Written by Melanie May
Beef, butter and potatoes: it’s back to basics as the Irish Food Writers’ Guild announces the winners of the 2021 Food Awards.
“In a year in which there has been a newfound appreciation for the simple pleasures in life, it is perhaps no coincidence that the winners of the 2021 Irish Food Writers’ Guild (IFWG) Food Awards reflect the basic foundations of Irish food,” said IFWG Chair, Kristin Jensen.
Think Irish heritage potatoes topped with lashing of hand-rolled butter staring alongside tender spiced beef, washed down with a glass of wild mead. Food just doesn’t get more traditional or comforting than that.
But it isn’t all about the past and comfort. This year, so many Irish food businesses had to step out of their comfort zones and employ forward-thinking strategies to survive. These canny businesses were also honoured at the prestigious awards.
So, without further ado, here are the IFWG Food Award winners. The local producers and food heroes who brought joy to our kitchens and communities over the past 12 months.
The winners of the 2021 Irish Food Writers’ Guild Food Awards are:
- Food Award: Abernethy Butter, Co. Down.
- Food Award: Ballymakenny Farm Irish Heritage and Specialty Potatoes, Co. Louth.
- Food Award: Tom Durcan’s Spiced Beef, Co. Cork.
- Irish Drink Award: Kinsale Mead Wild Red Mead – Merlot Barrel Aged, Co. Cork.
- Outstanding Organisation Award: NeighbourFood, Co. Cork.
- Environmental Award: Ballymore Organics, Co. Kildare.
- Community Food Award: The Green-Schools Food & Biodiversity Theme.
- Lifetime Achievement Award: Marion Roeleveld, Killeen Farmhouse Cheese, Co. Galway.
“If this pandemic has any silver lining, it is the light that has been shined on the incredible, resourceful and innovative food producers of Ireland that have responded to the challenge, giving back to communities and ensuring a continued supply of and access to the highest-quality home-grown produce. Today’s winners have an innate passion for food and their commitment is nothing short of vocational. This is our way of recognising their achievements and our way of saying well done and thank you” – Kristin Jensen.
Food Award: Abernethy Butter
Husband and wife team, Allison and Will Abernethy make small-batch, slow-churned, hand-rolled butter which is shaped with wooden pats. The butter is made using Draynes Farm grass-fed, single-herd cream, which Allison and Will found to be the creamiest cream, resulting in the driest, best butter. Alongside their signature, unsalted and salted butter is a variety of delicious flavours – Dulse Butter, Black Garlic Butter, Smoked Butter, Chipotle Chilli & Smoked Paprika Butter.
Food Award: Ballymakenny Farm Irish Heritage and Specialty Potatoes
Maria and David Flynn grow heritage potatoes including purple Violetta, Red Emmalies, Yukon Gold and the peculiar-shaped Pink Fir Apple. During COVID, with some quick thinking, the farm opened the Spud Shack, a drive-through shop on their farm which was a smash hit with customers. They now sell out week-on-week and Maria says the Spud Shack is here to stay.
Food Award: Tom Durcan’s Spiced Beef
Tom Durcan has been selling his traditional spiced beef at his butcher’s stall in The English Market in Cork since 1985. Creating this tender, sweet-savoury delicacy is a time-consuming process. But it sure is worth it. Local Irish Hereford heifer beef is slow cured for at least a month in a salt brine with brown sugar and saltpetre and a secret spice mix that includes pimento, cloves and cracked black pepper. The cure requires regular stirring to ensure absorption of all the flavours. It’s a lengthy and labour-intensive process but one that produces a spiced beef that home cooks and the country’s finest chefs love.
Irish Drink Award: Kinsale Mead Wild Red Mead – Merlot Barrel Aged
Kate and Denis Dempsey established Kinsale Mead in 2017. It is Ireland’s first commercial meadery for over 200 years. Their scrumptious Wild Red Mead is a three-year-old fermented off-dry mead crafted with Spanish orange blossom honey and flavoured with tart Irish blackberry and juicy cherry. It is then aged for twelve months in Bordeaux wine casks. Kinsale Mead may well have Spanish and French influences, but its taste is an expression of the original wine of Ireland.
Outstanding Organisation Award: NeighbourFood
NeighbourFood is a thriving virtual farmer’s market that connects customers to an array of indigenous food and drink producers. Customers place their orders online, then, on a designated day, they collect their vegetables, meat, fish, sauces, cakes, bread, condiments and ready-made meals. NeighbourFood was started in Cork in 2018 by Jack Crotty and Martin Poucher and there are now 40 locations across Ireland.
Environmental Award: Ballymore Organics
Set up by James Kelly, Ballymore Organics was the first mill to open in Kildare since the closure of Odlum’s 200-year-old Leinster Mills in 1989. James grows organic wheat and produces his own stoneground wholemeal, single-varietal, single-origin flour. His flour has such a wonderful flavour that it has made its way in the hearts and homes of many customers as well as the kitchens of Aimsir, Ashford Castle, Dromoland Castle and Adare Manor. James expanded his range of products to include plain flour and semolina and he also mills the oats that he grows. He is Ireland’s only grower and miller of both wheat flour and porridge oats.
Community Food Award: The Green-Schools Food & Biodiversity Theme
This two-year food education programme takes a hands-on approach to teaching and learning and aims to foster inquisitiveness about where food comes from, how it is grown and how it affects all our lives. Green-Schools provide cooking kits to all the participating schools so that the children can practise various skills during cooking workshops. Many chefs from around the country help reiterate the learning by doing their own cooking demonstrations with the children.
Lifetime Achievement Award: Marion Roeleveld, Killeen Farmhouse Cheese
Marion Roeleveld is described as ‘The cheesemaker’s cheesemaker’. In 2004, she started making Killeen Farmhouse Cheese on their farm near Portumna, Co. Galway. Quality and traceability are paramount to Marion’s work and a holistic philosophy informs the whole production process. Consistency and commitment to quality have seen Killeen Farmhouse Cheese win a slew of awards, including Best Goat Cheese (twice) in the British Cheese Awards and Supreme Champion (three times) in the Irish Cheese Awards.
Commenting on the award winners, Una Fitzgibbon, Director Marketing and Communication, Bord Bia, said: “It’s fantastic to see such an innovative line up of Irish producers and initiatives celebrated at this year’s IFWG Food Awards. Seeing their resilience and creativity throughout an incredibly challenging year, I know we can be confident that our local food producers will continue to thrive in 2021. These enduring and respected annual Food Awards are an important opportunity to recognise local food producers for their distinctive and delicious products, which are the hallmarks of the Irish food and drink sector. Congratulations to all the very deserving winners.”