pancakes, egg dishes and smoothies. There are some excellent brunch and salad recipes, real soups and winning dinners. Sprinkled through the book are some delicious dishes and gems like the baked butternut squash stuffed with cheese, braised shin of beef and lots of recipes of food for parties and picnics.

Val O’Connor is an excellent baker (her book Bread on the Table is also a must-have) and Val’s Kitchen contains a special baked treats chapter. This includes recipes for homemade bagels, brownies and breads,  recipes for apples and apple cakes and a superb gluten-free yogurt cake!

Val’s delicious Pork and Bean Chowder

The In the Pantry section is, in itself, worth buying the book for! Val shows you how to make your own elderflower champagne, homemade cordials, simple cream cheeses and natural yogurts. She also walks you through basic fermented veggies and kimchi. The final section of the book is dedicated to Growing your Own Food and brings you, simply, through growing the essentials for any kitchen garden.

This is an absolutely perfect cookbook or present for today’s college-going teenager who is away from home for the first time and doesn’t want to live on spaghetti bolognaise for the next three years! It’s all here.

Val’s Kitchen – Real Food, Real Easy is published by O’Brien Press and is available in all good bookshops and on the publisher’s website priced at €19.99 here at


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Exciting new Sligo Food Trail launched

“The Secret’s in the Mix!” 

That was the message behind a very successful official launch of a new Sligo Food Trail which took place in Sligo City last evening, Wednesday 6th April.
Over the last few years a dynamic and creative team of food producers, foragers, entrepreneurs, restaurateurs and visionary food lovers have continuously endeavoured to develop Sligo’s food offering and now they have combined their talents and products with local tourism providers to put Sligo at the forefront of Food Tourism in the northwest of Ireland.
The new Sligo Food Trail has over 65 members who range from restaurants, cafes, artisan food producers and suppliers, hotels, guesthouses, festivals and providers of out-door experiences. All of these people have come together and built a comprehensive all round food tourism package in county Sligo. 
A new website, a YouTube Channel, a Facebook Page, Instagram and a Twitter account along with a comprehensive brochure have all been launched simultaneously to create an awareness of the new food trail and all that it offers to guests arriving in this Gateway City in the northwest.
Discover the secrets and magic of the brewing process at The White Hag Brewery. Make your own pizza dough, roll it, throw it, top it with your favourite ingredients and cook it in the wood burning oven at Bistro Bianconi. 
Herbalist and chef Gaby Wieland and husband Hans will teach you the secrets to finding and identifying many wild foods that grow right on your doorstep and are commonly used for culinary purposes. Dr. Prannie Rhatigan leads walks and talks along the seashore introducing the fascinating world of edible seaweed and how to identify and harvest them.
The most amazing seafood platters, home baking or locally sourced organic produce at Eithna’s by the Sea at Mullaghmore. Farm to Fork dinners at Coopershill House, a stunning Georgian mansion set in 500 acres of farm and woodland. Sea Trails with diver/archaeologist Auriel Robinson are matched with a lunch of freshly harvested mussels cooked on the rocks by one of Trá Bán Restaurant’s expert chefs. 
“The great secret that is Sligo Food is now out!” says Aoife Carrigy from the Irish Food Writers Guild at the launch of
Marc from Seashore Veg leads fun and informative seaweed identification walks where you’ll also enjoy a practical demonstration on how to cook and use sea vegetables. Try your hand at surfing with Strandhill Surf School, enjoy a delicious brunch at Shell’s Café and indulge in a seaweed bath at Voya Seaweed Baths followed by delicious ice cream at Mammy Johnston’s.
Anthony Gray, Sligo restaurateur and Chairperson of Sligo Food Trail
Stand-up Paddle-Boarding, Kayaking, Canoeing, Archery or Hill Walking on the Ox Mountain from activity provider Wild Wet Adventures. Relax and watch the swans glide down the Garavogue river while enjoying a “beautifully presented, wide choice“ of sweet and savoury afternoon tea delights at Eala Bhán. Join up with Irish speakers of all levels in an informal conversation group every Friday evening in Ósta Café and there’s so much more!

Watch this excellent short video that showcases the new Sligo Food Trail:
Sligo’s premiere location on the Wild Atlantic Way means you can enjoy freshly-caught fish in every local restaurant. Alternatively, indulge your taste buds on Knocknarea Honey, wild Mullaghmore Lobster, Lissadell Oysters and fresh free-range eggs from the foot of Benbulben Mountain.

Whether your touring the Wild Atlantic Way from Cork to Donegal or just getting away for a day or two, you’ll discover that as you drive through County Sligo you’ll witness an outstanding landscape which yields the fresh ingredients that create its exceptional cuisine: the lush green fields under the majestic mountains, the working farms, the rivers, the salmon and the mighty Atlantic Ocean!

Take some time out to stop, discover the people and the places and experience some of the great food and food-connected excursions, day-trips, classes and fun things to do that the new Sligo Food Trail has to offer all over the county!

For more info visit
and follow them on Twitter @SligoFoodTrail and 


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Ten Irish Food Companies begin their FoodService Academy mentoring

Ten Irish food and drink companies will join the first FoodService Academy, a new programme run by Bord Bia and Musgrave MarketPlace from today. The FoodService Academy seeks to help small Irish food and drink companies develop their business in the foodservice market (commonly referred to as “out of home food market”). The programme also aims to help the companies achieve growth within Musgrave MarketPlace’s foodservice business, which works with over 6,000 customers each week ranging from hotels and restaurants to pubs and nursing homes. 

Blanco Nino, Europe’s first producer of authentic corn tortillas and Nobó, the dairy free ice-cream company, have already been set up as suppliers in advance of the programme starting today. Other companies that will benefit from the programme include Tipperary Kitchen, a family run artisan bakery and Secret Recipe, the only producer of halal and gluten free meals to the foodservice industry in Ireland and the UK as well as other bakery, seafood, pork and beverage producers.

According to Maureen Gahan, Bord Bia’s Foodservice Specialist, “Bord Bia is delighted to work with Musgrave MarketPlace for the first time on the inaugural FoodService Academy, looking to grow the sales of small businesses in the market. The foodservice market is delivering real growth and value for Irish food and drink companies, as is evidenced in our recent industry report. The ‘out of home’ market is now worth €6.37bn and this is forecasted to grow to almost €6.9bn by 2018 so this is an area we are encouraging companies to develop.”

Sheena Forde, Trading Director, Musgrave MarketPlace added that, “Following on from the success of Musgrave’s SuperValu Food Academy programme with Bord Bia and the Local Enterprise Offices, we are now looking forward to bringing a similar programme to Irish foodservice producers through MarketPlace. A number of the participating companies are Food Academy graduates so we are proud to be in a position to introduce their products to our foodservice customer base. As the largest and fastest growing wholesaler in Ireland, we are ideally placed to understand the needs of the foodservice market and, as an Irish family business, we are delighted to work with small Irish manufacturers, many of which are family owned, to give them a head start in the market. The FoodService Academy programme offers a combination of commercial and marketing expertise and will provide invaluable consumer insight for the companies involved. We would like to acknowledge the excellent support of Bord Bia throughout the development of this programme, their shared passion for supporting Irish food business has been evident throughout.’’

The FoodService Academy programme, coordinated by Bord Bia, will take place over four months and comprise of workshops and mentoring, with the first workshop taking place today (Thursday, 24th March). Representatives from Musgrave MarketPlace will participate in the workshops, sharing practical insights and experience to help the companies understand areas such as supplier set-up, food safety requirements and distribution model as well as sales and the marketing support.

The ten companies that have been chosen to participate are:

  • Atlantis Seafood, a family seafood business based in Wexford
  • Blanco Nino, Europe’s only producer of authentic corn tortillas and un-fried tortilla chips made in Tipperary
  • Coffee House Lane, a Waterford family run coffee roaster 
  • Lily’s Tea House, blenders of a range of premium, loose leaf teas as well as matcha tea and premium tea pyramids based in Co Louth
  • Nobó, the dairy free ice-cream producer, which is made without any refined sugar, gums or stabilisers
  • Maria Lucia Bakes, a Dublin producer of gourmet gluten, wheat and dairy free granola cereals
  • Outdoor Oinks, a range of Bord Bia approved pork and bacon products in Kildare
  • Secret Recipe in Cork is the only producer of halal and gluten free meal solutions to the foodservice industry in Ireland and the UK
  • Tipperary Kitchen, a family run artisan bakery producing a range of handcrafted meringues, dessert sauces and chocolate biscuit cake
  • Wildberry Bakery, an artisan gluten free bakery in Cork
Wishing them all the best of success!
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US President Obama gets the ultimate Irish Foodie Bag for St Patrick’s Day!

As part of An Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s visit to the White House to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, Bordbia (the Irish Food Board) organised a hamper of Irish food and drink products to be presented to the Obama Family and Mrs. Jill Biden. The contents include the best of Irish dairy, beef, cheese, seafood, confectionery, craft beers, tea, coffee, whiskey, oatmeal, biscuits, crisps, preserves and breads.

Pictured are: Emmet Doyle, BordBia’s Marketing Executive in New York and Dale Crammond, Ireland’s Agricultural Attaché to the US, who explained the provenance of the hamper contents to Enda Kenny.

The Irish Food Hamper contained the following products:

  • Flahavans
  • Kilbeggan 

Dairy – Butter & Cheese
  • Kerrygold Butter 
  • Wexford Cheddar
  • Little Milk Company Organic Brie; Mature Cheddar
  • Cooleeney Farm 
  • Coolea Farmhouse Cheese
  • Gubeen 
  • Cahill’s Farm Cheese

Seafood and Beef

  • Burren Smokehouse Smoked Salmon
  • Irish beef
Confectionery, Biscuits & Crisps
  • Butlers
  • Jelly Bean Factory
  • Kilbeggan Organic Oat Cookies
  • The Foods of Athenry – Flapjack’s & Cookie Shots
  • Broderick’s Mini Bites
  • Keogh’s Crisps
  • O’Donnell’s Crisps

Preserves & Jams

  • Mileevan Jams & Sarah’s Honeys
  • Abbey Farm Jams
  • Follain Jams
  • Ballymaloe Relish
  • Boyne Valley – Lakeshore Extra Virgin Rapeseed Oil
  • Boyne Valley Lakeshore Mustard 

Whiskey and Craft Beer

  • Jameson Whiskey
  • Baileys Irish Cream
  • Guinness 
  • O’Hara’s Craft Beers 


  • Barrys Tea
  • Bewleys Tea/Coffee


  • Sheridan’s Crackers (Brown Bread, Rye & Linseed, Mixed Seed)
  • Promise Gluten Free Breads
  • McCambridge’s Sliced Brown Wholewheat Bread

It’s great to see Irish Food products and products made in Ireland continuing their rise in international recognition as being among some of the best in the world. And we are very proud of our food producers!


Posted in Bordbia, Enda Kenny,, Irish Hamper, news, United States | Leave a comment

Fish & Chips Masterclass on 3rd March in Killybegs, Ireland’s Biggest Fishing Town

Two of Failte Ireland’s Donegal Food Champions, Hugh O’Donnell & Mary McGettigan, are hosting
a Fish & Chips Masterclass at the LYIT School of Tourism in Killybegs, with the hope that they can help improve the quality of this signature dish along the Wild Atlantic Way!

This will be a great opportunity to learn and develop your offering as a Fish & Chip business to ensure are making the most of the experience for you and your customer, or for those not in business, to learn how to perfect that perfect crispy battered Fish & Chips!

The Masterclass will be delivered by John & Ciara Shine of Shine’s Killybegs Tuna fame. John comes from a family tradition of catching fresh fish as a fisherman and also a family steeped in the the fish & chip business. He has also been very successful in setting up Shine’s Irish Tuna, cooked basque style and sold in jars with olive oil. 

Ciara has herself been brought up in the family business, did a masterclass with the guild of British Friers, graduated with an Honours Degree in Business and is currently on the Acorn Programme for young female entrepreneurs in rural Ireland.

Failte Ireland developed the Food Champions program to find key people around the country that are instrumental in promoting the food offerings in  their local area and their county. Donegal is lucky to have 3 Failte Ireland Food Champions (I’m the other one but I broke both my wrists last month and can’t help out with the Fish & Chips Masterclass). Hugh O’Donnell runs the famous Kitty Kelly’s Restaurant near Killybegs and Mary McGettigan is the founder and organiser of A Taste of Donegal Food Festival.

The Masterclass is also supported by the Donegal Local Enterprise’s Food Coast initiative which was set up to increase awareness in Donegal Food and to assist in the development of new food businesses in County Donegal.

The Fish & Chips Masterclass runs from 10am – 1pm on Thursday 3rd March, 2016 (which includes lunch) and costs €50 per person. Places are limited and filling up fast so to book a place or find out more email Mary McGettigan at

Posted in A Taste of Donegal, Donegal The Food Coast, Failte Ireland,, news, Wild Atlantic Way | Leave a comment

Ireland’s 14 entries in the 2016 Gourmand World Cookbook Awards

The Gourmand World Cookbook Awards were founded in 1995 by Edouard Cointreau, who was born into the families of Cointreau Liqueur on his dad’s side and Cognac’s Frapin and Remy Martin on his mum’s side. His family has had vineyards since 1270 so he should know a thing or two about food and drink!

The objectives of the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards are:

  • To reward and honour those who “cook with words”.
  • To help readers find the best out of the 26,000 food and wine books produced every year.
  • To help publishers with international rights to translate and distribute food and wine books.
  • To help book retailers find the 50 food and wine books that each year should be offered to clients.
  • To create an opportunity to access the major markets in English, Chinese, German, Spanish or French for books originated in other languages.
  • To increase knowledge and respect for food and wine culture.

Édouard Cointreau, founder of the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards 

The awards also focus on self-published books and digital media, as founder Edouard Cointreau recognises this as the fastest growing segment in publishing. It is free competition and open to publishers in all languages and countries. The Gourmand Awards celebrate global cookbook and wine book publishing and feature many world-renowned chefs each year.

The 2016 Gourmand World Cookbook Awards will take place in Yantai, China, on the 29th of May. This year there are 14 entries shortlisted from the island of Ireland and those on the Cookbooks and Food Culture Shortlist 2016 are:

Woman Chef Author
Karen Austin for The Lettercollum Cookbook
(published by Onstream)
Special Cookbook Award
Chef Interrupted, Trevis L. Gleason 
(published by Coffee Town Press)
TV Cookbook (in English)
Clodagh’s Irish Kitchen, Clodagh McKenna
(published by Kyle Books)
Cookbook Publisher
Gill MacMillan
Cookbook of the Year
Sea Gastronomy, Michael O’Meara 
(published by Artisan House)
Online Food Magazine
Best Cooking App
Glutenfree Ireland App (Northern Ireland based)
Culinary Travel
NI Good Food – (Northern Ireland)
Lifestyle – Institutions, Health & Nutrition
Operation Transformation 2015 (produced by RTE)
Fish & Seafood Cookbook
Sea Gastronomy, Michael O’ Meara
(published by Artisan House)
Vegetarian Cookbook
The Lettercollum Cookbook, Karen Austin 
(published by Onstream)
Cheese and Milk Cookbook
The Sheridan’s Guide to Cheese 
(published by Transworld Ireland)

Meat Cookbook
A Bird in the Hand, Diana Henry (Northern Ireland)
(published by Mitchell Beazley)
Not for Profit Cookbook
The Dublin Cookbook for Temple Street Hospital 
(produced by Concept Marketing )
Isn’t it excellent to see so many fabulous Irish food publications on the world stage of Gastronomy! The very best of success to all shortlisted! The 2016 Gourmand World Cookbook Awards will take place in Yantai, China on the 29th of May. For the full world cookbook shortlist visit their website here.
Posted in Irish Cookbooks, news, world gourmand cookbook awards | Leave a comment

Enter your Irish Food & Beverage Tourism Experience in the 2016 World Food Trekking Awards

The recently launched 2016 Food-Trekking Awards, organised by the World Food Travel Association (based in the USA) is the world’s first global competition for recognition of excellence in food and beverage experiences for travellers and Ireland has as much of a chance of winning as anywhere else in the world!

Eating and drinking are a crucial part of any traveller experience. Put simply, one hundred percent of visitors to any destination, local or international, must eat and drink! Food and drink represents the largest component of visitor expenditure in Ireland and exceeds the average spent on ‘bed and board’.

Travellers are always seeking the next great food and beverage businesses, destinations or experience and guests to Ireland can return home with memories of a plain old burger and coffee, or they can return with memories of fantastic local Irish food and drink experiences. People just need help identifying and even recognising those experiences. In addition to travelling across country or the world to eat or drink, we can also be food travellers in our own town, city or region.

Over the last ten years we, here in Ireland, have rediscovered a pride in our Irish food product and are now being recognised all over the world for our excellent Irish Food. We are slowly but surely eliminating the Google perception that Irish food is only bacon and cabbage, potatoes and Guinness! Far from it!

As drinking beverages is generally an implied and associated activity of eating and therefore the term is used to cover all aspects of  food and drink tourism. (Internationally, the term “Food Tourism” is now used as opposed to “culinary tourism” which tended to be interpreted as an eating only experience.)

Since the launch of the Failte Ireland National Food Tourism Implementation Framework in 2011, much time, money and energy has been put into developing assistance for food/beverage producers, unique hospitality providers and food service providers to help them tell their food story. Failte Ireland now have a complete and concise section of their website dedicated to helping develop Food Tourism in Ireland.

I believe that Food Tourism is a vital part of the future of Irish Tourism so much that I started a business called Irish Food Tours Ltd. that helps food producers and food service providers get connected with those looking to explore our Irish Food Tourism. Anyone running a business that offers guests an opportunity to eat and/or drink quality products or to see an excellent food product being grown or made on-site has the potential to be a world class Food Tourism business here in Ireland.

The  World Food Travel Association judges are looking for the world’s best travel destinations with exceptional food and drink tourism opportunities. Why is your destination the best? Do you offer an outstanding food and drink culture for visitors and locals to enjoy? Do you hold any gastronomic events or do you have simply the best farmers markets? All organisations with a mandate of promoting a destination’s food and drink are also invited to apply.

Categories in the 2016 World Food Trekking Awards include:

  • Best food or beverage destination
  • Best wine experience
  • Best beer experience
  • Best food or beverage tour operations
  • Best food-service experience for travellers

Reviewing the applications for the competition is an international panel of judges:

Steven Shomler, Journalist, Author, Radio Host (Portland, Oregon, USA)
Gabriela Ibarra, destination marketer formerly with Visit Mexico (Guadalajara, Mexico)
Livio Colapinto, Owner, Zest Food Tours (Italy)
Benjamin Brown, Journalist and cruise industry expert (Las Vegas/Los Angeles, USA)
Stephan Berrouet Durand, Chef, founder of Haitian Culinary Alliance, author (Haiti/New York City) 

There will be one grand prize, a second, and third prize for each category (only 15 international winners).
In addition to a physical prize, winners will also gain tremendous global recognition for an entire year and the visibility potential for your business and the destination area is huge, so Enter your Business today and lets get Ireland really noticed on the World Food Tourism Map!

The Closing Date for entry is 1st March 2016 and Winners to be announced on April 1.

To Enter your Food Tourism Business go to:

Best of Success to all involved!

Posted in Failte Ireland, Food Tourism, food tours ireland, irish food tourism, news, world food travel association, world food trekking awards | Leave a comment