Fillet of beef with traditional champ, slow-roasted mushrooms, cabbage and bacon served with stout gravy
Future Food Trends by Noel Mc Meel
My style of food, at Lough Erne Resort, is seasonal and uncomplicated. I have dedicated my entire career to a very simple goal: finding, preparing and serving fresh food in season. For me what we eat has to delight the taste buds, ensnare the senses and nourish body and soul. I try to get the most out of the very best ingredients and I am not interested in cooking; overworked, over seasoned, complicated food. But it is imperative that you should buy the best ingredients you can afford – if you haven’t got the quality there is nowhere to hide with this type of food.
The trendy words in my world are – organic, fresh, taste, simple, changing seasons, local, actually cooking and knowledge – these words have been flung about in the media for some time now, but they do hold the secrets to the trends that shall emerge within Ireland and Great Britain over the next year for all of us and the food we eat.
Organic – a word that has been used and abused – not again I here you say! But I am excited about the word organic and what it means, for our planet and us. It makes me smile when I think of all the organic box schemes that have sprung up across the country. If you are not a member of one, I urge you to join and join today. Leave behind the plastic wrapped, food mile produce that many supermarkets offer you. Allow your taste buds to tingle in excitement with the knowledge that the food you are eating has not been treated with chemicals or poisons instead it is real, unaltered and sublime. When you have satisfied feeling in the pit of your stomach after eating organic food you are is content. And your body is smiling.
By eating natural, high quality organically – whenever possible locally produced – food we are helping to sustain and protect our nation’s countryside and wildlife, as well as our lives. Growing herbs on your windowsill, keeping a small vegetable garden, supporting your local farmer and their markets and shops is a great way to help your community thrive as well as lessen our carbon footprint upon the earth. With all the talk of climate change and global warming it is wonderful to see that people are making small changes in how they shop for their food.
Whilst we are not exactly all moving to become like Tom and Barbara in The Good Life – Self Sufficient; we are becoming passionate about our food: how it was raised, it’s habitat and production. Instead of simply eating to live, we are learning that we actually live to eat. And importantly that it should be a pleasure.
Fresh – to me this means from the field to the plate with as little interference as possible in between. Seeing where are food comes from, what season it grows in; watching the cows in the fields, the hens in the yard, and the deer in the park allows us to start to understand our ingredients and nature, properly. We can feel the balance and taste the difference; there is a reason why air-freight strawberries in January taste wrong, in fact they don’t have any taste at all, the same goes for chickens that never see the light of day, or pork that has been treated with so many chemicals and had so much water added to it. If our food is fresh then we are going to enjoy the explosions of flavour that nature offers us and our skills in the kitchen enhance already transcendent produce into something sublime.
Taste – this is key to everything we put in our mouths if something does not taste right, it can cause all manners of maladies both in our bodies and constitution. It is wonderful to see people across the country rejecting food that does not taste right that has been altered or fiddled with. Taste is sensual it is one of our most powerful senses and immediately transports us to the world of our memories. Therefore it follows that the food we eat should allow us to build memories.
Changing Seasons – the seasons bring balance to our lives and soul to our food. Eating food out of season is like wearing a dress that doesn’t fit – it is ugly and it is wrong. The seasons bring us comfort food the whole year round. Warming roasted root vegetables or chunky soups, feed us both inside and out in the long cold months of winter, whilst lamb and minted peas, lift our spirits in the spring. Eating in season brings vitality to our lives and sparkles to our taste buds. The seasons ensure we have comfort food all year round. When food is in season it will be at its best and it will also be at its cheapest because there is a glut of it. Nature has perfect rhythms and these should run in parallel with the rhythms of the food you cook and eat.
Local – One of the joys of cooking is the shopping and it’s also one of the most important skills. Luckily you don’t need to be a chef or have an enormous budget to buy the best. There are wonderful farmers markets, farm shops, delis and local butchers, grocers and fishmongers all over Great Britain and Ireland. These shops have owners that are passionate about what they do,like my local people here in Fermanagh and they want you to enjoy the food they sell you. Knowledge of the origins of food, and respect for all living systems are strengthened through local producer. There is something very exciting about buying your potatoes from the man who planted the seed. It brings me joy to see people using them and the growing trend for supporting and buying British or Irish. Local food is important to our economy, our country and your community, as well as globally helping to stop unnecessary pollution but apart from these significant facts local food is fresh. And, obviously fresh food tastes, looks and feels better than the rather grim alternative.
Actually cooking – More and more people are returning to the kitchen. But what is really exciting is that more children and young people are taking an interest in food than ever before. The kitchen is a classroom that focuses on the relationship between food and life. Teaching your child to cook, means you give them one of the best gifts of their life.
Knowledge – with all the health scares, allergies and common illnesses we suffer today, the general public are taking what they chose to feed their bodies seriously. We are moving back to a time before eating on the run. When we savoured our food, enjoyed the community created around a table and the local farmers had not been killed by the mass conglomerates.
There will always be the latest thing in the food world, but for me these words that are in vogue at the moment – organic, fresh, taste, simple, changing seasons, local, actually cooking and knowledge – will always be the latest food trends.
Here is some thing I love to cook.
- 1 tightly packed, medium Savoy cabbage
- 4 rashers of back bacon, preferably Pat O’Doherty’s Black Bacon, rinds removed and cut into lardons
- 4 fillet steaks, preferably Kettyle Northern Irish, each about 200g
- a little rapeseed oil
- 300ml Irish stout
- salt and pepper
- SLOW-ROASTED MUSHROOMS
- 50ml rapeseed oil
- 4 garlic cloves, crushed
- Leaves of 1 rosemary sprig, finely chopped
- Leaves of 3 thyme sprigs, finely chopped
- 4 flat cap mushrooms, stems removed and caps peeled
- 4 large potatoes, preferably British Queens, peeled and washed
- 100ml whipping cream
- 4 spring onions, chopped
- 50g salted butter
- 350ml Irish stout
- 3 tbsp redcurrant jelly
- sprig each of rosemary and thyme
- 2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
- Preheat the oven to 130°C/gas 1/2.
- Prepare the mushrooms. Mix together the oil, garlic, rosemary, and thyme.
- Put the mushrooms gill-side up on a non-stick baking tray, pour over the oil mixture, and season with sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Roast for 1 hour.
- Meanwhile, prepare the champ.
- Cook the potatoes in a saucepan of boiling salted water for about 20 minutes until soft, then drain and mash until all lumps are eliminated.
- Bring the cream and spring onions to the boil in the pan, add the mash, and beat until smooth.
- Season and add the butter; set aside in a warm place.
- Wash the cabbage and cut into 6 or 8 wedges.
- Discard the thickest part of the core, but leave a little to help hold the leaves together.
- Heat a frying pan until very hot and fry the lardons until crisp.
- Add the cabbage and mix with bacon, then reduce the heat, cover with a lid and cook slowly for 5-10 minutes.
- Season and set aside in a warm place.
- Remove the mushrooms from the oven and keep warm.
- Increase the oven temperature to 200°C/gas 6 and place a baking tray inside to heat up.
- Season the steaks all over.
- Heat a heavy frying pan until red hot, and add a little oil.
- Place the steaks in the pan and sear all over (top, bottom and sides), then transfer to the hot tray and finish cooking in the oven.
- Allow 4-5 minutes, for medium rare meat.
- Make the gravy while the steaks are in the oven.
- De-glaze the steak juices in the frying pan with the stout, then boil to reduce by about three-quarters.
- Add the redcurrant jelly, rosemary, thyme and garlic, and simmer for 5 minutes. Strain and season, then keep hot.
- Remove the steaks from the oven and leave to rest for a few minutes.
- To serve, put some mushrooms in the middle of each plate, top with cabbage and bacon, then the steaks.
- Finish by spooning a quenelle of champ on the beef, and drizzling a small amount of gravy around the plate.
- Serve immediately, with the remaining gravy in a jug.