Time to put NI on the map with food and farming nominations

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Nominations are now open for the BBC Radio Four Food Programme’s Food and Farming Awards.

The organisers are asking people from across the UK to put the case across for their favourite cooks, markets, food businesses and food heroes.

The awards celebrate the people and organisations who produce and sell quality food. The judges will be looking for winners in a range of categories: best food producer, best drinks producer, best food market, best local food retailer, best takeaway/street food, cook of the year, best food initiative and Countryfile’s Farming Hero award.

Last year Abernethy Butter from Dromara was runner up in the food producer category and St George’s Market in Belfast was runner up in the best food market award, so Northern Ireland was well represented and it would be great to see more companies nominated this year.

I’m sure that every reader of Farming Life could think of someone for that last category.

When someone from this country’s food community is nominated for or wins an award, it further endorses our agri-food sector, feeds into the tourist market, and puts us on the radar for food and travel writers.

When food companies from Northern Ireland are nominated for or win awards, there’s a surge in interest from potential visitors. When you go to St George’s Market, in Belfast, on a Saturday morning and witness all the different accents from across the globe, of tourists taking pictures and soaking up the unique atmosphere, you realise what we really have here.

The individual food stands showcasing fabulous meat, brilliant cheeses, our unique, indigenous breads, stunning, seasonal vegetables, sparkling, fresh fish, local seaweeds, cakes and jams highlight the treasure we have on our doorstep.

When producers like Peter Hannan and Robert McCartney, both butchers from Moira, win the supreme Great Taste Award, out of over 30,000 entries from across Britain and Ireland, for three out of the last five years, then the rest of the world has to take notice.

To nominate your favourite local food producer, cook (someone who’s cooking on a budget eg in a school or nursing home and making a difference to lives), market, shop, farming hero, takeaway or street vendor, drinks producer or food innovator, go to bbc.co.uk/foodawards and follow the links.

This week’s recipe is one of those that the ingredients will make all the difference and is for one of the most comforting foods in the world – meatloaf. Go to your butcher and get good quality minced beef and sausage meat.

Some people use minced pork in their meatloaf and it’s great, but I find sausage meat makes all the difference in the flavour department.

The recipe calls for the tin to be lined with streaky bacon which helps keep it moist and tasty.

If you don’t have a loaf tin, overlap the bacon on a sheet of tin foil, mould the meat mixture into a cylindrical shape in the middle of it and roll up and seal the foil to keep in all the juices.

There’s a recipe for gravy – an essential to warm the cockles. You could serve with regular mashed potatoes but parsnips are at their best now and they add a sweet touch to the mash. I’ve added some 
caramelized onions too for some extra zingy sweet sour action.