Cork mum reinvents catering business during pandemic

When the pandemic struck, Cork woman Orla McAndrew’s catering business hit a brick wall. She tells AISLING MEATH how she has re-invented herself and her job
Cork mum reinvents catering business during pandemic

Orla McAndrew, who runs a catering company.

IN 2018, Orla McAndrew’s catering business was going from strength to strength, and she was becoming one of the most sought after caterers in the Munster area, supplying people with sumptuous food for the most special days of their lives.

The professional kitchen which she had converted from a shed at the back of her house was a busy culinary hub as she baked, whisked, marinated, and devised bespoke menus in order to provide banquets of deliciousness for weddings communions and parties of all kinds.

And she was delighted that she could work from home, to stay close to her three young children, Nora, Eva and Ellie.

Then along came the pandemic and all the weddings and parties were put on ice.

This did not deter the enterprising Orla - au contraire - she came up with a most ingenious plan to keep her business going during the most grim days of lockdown.

She took to delivering food goods around Cork, and also began videoing cookalongs for Instagram with her daughter, Nora. Orla’s social media presence is growing fast and she is becoming a key player in the drive to help families eat nutritious foods.

“I am so conscious that lockdown was a really difficult time for many people,” says Orla, “but I have to say I was blessed that for me it was amazing, and during this last year and a half I have actually grown my business.

“When lockdown happened, I came up with the idea of delivering cheese and charcuterie boards to homes within a 30 mile radius.

“From Cork city over towards Midleton and down to Kinsale, they proved to be a wonderful tasty calling card.

“The feedback was very positive and that catapulted my business into people’s consciousness.’

Orla McAndrew’s daughter Nora with some of her mum’s delicious foods
Orla McAndrew’s daughter Nora with some of her mum’s delicious foods

Orla chose uniquely Irish farmhouse cheeses and charcuterie using mainly suppliers from Cork, such as Gubeen from Schull, Bó Ruadh from Fermoy, Hegarty’s cheddar of Whitechurch, and the Real Olive Company from Toonsbridge, near Macroom.

As time passed Orla felt that even though she was really enjoying driving around the countryside and being in touch with the Rebel community, it was not exactly how she wanted to live and work - she wanted to be at home for her young family.

So it was back to the (cheese and charcuterie) drawing board - where she came up with an even more ingenious plan, one which suited her lifestyle and the demands of parenting.

“My kids are my number one priority which is why I started the business working from home in the first place, so I started making meals for the freezer,” says Orla.

“I still have these on the go, as well as my wedding and events catering business, as they have proven to be very popular.

“My first intention was to make life easier for mothers of newborns and for people who were cocooning, so I started cooking dishes that people love to eat, such as cottage pies, and lasagnes, Thai green curries, as well as vegan options.

“All of my meals are 100% chemical free and contain Irish-sourced meat and vegetables.’

It can be challenging for working parents to face into the prospect of marinating, sautéing, chopping and baking at the end of a busy working day, maybe after a long commute through traffic, or perhaps while dealing with a tired and fractious child.

The prospect of providing them with a tasty and nutritionally balanced dinner can often feel like pushing a lorry up a hill, and Orla is acutely aware of all these demands.

“I would strongly advise busy parents to consider freezer meals,” she says.

“If you can, it is a great idea to cook up a batch of food in advance and set aside a drawer in your freezer specifically for them.

“It’s really worth taking the time to do it, and the future you will thank present you for doing it.’

Sustainability is also really close to Orla’s heart in general, and specifically when it comes to food packaging. “There is no Planet B,” she says.

As such, she keeps environmental concerns at the core of everything she does, from using local food producers to minimise the ‘food miles’ from producer to plate, to using seasonal food, and ensuring that all her packaging is biodegradable.

“I am really delighted to have the resource ‘Returnr’, which is a company providing a deposit/return system for food containers,” says Orla.

“I am constantly learning and it’s great to build a network of support in order to share knowledge of how to contribute to a more sustainable future.”

As lockdown restrictions began to ease, Orla’s wedding catering business began to take off again, and she noticed that people were really enjoying the intimacy of the smaller weddings, with groups of 50-100 in venues such as garden marquees.

She even catered to an ‘elopement party’ where not only the guests were surprised, but even herself and her front of house staff were too, thinking that they were hosting a party, then discovering that the party was actually to celebrate a secret wedding.

Orla and her daughter Nora took part in a Back To School Cookalong video on Instagram.
Orla and her daughter Nora took part in a Back To School Cookalong video on Instagram.

“It was great fun,” says Orla, “there will always be room for the well oiled machine that is the hotel wedding, but I think people are in the process of discovering that ‘small is indeed beautiful’.”

As well as her cooking talents. Orla can be regularly seen dancing in her kitchen on her Instagram page, and recently she enjoyed cooking with her number one helper - her daughter Nora.

“It was absolutely great having Nora along to help me in the kitchen, I am a firm believer in letting your kids join in preparing the meal, even if it just setting the table.

“If at all possible, sit down and enjoy meals together a family, that’s how children learn to try different foods.

“I would encourage parents to keep it simple, not to stress, and to enjoy mealtimes with their children. Don’t worry if they don’t like a certain food, they will come around to it in their own time.”

Orla has also collaborated with Dr Fiona Barry, acupuncturist on a series called ‘Food as Medicine’ which can be found on Dr Barry’s Instagram page.

In the midst of her wide range of interests and busy life, Orla’s attitude is to chill and enjoy it all.

For more information, contact Orla McAndrew catering on 087-7090946.

******

Here, Orla has suppled Echo readers with three recipes to try at home!

First up is a simple recipe for the lunch box! Orla says: “My kids love these. They’re zero added sugar and packed full of vitamins and goodness!”

Delicious Zero Added Sugar Carrot and Apple Muffin.

These are super super simple to make, even for the least likely baker. Just mix the wet ingredients together. Mix the dry ingredients together. Then mix everything together and pop into oven.

Ingredients

100ml rapeseed oil

100ml glenilen yoghurt

50g honey

1 tsp vanilla extract

200g self raising flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 1/2 tsp mixed spice

1 grated apple and 2 grated carrot

50g nuts and seeds of choice (optional)

Method:

  • Preheat oven to 180C.
  • Line a muffin tray with cases.
  • Mix all wet ingredients in one bowl.
  • Mix all dry ingredients in separate bowl. Mix everything together.
  • Place a tablespoon of mixture in each case and bake in preheated oven for 15-20 minutes.
  • It freezes really well so I usually double quantities.

Canapés

Next up is one of my signature canapé recipes.

For the base:

Ingredients

50g flour

100g butter

100g porridge

50g sugar

Method:

  • Combine all ingredients together in a blender (or by rubbing the butter into the dry ingredients by hand) and knead the dough gently to combine.
  • Roll out onto a floured surface approx 1-2 cm thick.
  • Cut into whatever shape.
  • Place on a lined baking sheet and bake in preheated oven at 180*C for 12-15 minutes or until beginning to turn golden.
  • These are amazing on a cheese board but make a wonderful base for a canapé as well.
  • My favourite at the moment is this: Thinly slice two red onions and gently fry them off in rapeseed oil. Low heat. As they begin to soften, add in 1 tbsp brown sugar and 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar and 1/2 of a star anise. Simmer for up to 40 minutes until really well softened.
  • At the same time, place a full piece of Clonakilty black pudding and 100g creme fraiche in a blender and whizz up until smooth.
  • Transfer to a saucepan and cook on low heat for ten minutes.
  • Serve the warmed black pudding and warmed caramelised onion on an oat cake, garnished with chopped chives or chive flowers.

Family favourite

One to suit all the family.

Ingredients

500g loin of pork

400g @gubbeen chorizo

4 carrots

1/2 large Spanish onion

4 cloves garlic

1large parsnip

1/2 butternut squash

4 medium potatoes diced small

250g red lentils

1l chicken stock

2 tsp sumac

1tbsp olive oil

Salt and pepper

Method:

  • Finely dice the onion and crush the garlic.
  • Lightly fry off in the olive oil.
  • Add in the diced pork and brown.
  • Add the stock and then the diced vegetables.
  • Rinse the lentils thoroughly and add to the pot.
  • Add in the chorizo.
  • Bring all to boil, cover and simmer for an hour.
  • Add in diced potatoes. Season and simmer for another 25 minutes. Delicious.
  • Serve with mashed potatoes and a sprinkle of fresh parsley.

More in this section

Sponsored Content

summersoaplogosml

Called Droid, our next story is about a boy who designs a robot at UCC and chaos ensues. It was written by Margaret Gillies, from the MA in Creative Writing Programme at UCC.

Add Echolive.ie to your home screen - easy access to Cork news, views, sport and more