It is amazing how the simple things in life really are the best


In a world of increasing uncertainty, never-ending debate about Brexit, Donald Trump in the Whitehouse and butter at nearly £4 a pound, it’s good to take comfort in the simple things in life like dirty carrots, a walk on a wind swept beach and “Rare Breed” on UTV.

In an era of television that requires everything to be a competition, it’s so refreshing to find a show that charts the farming year. It does this simply, without gloss or pomp and celebrates the unsung heroes of the agri-food world.

No tantrums, constructed, fake dramas and annoying voting at the end of the programme – just relaxed, well filmed television.

This year two talented food producers feature on the show – Long Meadow Cider, based just outside Portadown and Cavanagh Eggs, who produce free range eggs in Newtownbutler in County Fermanagh.

Long Meadow Cider was established in 2013 by third generation apple growers, the McKeever family. Pat and his wife Catherine, alongside son Peter are involved in the day to day running of the business. The rest of the family get involved in shows and events.

Unlike many commercial ciders, Long Meadow is made 100% wholly using apples from their orchards. They produce an award winning range of ciders, apple juices and cider vinegar. The family never rest on their laurels and are constantly experimenting with and adding new products to their range.

As well as a range of regular ciders, they also stock a delicious rhubarb variety, an oak aged and a refreshing non-alcoholic sparkling apple juice. They have plans for a visitor centre and café and starting next week they have a range of events happening in the orchard.

From the 13th to the 16th February you can visit the orchard for a Treeluminations Display. It starts at 6pm and finishes at 10pm. The apple blossom in May is absolutely beautiful and the trees are stunning laden with lush crimson red and verdant apples at harvest time. But there’s a luminous beauty in the starkness of an orchard in winter. Lighting the trees is a genius idea and if you’re romantically inclined, it would be an extra special way to treat your Valentine.

John and Eileen Hall started egg production, on their farm in the townland of Cavanagh, near Newtownbutler in Fermanagh back in 2012. The chickens are free to roam and it shows in their eggs. The yolks are pert and bright orange, the whites firm with the perfect wobble. They now supply 22 million eggs a year into the food chain. Their eggs are perfect just boiled and dipped with toast soldiers but they’re exemplary when it comes to cooking.

A couple of years ago I was at a food show with Cavanagh Eggs and Long Meadow cider and came up with a custard recipe using the egg yolks and Long Meadow Blossom Burst cider – it went down a treat! I’ve included the recipe. It would go well with my other recipe for apple and Long Meadow cider pudding or equally well with an apple crumble or sponge.

My other recipe is for an apple and blueberry meringue cake – the yolks and whole Cavanagh eggs go into a sponge with apples and blueberries and when it’s almost ready the top is covered with a meringue. So if you can’t decide whether to do apple sponge, or a classic Queen of Puddings, this recipe ticks both boxes. And I can confirm, despite being a little decadent, that served with the cider custard, either way perfect for a Valentine Day’s treat.

Rare Breed is on Thursday evenings on UTV at 8 o’clock. This week the Hall’s and the McKeevers talk about their working year. Better than watch paint dry on a reality show any day!