Burren Slow Food Festival

by Alison, 15/06/2014 

Just before Ollie left we went to the Burren Slow Food Festival in Lisdoonvarna. What with all the rush of moving, I never actually wrote about it. This was the first year Ollie and I went to the event though it has been running since before we arrived in Clare. It is a celebration and demonstration of the growers, artisan producers and chefs working in Clare and around Ireland. The philosophy of this movement is 'Good, Clean and Fair' meaning great tasting food, environmentally friendly production and sold at a fair price for the producer and the consumer.

The event in the festival that initially attracted us to attend, was a wild food foraging walk run by Oonagh O'Dwyer from the Wild Kitchen in Lahinch. Aside from blackberry picking, Ollie and I are pretty lost when it comes to wild food. Oonagh on the other hand has a wealth of knowledge and an enthusiasm to share all that she knows. 
Despite the rain (that was unfortunately pouring down during the walk), Oonagh kept the whole group engaged. Within minutes of leaving the pavilion she was showing us the free food available right under our noses. Some of which I've seen ever since I was a child and never even considered they could be edible.
Plantain- looking for a nifty cough medicine, apparently look no further.
Tea or pesto awaits if you are brave enough to pick them.
We used to just throw these at each other in primary school. Turns out they are pretty good in a stir-fry.
As well as showing us different edible plants, Oonagh had a range of ideas of how to cook and preserve them. From conifer tea to blackberry or hawthorn ketchup.
I love the idea of using these dog violets to decorate your own cakes.
Pignuts, to add some nuttiness to a salad
Dandelion marmelade, fritters, stir-fries or used as a coffee substitute.
It was lovely to see the variety of truly local produce that is available to anybody with the knowledge and skill. One thing Oonagh did advise was to get a good book, to ensure that you are picking the right plants as some look deceptively similar. Please don't use this page as an accurate reference. This was foraging 101 for us.
Sorrel or Lords and Ladies? Tasty treat or poisonous plant? 
Ollie testing the produce
Aside from the foraging walk, we wandered the farmers market, watched a cookery demonstration by Peter Jackson from Hotel Doolin and attend a talk by Darina Allen. The theme of the festival was 'Seaweed' and it was amazing to see the range of products available with this superfood in it. 

Peter Jackson gave a rapid demonstration of how to incorporate seaweed into a beautiful, elegant dish- turbot with a churizo and sea spaghetti risotto and some Doolin crab claws with a wild garlic dressing. Nom. However after watching the demonstration all I can think of is butter, cream and salt. If you want to know why restaurant food tastes so good, these along with good produce and a good chef, are the main culprits. 

Finally the talk from Darina was inspiring. She is head of Slow Food Ireland and is infectiously enthusiastic about good, local food. She believes in the potential of Irish produce and the need for us to take pride in what we have that is unique.  We all need to eat and even if we aren't directly involved in the food business we can support local businesses and take back the power of our food choices. 'Taste the location, taste the place'.

All we have to do now is put this knowledge into practice. Be warned if you happen to call for dinner.


  1. That's awesome Alison, love the photographs and descriptions. Thanks for the kind words.
    Oonagh from wildkitchen.ie

    1. Thanks a million Oonagh. I just sent you a mail through the wild kitchen site. Talk to you soon.