In this episode
In this episode we’re all about following the seasons. If we truly want to make a difference this is one area we need to improve on – eating food when it’s at it freshest is fundamental, the less we rely on out of season imports the more we can grow and achieve locally. This is at the heart of food sustainability.
Mick is traveling to Cork to speak with Regina Sexton, food writer and researcher about the history of food here in Ireland and how we once managed to follow the seasons pre famine and make the best use of food during the hungry gap; before taking a trip to Dublin to meet lecturer Dr. Máirtín Mac Con Ionmaire who was awarded Ireland’s first PhD in food history.
Next we’re heading to the world-renowned cookery school of Ballymaloe to chat to chef and food lecturer Rory O’Connell about the importance of eating seasonally when it comes to chefs, their food and cooking.
We return to Waterford to GROW HQ where according to the head chef JB Dubois if it’s not in season and available fresh in the HQ gardens ….. it’s not on the menu. Mick and JB sit down to enjoy a really seasonal delicious meal.
Next on our journey we look at the economics of seasonality with economist and Waterford native Jim Power and we also look at the impact marketing has on people’s perception on seasonality with TUD Lecturer Damian O’Reilly.
To finish the episode Mick heads to Kerry to talk to Lisa Fingleton about a very interesting challenge based around seasonal and local food called the 30-day food challenge, where Lisa can only eat ingredients that come from Ireland.
- “The History of the Seasons” – Regina Sexton & Máirtín Mac Con Ionmaire; Cork & Dublin
- “Influencing the Seasons” – Chef, Rory O’Connell, Ballymaloe, Co Cork
- “Real Seasonal Menu” – JB Dubois, Head Chef at GROW HQ, Waterford
- “The Economics of Seasonality” – Jim Power, Dublin City
- “The Marketing of Seasons” – Damian O’Reilly, Dublin City
- “The 30 Day Food Challenge” – Lisa Fingleton, Co. Kerry
Lisa Fingleton is an artist, filmmaker, writer and grower who has spent over twenty years cultivating deep-rooted connections between art, food and farming. Her projects incorporate socially engaged, collaborative and performative process; participatory moving image; large scale drawing installations; as well as creative and autobiographical writing.
Grounded on a nineteen acre organic farm and native woodland on the west coast of Ireland, she and her partner run a project called The Barna Way. From here they engage with the diverse community groups through social farming and live food and cultural events, while protecting habitats for wildlife. This seventeen year project is propelled by an accelerated sense of urgency around food insecurity, climate crisis, biodiversity loss and forced migration.
Jim Power is one of Ireland’s leading and best-known economic analysts. Jim has a wealth of experience in delivering insightful economic analysis, forecasts and commentary to both Irish and international audiences. He writes regularly for national newspapers and is a regular contributor to radio and TV debates and discussions, and podcasts such as The Stand and Win Happy.
He was a board member of Agri-Aware, the food awareness body for 8 years; was Chairperson of Love Irish Food for 10 years, and is now a director.
Damian O’Reilly is a Senior Lecturer in retail management at the College of Business at DIT
Regina Sexton is a food historian, food writer, broadcaster and cook. She has been researching and publishing in the area of Irish food and culinary history since 1993. Her research interests include food and identity, food and tradition and food in the Irish country house.
A Little History of Irish Food by Regina Sexton
Re-imagining the Irish Foodscape by Colin Sage
Rory O’Connell co-founded Ballymaloe Cookery School with his sister Darina Allen in 1983.
Head chef of Ballymaloe House for ten years, he was twice awarded the prestigious title of Ireland’s Chef of the Year. Accomplished author of 3 brilliant cookbooks including Cook Well, Eat Well, The Joy of Food & Master It, How to Cook Today.
Sitopia- How Food Can Save the World by Carolyn Steel
We Are What We Eat- A Slow Food Manifesto by Alice Waters
Jean Baptiste Dubois
JB is from a small town called Luneville, not far from the city of Nancy in Lorraine in the northeast of France. After working in childcare, JB followed a traditional chef’s training in France. He arrived in Ireland in 2001 and worked in many prestigious hotels and restaurant in Galway, Clare, Cork and Waterford.
Following his passion for sustainable tasty food, he joined GIY in 2016 to open GROW HQ. JB brings a modern flair and dedication to traditional techniques to preserve food and manage a zero-waste kitchen. He has a strong focus on fresh, local, seasonal products of impeccable quality.
Dr Mairtin Mac Con Iomaire
Máirtín is a senior lecturer in the School of Culinary Arts and Food Technology at Technological University Dublin. He is the co-founder and chair of the biennial Dublin Gastronomy Symposium and a former trustee of the Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery. He is chair of the Masters in Gastronomy and Food Studies in TU Dublin, the first such programme in Ireland. He is co-editor with Eamon Maher of ‘Tickling the Palate’: Gastronomy in Irish Literature and Culture (Peter Lang: 2014), and with Rhona Richman Kenneally on ‘The Food Issue’ of The Canadian Journal of Irish Studies (2018), and in 2021, Máirtín guest edited a special issue of Folk Life on Irish food ways. He has published widely in peer-reviewed journals, edited books, conference proceedings and encyclopaedias, and is a regular contributor on food history, chefs and restaurants in the media. In 2018, he presented an eight-part television series for TG4 called ‘Blasta’ celebrating Ireland’s food heritage. Along with Michelle Share and Dorothy Cashman, he is co-editor of the new European Journal of Food Drink and Society.
So many claims about seasonality appear on menus and in the supermarkets that you could be forgiven for thinking anything might be in season at almost any time of year, but the truth is it’s probably not.
The more we understand the seasons and what we can grow in season the better it is for the planet and growing your own food is one way to plug you into the season’s rhythms for real.
The seasons take on a new level of importance when you’re growing something as tiny and unpromising looking as seeds – to turn these little things into towering plants we can eat, we need the seasons on our side.
As they continue to become more unpredictable, these optimistic little seeds will have to navigate later frosts, heavier rains and longer dry spells on their increasingly precarious journey.
So now more than ever it’s important we follow and understand the food seasons. Generally speaking the growing seasons are:
- Spring – seed sowing and transplanting seedlings in to the soil
- Summer – first crops harvesting
- Autumn – a time of plenty
- Winter – a pause for the soil to rest and lean in to the stores of food from autumn
- Seasonal food is produce that is purchased and consumed around the time that it is harvested.
- Seasonal food is fresher, tastier and more nutritious – this is because crops picked at their peak of ripeness are also better tasting and full of flavour. The longer the journey and time from plot to plate the less tasty and nutritious the food
- Seasonal food is generally local food. Local food supports the local economy.
- As the weather changes across the globe so does the fresh produce that is available
- Eating seasonally reduces the demand for out of season imported produce, reduces air miles and carbon emissions
Did You Know?
Recipe for January
JB's Sheperds Pie
This dish was originally created by our Head Chef JB to encourage parents to recreate this dish with their kids. In the olden days, meat pies were done with left over stew and not with mince. The reheated stew was then topped with pastry or with mash potato (more traditional in Ireland). The diced lamb gives this a fantastic texture, and it’s full of in-season vegetables – garlic, carrots, parsnips and onions.
- 500g diced lamb
- 4 large tomatoes or 1 small tin of chopped tomatoes
- 2 garlic cloves
- 2 medium carrots
- 1 parsnip
- 1 large onion
- Chopped rosemary leaves
- 200 ml good homemade chicken stock (made from the left-over bones of a roast chicken)
- Pinch of salt
- 1 Tbsp cooking oil
- 700g nice buttery mash potato to cover the top
Fry off the diced lamb with a little cooking oil in a wide stock pot for 5 to 6 minutes until golden brown. Peel and slice the vegetables. Add the vegetables to the meat and fry off for 3 to 4 minutes.
Add the chopped garlic, rosemary and salt. Add the chopped tomatoes and the chicken stock and simmer on low heat for 2 to 3 hours until the meat start to become flaky. Pour the lamb stew into a pie dish, cover with mash potato and bake at 150 degrees celsius for 45 minutes.
Recipe for February
Mick's Leek & Bacon Gratin
This recipe is a great one to try during the winter months. Not only are leeks a staple out in the winter veg patch but it’s also a great comfort food to enjoy during the winter months. This is also a fantastic dish to make if you have any meat left over from the rest of the week.
- 125ml veg or chicken stock
- 1 carton double cream
- 150ml milk
- 1 garlic clove , crushed
- 1 bay leaf
- A knob of real butter , for greasing
- 800g potatoes , peeled and thinly sliced
- 2 leeks , washed and thinly sliced
- 175g sliced ham, chopped
- 85g cheddar, grated
Pour the stock, cream and milk into a small saucepan, add the garlic and bay leaf and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat, cover and let the flavours infuse while you get on with the rest of the dish. Preheat the oven to 180C/gas 4/fan 160C. Butter a 2 litre gratin dish well. Mix the potatoes, leeks and ham together in the dish, and spread out in an even layer. Pour over the stock mixture and tuck the bay leaf in the middle. Season and sprinkle with the cheese.
Stand the dish on a baking tray to catch any spills. Loosely cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Test the potatoes with a knife – they should be just beginning to soften. Remove the foil and bake for another 35-45 minutes, spooning some of the stock mixture over every now and again until the potatoes are tender.
Cool for 15 minutes before serving.
Recipe for March
Though it’s traditional to have coarsely grated cabbage in kimchi, JB prepares his version with the veg finely grated. This recipe produces enough for two large kilner jars, but a lot will depend on the size of the head of cabbage and will last up to a month!
- 1 Medium head white cabbage, grated
- 2 medium carrots, grated
- 1 small beetroot, peeled and grated
- 3 shallots , chopped
- 2 red chillis deseeded and finely chopped
- Thumb-sized piece ginger, chopped
- 2 tbs fish sauce
- 750ml water and 3 tbs sea salt
Make the brine by adding the salt to the water and stirring. Put the cabbage, beetroot and carrot in a large bowl and add the brine. Put a plate on top to keep the veg submerged and leave 3-4 hours or overnight. Drain the veg the next morning, retaining the brine.
Put the shallots, chillis, ginger and fish sauce and blitz with a hand-blender until it’s like a paste. Pour over the veg and mix really well to ensure all the veg is coated in the paste. Put the veg mix in to sterilised kilner jars and pour the brine over so it’s covering the veg.
Cover and leave to stand at room temperature for 3-5 days. It will start to bubble and ferment. Then pop it in the fridge where it will continue to ferment (but more slowly). You can enjoy it straight away and it will keep for about a month (though it never lasts that long in JB’s house).
Recipe for April
Roasted Carrot with Wild Rice & Chickpeas
This dish, featured in our Grow Cook Eat television series, is the perfect easy meal when you are looking for something quick but still nutritious. With minimal ingredients, short prep-time and maximum taste what’s not to love?
- 350g thickly sliced carrots
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 1/2 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 125 ml vegetable broth
- 1 Tlsp lemon juice
- 250g cooked wild rice or wild rice blend
- 25g pumpkin seeds
- 25g feta cheese or local goats cheese
Preheat oven to 375°F. In a roasting pan, combine the sliced carrots, chopped onion, chickpeas and olive oil. Stir to coat carrots with cumin and oil. Pour the vegetable broth and lemon juice into pan and cover with tin foil. Roast carrots for 30 minutes before removing foil and cooking for another 10 to 15 minutes until carrots are tender.
Remove carrots from oven and toss with wild rice, pumpkin seeds and goats cheese. Serve warm.
Recipe for May
Micks Chicken & Asparagus Pie
Sometimes a pie is just the job. Other times it feels like it will just take too long to pull it all together for a mid-week dinner. But this is a really simple and quick, grill-cooked healthy supper that you can throw together in 20 minutes and it feels a lot like a pie.. Asparagus is seasonal in May-June so until then you can replace with another seasonal green – sprouting broccoli perhaps? This dish also uses meat as more of a garnish than a main making it better for you and the environment!
- 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into bite-size piecesknob of butter
- 100g asparagus, cut into bite-size pieces
- 100g green vegetables (we used baby spinach and defrosted peas)
- 100g ham, torn
- 100ml crème fraîche
- 50g fresh breadcrumbs
Heat grill to medium. Spread the chicken out evenly in a shallow baking dish. Dot with half the butter and grill for 7-10 mins, turning occasionally until cooked through. Meanwhile, put the vegetables in a bowl and pour a kettle of boiling water over them. Leave for 2-3 mins, then drain.
Scatter the veg and ham over the chicken, dollop on the crème fraîche and season to taste. Sprinkle on the breadcrumbs, dot with remaining butter, then slide under the grill for 5 mins more until heated through and the topping is crisp.
Recipe for June
Broad Beans with Ricotta & Salsa Verde
Think of this as a “fancy dip” to dip crackers or bread into that aren’t one dimensional in a bowl.
- 1 tub of Irish toonsbridge ricotta
- Olive oil
- 1 red onion finely diced
- Red wine vinegar
- Broad beans
- Flat leaf parsley lots ( 2 handful ish)
- Pea shoots
Firstly take your broad beans out of there pods and you should have the beans in there slightly grey outer pods. Place them in some boiling water and boil for 1-2 min depending on the size. Drain and place in some iced water to stop the cooking process and retain the lovely colour. Next, peel the second layer off the beans and discard. In a mixing bowl make a salsa verde, chop the capers and add them to your bowl followed by the oil, garlic, vinegar, lemon zest and lots and lots of chopped parsley. Mix your ricotta with the juice of the zested lemon and taste for seasoning.
Swirl it on your serving dish, followed by your beans and then the salsa verde with lots of pea shoots and some sea salt to finish. Serve with some crackers.
Recipe for July
Another fantastic recipe when dealing with gluts in the garden. While it’s tempting to try some crazy courgette dishes to use up your gluts it’s also nice to keep it simple and enjoy the veg straight from the veg patch.
- 2 courgettes
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp lemon or lime juice
- 1 tbsp honey
- 2 tsp poppy seeds
- 1 small garlic clove , crushed
Grate the courgettes and then toss them with the oil, lemon juice, honey, poppy seeds and the crushed garlic clove. Season to taste. Serve straight away (it gets watery if left hanging around) – makes a lovely accompaniment to barbecued meats.
Recipe for August
A fresh, delicious, simple recipe using Irish produce and the flavours of the Mediterranean. A recipe that adds a taste of summer to hundreds of dishes
- 125g Sun-blush Tomatoes
- 1 Red Pepper
- 75g Parmesan
- 1 Clove Garlic
- 75 ml Pomace Olive oil
- 50g Basil
- 25g Capers
- 15 ml White Wine Vinegar
- 15g Maple Syrup
Cut the pepper in two and discard the seeds and core, char the red pepper skin on the outside on a griddle pan before putting into an oven to roast until cooked. This should take about 15 minutes at 180 C.
Take your remaining ingredients and add to a blender and mix until relatively smooth and add seasoning.
Recipe for September
HQ Boulangere Potatoes
This French dish (translates as the baker’s wife potatoes) was traditionally baked by the baker’s wife early in the morning in the bread oven when the baker finished baking the bread. Two layers of sliced potatoes with a layer of onion and bacon in between.
- 1.5kg of waxy potatoes like Rooster, Orla, Pink Fir Apple
- 100g diced smoked streaky bacon
- 1 sliced medium white onion
- 1 crushed garlic clove
- 0.5L chicken stock
- 75g butter plus a little more for greasing the gratin dish
- 1/2 bay leaf
- 1 drizzle of rapeseed oil
- Sea salt & black pepper to taste
Fry off the diced bacon, in a saucepan, on a high heat with a drizzle of rapeseed oil until golden brown.
Add the sliced onion and crushed garlic and cook for a further 3 minutes until the onions soften slightly.
Add a good pinch of salt and pepper, the butter, bay leaf and chicken stock. Simmer for 5 minutes.
Grease the gratin dish with the remaining butter.
Wash, peel and slice the potatoes using a mandolin or a food processor. Do not keep or wash the sliced potatoes in water as this will wash out the starch.
Place half the sliced potatoes in the dish and use a slotted spoon to scoop the bacon and onion out of the stock and cover the bottom layer of potatoes.
Add in the remaining potatoes, pressing them down into the dish slightly.
Pour the warm chicken stock over the potatoes.
Cover with tin foil and bake in a preheated oven at 160℃ for 1 hour.
Take the foil off and bake for a further 30 minutes. Check with a knife if the potatoes are cooked through before serving
Recipe for October
JBs French Onion Soup
There is nothing more warming than a French onion soup. Our Head Chef JB unites his French roots with his Waterford home with this onion soup recipe by using blaa croutons and some smoked Knockanore cheese for a ‘local’ twist.
- 250g onions
- 1l chicken or veg stock
- 1 bay leaf
- 25 g plain flour
- 4 table spoons rapeseed oil
- 1 glass of dry white wine
- 1 slice of sour dough
- 100g grated smoked cheddar
- 1 garlic clove
- Sea salt and crack black pepper
Dice bread of your choice, crush the garlic with 2 table spoons of oil and toss the diced bread in the garlic oil. Roast the croutons in the oven at 180℃ for 10min.
Use vegetable or chicken stock. If you have leftover bones from your Sunday Roast you can use these to make a homemade chicken stock. Simmer the bones for 2 hours with cold water, garden herbs, 1 carrot, 2 chopped tomatoes and 1 celery stick. For a homemade veggie stock simply leave out the bones! For the soup, slice the onions within the fibres of the onions. Fry the sliced onions in a stockpot with 2 table spoons of oil until caramelised. Add the flour and stir for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the white wine (don’t drink it all) and let cook on low heat for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the chicken stock, the bay leaf and seasoning. Let simmer for 20 minutes.
Pour the soup in oven proof bowls, top with croutons and grated smoked cheddar. Place under a hot grill for 3 to 5 minutes and serve.
Recipe for November
Kale & Smoked Cheddar Risotto
Inspired by one of JB’s cooking courses at GROW HQ. The idea is to show people that introducing a couple of veggie dinners in to your repertoire each week can be healthy and delicious. This was one of the recipes featured. Don’t be turned off by the idea of making your own stock – it takes just half an hour to make and makes all the difference. Serves 4.
- 2 carrots
- 1 sprig thyme
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 small leek
- 1 stick of celery
- 250g Arborio rice
- 20g butter
- 1 clove garlic
- 100g kale
- 100g Knockanore cheese (or other smoked cheddar)
- Toasted sesame and poppy seeds
First make the veg stock. Wash, peel and roughly chop the vegetables. Place them and the thyme in a pot, cover with 1.5l of cold water and a pinch of sea salt. Bring to the boil and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to infuse for another 10 minutes. Then pass through a fine sieve.
Wash and chop the kale. Peel and grate the carrot. Peel and chop the garlic. Grate the smoked cheddar. Sweat the garlic with the butter in a large pot on a low heat for 2 minutes. Add the rice and sweat it off for 2-3 minutes (keep stirring to avoid sticking). Add a good pinch of sea salt and pepper. Add the veg stock little by little while stirring every few minutes. The rice should be cooked when all the stock has been absorbed (15-20 minutes). When the rice is cooked, add the kale, the grated carrot and the grated cheese, give it a quick stir.
Serve immediaely. Garnish with the toasted seeds. Add a squeeze of lemon.
Recipe for December
Our Head Chef JB’s recipe for beetroot falafels are a favourite at GROW HQ and really simple to put together (which can’t often be said for some beetroot ‘burger’ recipes). Dry-frying the spices is the key to the amazing flavour. We use a gluten free flour to make them, well, gluten free – and since they don’t use any egg or cheese to bind, they are also vegan. You could also bake them if you don’t like the idea of frying. Serve with a yoghurt dip. Serves 4-6.
- 400g finely grated beetroot
- 100g organic, gluten free flour and a little more for coating the falafels
- Sea salt
- 80 ml rapeseed oil
- ½ tsp cumin seeds
- 1 tbsp sesame seeds
- Chopped fennel leaves
Toast the sesame and cumin seeds in a small dry frying pan on a medium heat for 2 minutes, add the oil and let cool. Massage the grated beetroot with the salt for 2 minutes until you feel the beetroot soften under your fingers. Incorporate the spiced oil, then the flour and the chopped fennel leaves. Shape the falafel, roll them in the remaining gluten free flour and deep fry in hot oil at 150 degrees C for a few minutes until crispy. To make the yoghurt dip, peel a clove of garlic and chop a small bunch of fresh parsley – add to 100g of full fat natural yoghurt.
Once falafels are fried or baked serve immediately with yoghurt dip and salad.
Season and Diet
Producing and eating food according to the basic principles of the natural world is not just an environmental argument. As human beings, we are intrinsically linked to the seasonal rhythm of wherever we live, leading to different dietary needs and desires through the year.
Do you ever really hanker after a salad on a cold winter day? Why does your body crave leafy greens in the spring? If seasonal eating is what your body wants and needs, what does it mean that we have as a society settled in to a diet that stays the same all year round?
Following the seasons demands we put more thought into our food and develop many forgotten kitchen skills. While these skills have been making a comeback among millennials, they were routine among all walks of life throughout Irish history.
Think about the current trend for sauerkraut, kimchi and other fermented foods – though we now see these foods as having specific gut health benefits, these were traditionally preservation methods to deal with gluts of food.
Did You Know?
Practical Steps you can take
- Get curious about when the things you like to eat are in season in Ireland, or whether they can be grown in Ireland at all? Having an understanding of what’s in season, can be the best weapon for us as consumers of food.
- Experiment – try eating the same food in season and out of season. For example taste a tomato from Ireland during the summer and try an imported one during th winter – what do you notice about the taste of each? Do they taste different?
- Would you consider the 30 Day Local Food challenge, eating only food produced on the island of Ireland for a month? If you do it, what ingredients surprised you? Chocolate, tea, coffee etc?
- Grow food yourself – the best way to understand seasonality is to grow food yourself. One of the biggest components of ‘food empathy’ is the knowledge that you acquire about seasonality.
- Buy local and seasonal food – supermarkets and growers have extended the seasons on so many products and imports are available year-round but what’s key to all of this is if its local, fresh and available then it’s in season.