September is a wonderful time for lovers of Northern Ireland’s wide and tempting ranges of breads and buns. Not only is this month dedicated to Bread and Baking in the NI Year of Food and Drink 2016 calendar but the latest Great British Bake Off competition has just gotten underway meaning it’s almost impossible to avoid tray bakes, bread rolls and delicious scones.
Tourism Northern Ireland’s PR Officer (ROI) Clare McCoy explained why everyone should put an apron on and try out a new baking recipe or local product this September: “There is no better time to find out more about NI’s rich bread and baking heritage. There are lots of delicious treats and bakes native to Northern Ireland which are known all around the world like wheaten bread, fifteens, Soda Farls and Potato Bread so if you haven’t sampled any of these why not have a go at baking your own!
“There are also a variety of fun food experiences in Northern Ireland where you can try a variety of baked goods whilst enjoying music and family fun, such as the Tesco Taste Festival and the Ulster American Folk Park,” added Clare.
Tourism Northern Ireland has put together a list of NI based foods producers and events for you to enjoy:
Baking is very popular in NI and in particular tray bakes with afternoon tea. One of the most famous bakes from NI are the always popular, fifteens. This traditional Northern Irish treat gets its name from the fact that you need fifteen of each of the main ingredients (digestive biscuits, marshmallows and glace cherries) to make them and are a popular sweet treat thanks to how easy they are to make.
Northern Ireland Year of Food and Drink 2016 saw the inaugural Ulster Fry-Day back in January, a celebration of this hearty local breakfast. Our variation on the morning fry-up wouldn’t be nearly as popular however, if it weren’t for two inspired pieces of Northern Irish baking: potato bread and soda bread. Potato, or “tatie” bread is a form of unleavened bread in which potato replaces a major portion of the wheat flour, and soda bread is soft, thick and fluffy. Other baked institutions in Northern Ireland include the Belfast Bap, dreamt up by a Belfast man to keep thousands of people alive during the famine and it is still being eaten today.
Another popular bread unique to Northern Ireland is Veda which was invented by Scot Robert Graham in 1904. It’s so popular that many people living abroad rely on their relatives to send them a Veda to satisfy their craving.
Much Loved Bakeries
Northern Ireland food produce punched well above their weight at this year’s Great Taste Awards 2016 with bread and baking companies excelling in a number of categories. Graham’s Bakery in Co. Down took 2 stars for their Irish Oat Cookies, Genesis Crafty (Co. Derry) for their SuperValu Brown Soda Loaf, the Heatherlea’s Coarse Wheaten Bread, Genesis Crafty’s Tea Brack and Deli Lites Salted Caramel Brownies.
Ann’s Pantry, Yellow Door and Irwin’s Bakery all impressed in the 1 Star category. Irwin’s Bakery was established over one hundred years ago baking fresh bread for local people before the introduction of its iconic nutty crust loaf gave it a place in the history books. Nowadays, Irwin’s is situated in a purpose-built plant bakery on the Portadown outskirts and is found on shelves all over the country.
Another iconic Northern Irish brand is Ormo. Established in 1875, Ormo bread and pancakes have been loved by generations. Situated, until recently, in its famous Ormeau Road building in South Belfast, Ormo products are still being lovingly made by a 400-strong workforce in Hovis Bakeries nearby and include favourites such as pancakes, wheaten bread and soda farls.
Events and Experiences
Some of the best Northern Ireland food producers will be present at the Tesco Taste Festival in Custom House Square, Belfast on September 16-18. Now in its eighth year, the festival showcases everything great about Northern Ireland food and drink producers, suppliers and chefs, with tastings, demonstrations, tips and entertainment for all the family.
Orchard Acre Farm in Irvinestown, Co. Fermanagh is the perfect location for enhancing baking skills as they host a programme of farmhouse and modern cookery classes, Irish craft courses and foodie events. Tours are also available for visitors as well as presentations of the gardens, orchards and farm. From afternoon teas to seven course dining experiences, there is something for everyone and all the food is naturally home grown and made from scratch.
Those wanting an interactive day out involving some of our local baked delights need look no further than a session at James Street South Cookery School. Located in a purpose-built kitchen above the Bar and Grill on James Street South Belfast, it offers hands on cookery classes for all abilities, including bread making, and gorgeous desserts. Other cookery schools around NI which are available to test out culinary skills at include the Belfast Cookery School, Aine’s Kitchen Cookery School in Newry and Belle Isle in Co Fermanagh.
For those who have an interest in baking traditions of old, travel back in time at the Ulster American Folk Park in Omagh. Co. Tyrone, where the story of the Irish emigration to America in the 18th and 19th century is told, bringing to life people’s daily routines and activities from the time and visitors are offered samples of various local foods such as smoked salmon and bread, freshly-cooked in the cottages that line the route of Park tours.
The Finnebrogue Artisan Hans Sloane Chocolate & Fine Food Festival takes place in Killyleagh, Co. Down to commemorate and celebrate one of Northern Ireland’s most famous legends, Sir Hans Sloane who invented the recipe for milk chocolate. Fun events to look out for include a Chocolate Ball on September 24, the Hans Sloane Chocolate & Fine Food Family Fun Day on September 25 and the Hans Sloane Chocolate and Fine Food Family Fun Day.
For more information on a short break to Northern Ireland and the Year of Food & Drink 2016 go to www.discovernorthernireland.com.