JANUARY, the month of unbridled belief in self-improvement. I’m really not a fan of this bombardment of expensive diet plans and food fads in pursuit of the quick fixes to love, life and waistline.
So it is refreshing to see a small, emerging band of innovative Cork-based food producers providing us with an alternative; shunning the term ‘health food’ and instead focusing on ‘real food’ — food that is naturally nutritious, delicious and packed with goodness to encourage health from the inside out.
Simply put: REAL FOOD!
We chat to a few Cork producers to find out their story
Clovis Ferguson and Ruth Calder Potts hail from families that are no strangers to the artisan food community: Clovis of the Gubbeen clan in West Cork and Ruth of the Highbank Orchard clan in Kilkenny.
A chance encounter with a strange yet delicious bright yellow tonic known as Jamu led Clovis to delve further into the origins of this magical brew — a concoction of ginger, turmeric, lemongrass, tamarind, cinnamon, black pepper, honey, lemon and sea salt.
The ingredients alone read like an ancient apothecary’s store cupboard, and it is sold at farmers’ markets across Cork alongside award-winning Gubbeen cheeses and charcuterie.
As we continue to learn more about the healing properties of ginger and turmeric as an anti-inflammatory and beneficial for our immune system, Jamu appears to have entered our lexicon at just the right moment!
And with a fan base ever growing, now is the time to embrace this real food tonic that just happens to be bursting with everything you could need to aid good health from the inside out.
Maurice Allshire is 17 years old and has created a high protein, low fat, full-on flavour meat snack that garnered a 2017 Blas na hEireann silver medal.
Not many 17-year olds can boast about that, but then not many have grown up in one of the best regarded, award-winning farming families in Cork!
As an avid follower of HIIT style fitness, Maurice became interested in foods that were protein packed but not hugely processed and didn’t renege on flavour.
Protein bars are ubiquitous now, but Maurice was looking for something that was as easy to eat on the go, but resembled real food.
After researching Biltong, the South African bush snack of air dried beef, he took a gamble and began making his own.
The result is a delicious snack that utilises high quality West Cork Aberdeen Angus beef, air-dried to perfection and with a hand roasted spice mix of coriander seed, black pepper, onion and seaweed.
It contains 12.5g of protein in each little pouch and is free from MSG, gluten, dairy and nitrates. Available in Supervalu stores across the county.
Exploding Tree has its roots in Clonakilty Chocolate and Allison Roberts, the Toronto native turned West Cork resident, has been making chocolate since she was just 13 years old.
In 2015, she crowd-funded her way to becoming one of only three (four now) bean-to-bar chocolate makers in Ireland.
This change in direction was spurred on by a visit to a Fairtrade co-operative of cocoa farmers in Ghana, West Africa, in 2014 and a desire to focus on the quality of the products that go into making her chocolate, as well as more rein to experiment with flavours and alternative sweeteners.
As Allison delved more into this, she became fascinated with the Cocoa Bean itself and the life and health giving properties of it; from gentle stimulation from Theobromine (the chocolate equivalent of caffeine), its antioxidant properties and mineral richness.
Allison noticed that in chocolate- growing nations, it is normal to use the cocoa husk (the outer skin of the cocoa bean) and brew it to make a refreshing cup of ‘tea’, and what’s more, the husk contains all the same healthful properties as the bean itself.
Brewed as a loose leaf tea, it imparts a rich chocolate flavour along with notes of coconut, and cinnamon-like spice. A soothing and moreish drink that is invigorating and delicious.
Available to buy direct from www.clonakiltychocolate.com.
Regina Heaphy of Sea Harvest is utilising an abundant, native ingredient with an unending repertoire of benefits to our health and diet: seaweed.
Regina has developed Wave Superfood using a hand harvested red algae Lithothamium calcareum, a native seaweed that is packed with Calcium for healthy bones, Vitamin K2 for healthy heart and Vitamin D for maintaining a healthy immune system.
The bars are flavoured with dates and apricots — two ingredients that Regina has found enable absorption of calcium into our bodies as well as delivering a delicious sweet-tasting snack!
“My grandmother suffered from osteoporosis, a condition that affects bone density,” said Regina.
“It spurred me on to develop a product that could provide a natural source of calcium, paired with other ingredients to aid calcium absorption in the body.”
With the help of an innovation voucher from Enterprise Ireland and her local Enterprise Board, Regina commissioned a paper in the Cork Institute of Technology and a team led by
Hugh McGlynn, the Head of the School of Science and Informatics (which was formerly the Head of Biological Science) at CIT.