Stumbling out of the early morning and into a confusion of stalls and marvellous food. That was me at Mahon Point Farmers Market last Thursday, sans list, sans plan.
Lucky then that I stumbled on a new product by Iain Flynn of Flynn’s Kitchen. Spotted a colourful jar in the corner where he normally displays his soups. The label: Chorizo and Beans. “Great, I’ll have a pair of those,” I said to the modest maestro Iain.
Put the glasses on when I came home and realised it wasn't soup at all, but another four letter word: stew! A challenge, but no panic. Paired it up with a bunch of Sally Bee’s meatballs and, bingo, we had a fantastic jackpot of lively tastes and flavours that, matched with a superb wine from La Rioja Alta, the Vino Arana Reserva 2004, went down brilliantly.
Like a good wine, Mahon is well balanced. May I present Barrie Tyner, a talkative and very engaging fellow. Can’t ever leave his little stall without feeling guilty as he hands out generous samples of fantastic chicken liver pâtés, a second shoved into your hand before you have delivered the first to your mouth.
And the pâtés represent the cooperation that exists and is growing among local producers – the livers come from Tom Clancy (Ballycotton Poultry) who also has a stall in Mahon. Sometimes their rich and delicious "smoothiness" enhanced by a dash (Barrie’s dash could well be twice that of others) of cognac, sometimes by a more modest caramelised onion, the livers are transformed into something wonderful.
Perfect when simply served on Arbutus baguette as Barrie does (Arbutus are at the next stall). This time at home, I had something special, a Mango relish with a Creole touch, made in the Vendee and bought last summer on the drive home from the Basque country. Here in a cold wet January evening in Cork, the summer relish and the winter pate, not to mention some organic leaves from Derek of Greenfield Farm (also at Mahon Market), came together in a delicious dish for all seasons.
I know there are many excellent local relishes available at the markets that would make a match with the pâtés. But you are allowed to reach out, occasionally! Lots of thing could be better here but thankfully there are no food police.
By all means try the good stuff from abroad but above all take pride in the local ways, in our heritage. Buy local, fresh and fair, and make the local economy stronger. No big deal really. No violence involved, just a savoury and sweet revolution. It starts with me. And you.