Celebrations kick off for the Year of Food & Drink!


Article from the Farm Week written by Michele Shirlow

Our first-ever Year of Food and Drink is now up and running. And it’s going to be a very exciting 12 months in Northern Ireland and indeed further afield as we celebrate our fantastic food and drink and the people and companies behind the products that are increasingly being recognised here and abroad as being outstandingly tasty, wholesome and safe.

In the next month there will be a great deal to report on with progress on 2016. Celebrations kick off this week with Tesco launching their plans to celebrate 2016, next week TourismNI are holding a 2016 banquet in the Ulster Hall and a further series of ‘ food and drink revolution’ roadshows to inspire the tourism industry. The month finishes with several business breakfasts highlighting Breakfast Week.

January is Breakfast Month and there’s surely no better way to start the year than by celebrating local breakfast foods. When we think of breakfast we tend to think of the traditional and hearty Ulster Fry, of traditional potato and soda breads, eggs, bacon and pork sausages (which I love) but Northern Ireland is also outstanding in production of oat based cereals and dairy products which make great options for breakfast.

Research shows that eating a good breakfast improves overall wellbeing. It’s an essential start to the day. Breakfast eaters tend to be slimmer than breakfast skippers so for anyone trying to lose a few pounds after Christmas, planning a healthy breakfast is vital. Breakfast provides the essential energy and nutrients needed for an active lifestyle

The longstanding Farmhouse Breakfast event in Belfast is one of the most enjoyable occasions in January. And many of the ingredients in the local breakfast regularly win prestigious awards in competitions such as the UK Great Taste Awards.

Charles Campion, for instance, the influential food writer and MasterChef judge, is on record as describing a good Ulster Fry as ‘probably the best breakfast in the world’. Indeed there’s nothing I enjoy more than a well-cooked Ulster Fry. But I also enjoy a steaming bowl of porridge from locally grown oats topped with local honey and cream, pure indulgence. Oats, of course, are a great source of fibre and also have a low GI, which means porridge keeps you fuelled until lunch.

Encouragingly, cereals grown in Northern Ireland for porridge and granola are also now being enjoyed at breakfast from the US to Taiwan. And our wonderful breakfast tea is even now being exported to Japan, central Europe and Africa!

Even if you prefer a continental-style breakfast experienced on those holidays abroad such as croissants, cold meats and cheese you’ll also find these readily available from local producers. We’ve some of the best bakeries in the UK and Ireland and some excellent producers of meats especially delicious ham. We are also seeing the emergence of a charcuterie sector including Wagyu and venison sausages.

Showcasing the breadth and quality of what’s readily available here is, of course, what our Year of Food and Drink is all about. We, collectively, are telling people here and abroad about the products and enterprising and creative people behind them….and encouraging consumers to opt for local food and drink because it is of the highest quality.

We are working with our cadre of talented chefs to harness the products to develop Northern Ireland’s growing reputation as a global centre of original dishes and increase our appeal to tourists and other visitors.