We are all happy to line out decked in green on match day, and extol the virtues of being Irish on our national holiday, but there are humble heroes in this country who deserve to be celebrated every day. Our artisan food producers, dotted across the island, are champions in their own right, dedicated to advancing the Irish food movement and offering ingredients nurtured with care, love and passion.
Of course, if we had the option and an unlimited budget, we would all shop at farmer’s markets and buy local, but the unfortunate reality is on a day to day basis we don’t necessarily have that luxury. However, if you spend just a little more on your every day shop and add some smaller producers to your basket, you can taste the difference and know the impact you are having on the producers who make Irish food what it is today.
Here are some of our favorites, staple items which probably make it into your basket every week and many are now widely available in larger retailers. That extra euro or two will not only make your finished dish sing with more flavour, it will reverberate to the broader food community and help to keep our heroes going.
For breakfast perfection, sheep’s milk yoghurt Velvet Cloud has an unmistakable tang and delicious creaminess – just add your favourite toppings and your day is off to a wonderful start. Crafted with just two ingredients, fresh sheep’s milk from Michael and Aisling Flanagan’s flock of Friesland and Lacaune ewes on their farm in Mayo, this yoghurt is a favourite of chefs across Ireland, far beyond the West, with good reason. The best part? This highly commended cultured treat is available in many Supervalu stores around the country, as well as specialty stockists like Avoca.
The best way to keep cravings at bay is to allow yourself a little bit of what you fancy every day, but if you’re only having one or two squares of chocolate, the quality seriously counts. To support Irish and serotonin production, we are never without a bar of Wexford craft chocolate Bean and Goose. While you won’t find it in supermarkets, it is stocked country wide in cafés and health food shops, with ridiculously tempting flavours such as Wexford Honey and Roasted Spiced Hazelnut you’ll want to stock up when you spot it.
Swapping out chalky cheddar for artisan Irish cheese is probably the easiest swap to make in your weekly shop, not to mention the most delicious. Thankfully, supermarkets across the country have embraced our cracking Cáis, so there needn’t be a Cracker Barrel in sight. Knockanore Farmhouse Cheddar has been hand crafted in Waterford for 60 years, and you’ll never regret replacing generic brands with it. The smoked version is particularly delicious, so pick some up in selected Supervalu and Dunnes Stores nationwide.
For more cheesy picks of the cream of the crop of Irish cheese, check out our Irish Cheeseboard Guide for a list of delicious cheese to keep an eye out in supermarkets for.
There is nothing quite as satisfying as butter, thickly smeared on a slice of toast or molten on mounds of mash. That pesky rain we complain about constantly means our dairy is up there with the best in the world, and milk from grass fed cattle grazing on our lush pastures makes butter a delicacy in itself.
Cuinneog Irish Butter comes all the way from Castlebar in Co. Mayo, produced since 1990 by the Butler family and has bagged an array of Great Taste Gold Stars for exceptional flavour. Cuinneog is available in supermarkets like Supervalu and Dunnes across the country so you can always pick up a half pound of heaven.
For your daily toast fix, top that Cuinneog slathered slice with Wexford Home Preserves, multi-award winning jams and marmalades made with love in the Sunny South East. Choose from Raspberry, Strawberry or a Spring celebration of Rhubarb and Ginger jam, sample their extensive no sugar added range or indulge in Poitín or whiskey marmalades. The brand’s own label goodies are available across the country in fine food stores like Ardkeen in Waterford, but they also supply various preserves to Simply Better at Dunnes Stores so you can easily get your hands on a jar.
As a nation, we are fans of a rasher or two, to complete the perfect full Irish, fried up to craft the perfect carbonara or just between two slices of good bread with lashings of butter. O’Neill’s bacon, whether it is their award-winning Dry Cured back bacon or streaky Oak Smoked, crisps perfectly in the pan, as there is no added water. You can certainly taste and see the difference with this fantastic Enniscorthy based bacon, available in Supervalu, Tesco and Dunnes in both rasher and lardon form for convenience.
While ketchup was the order of the day for most of us growing up, many of us have since been tempted towards Sriracha to spice up our lives. If you like it hot, look no further than Cork’s own Rebel Chilli. Their low sugar, fiery blend of Red Chilli, Lemongrass and Ginger is perfect for dipping and drizzling, but if you’re a true spice devil do try to get your hands on Chillionaire If You Dare, a habanero chilli blend guaranteed to set your tastebuds on fire. Available in 23 counties in Tesco, Supervalu and Dunnes, you won’t look back.
There are few households in Ireland without a jar of nutty chocolate spread in the cupboard, but Irish brand Nutterly Nutritious proves this doesn’t have to be a guilty pleasure. Founded by Fiona Maher in Kilcullen, Co. Kildare, these jars of goodness started out with peanut, pecan and date and activated almond options (all of which put household brands to shame in the texture and flavour stakes) but the rangers expanded to include a heavenly Hazelnut and Cocoa spread. Dangerously addictive, Nutella can’t really compete with this healthier, locally made alternative, available in selected Supervalu stores.
Down to the most basic ingredient in your pantry, the smallest switch up on your shopping list could be investing in a tub of Oriel Sea Salt. Harvested in Port Oriel in the picturesque village of Clogherhead, County Louth, Oriel has EU designation of origin status and has picked up numerous Great Taste and Blas na hEireann awards. With a commitment to producing a non-oxidised finished product, Oriel is that final flourish that will make every dish shine that little bit brighter. Pick up a tub in selected Supervalu stores or order online here.
Growing up with the name Darina, I was constantly asked if I could cook like my namesake. I am the only person to have contested both Masterchef and the Great Irish Bake Off and am passionate about discovering and creating delicious things – I can sometimes be caught in the act on TV3’s Six O’Clock Show or RTE Today. Working with TheTaste allows me to satisfy this craving and marries my food fascination with my love of writing and ranting. Follow me on my pursuit of deliciousness.