WINTER/SPRING 2015 / VOL. 15 ISSUE 1
Burren Chefs  
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Budding chefs went wild in the Burren, taking part in the second annual Burren Masterchef Cookery Competition. Hosted by the Burren Ecotourism Network and supported by the Burren & Cliffs of Moher Geopark, the competition invited participants to create a dish comprising home-grown ingredients and wild and foraged foods from around the Burren.
 

The competition took place as part of the third annual Burren Food Fayre in Lisdoonvarna on Sunday, Oct. 26, featuring a free program of food demonstrations and talks hosted by food writers, producers, nutritionists and restaurants from throughout the Burren and further afield.

The judging panel for the Burren Masterchef Cookery Competition included Willie McCurdy (Belfast Chef and UK Masterchef regional finalist), Valerie O’Connor (Cook and Food Writer, Photographer and Author of ‘Bread on the Table’) and Chef John Sheedy (Sheedy’s Hotel, Lisdoonvarna).

From hawthorn berries to seaweed, the Burren contains plenty of natural ingredients for a variety of tasty dishes, according to the competition organisers.

"Last year's Burren Masterchef Cookery Competition attracted a number of exceptionally talented amateur cooks who put their culinary skills and knowledge of foraged foods to the test," explained Tina O'Dwyer, Sustainable Tourism Co-ordinator for the Burren & Cliffs of Moher Geopark.

O'Dwyer continued, "The Burren Masterchef Cookery Competition and the Burren Food Fayre form part of our ongoing efforts to encourage local suppliers and restaurateurs to maximise the use of local ingredients in all prepared food." She added that In recent years, the Burren has witnessed the emergence of many award-winning chef-led restaurants and high quality artisan food producers, as well as an increase in market gardeners and growers.

First prize in the adult section of the competition was a half-day cookery course for two at the world-famous Ballymaloe Cookery School, courtesy of Darina Allen. The winner of the junior section received the prize of a half-day foraging walk and cooking demonstration at the Lahinch-based Wild Kitchen.

Oonagh O'Dwyer of the Wild Kitchen said, "We have about 8,000 edible plants available to us globally and most of us eat only a tiny fraction of these. Consequently, we often have a nutritional deficit, a taste deficit and a nature deficit, hence wild foods. This year after the beautiful summer the hedgerows and fields are heavy with nutritious free wild food, giving people an ideal opportunity to prepare a natural meal."

The cookery demonstrations got underway when Mathew Strefford (head chef of Moy House Hotel, Lahinch) cooked a meal using local goat's meat and home-grown vegetables. Valerie O’Connor (Cook and Food writer) demonstrated simple ways to cook boxty and nutritional therapist Linn Thorstensson cooked items designed to keep immunity strong during winte. Cearbh Fhinnghusa demonstrated how herbal drinks as alternatives to coffee and tea could be created using locally gathered wild herbs, flowers and seaweed. 

As for talks and tastings, Cathleen Connole of Burren Fine Wine and Foods in Ballyvaughan hosted "An Introduction To Fine Wine" before Martina Sweeney of Burren Sea Foods in Newquay presented a talk on 'how to keep your seafood fresh.. 

Wild Kitchen's Oonagh O’Dwyer also hosted a foraging walk, sponsored by Lisdoonvarna Community Council, before a workshop in which she demonstrated how to turn foraged ingredients into edible dishes.
 
 


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