NI Chefs Visit Achill Island To Experience Gourmet Greenway

A group of Taste of Ulster chefs and CEO Michele Shirlow recently travelled to Achill Island, County Mayo to experience the Gourmet Greenway. What grew out of a cycle path now includes a complementary tourism initiative encompassing producers, restaurants and hotels along the Mayo coast of the Wild Atlantic Way.

Chefs from Ballyrobin Country Lodge, Antrim, Ocho Tapas, Portrush, Brunel’s, Newcastle, Millbrook Lodge Hotel, Ballynahinch, La Mon House Hotel and the Belvedere, both in Belfast were accompanied by Michele Shirlow, food writer, Sam Butler and Great British Menu Chef, Eddie Attwell.

They had a tasting menu at Mulranny Park Hotel before travelling on to stay overnight on the island. The meal by Head Chef Chamila Mananwatta included Padraig Gannon’s oysters, salmon from Clare Island and Gerry Hasset and a tasting of Achill Mountain Lamb. They also tasted some local Oilean Eadaigh craft beers.

The next morning the group saw sheep shearing by Martin Calvey of Calvey’s Achill Mountain Lamb. The family business centres around the free-range rearing and onsite butchery of Mayo Blackface Ewes. The animals graze all over the island munching on heather and seashore grasses which give the meat a superb flavour.

There followed a trip to the headquarters of Achill Island Sea Salt. The O’Malley family revived the island tradition of harvesting Atlantic salt from local shores. They started out in their kitchen and now have a new facility on the island. The visitors went home with samples of the soft, pristine white flakes.

Lunch followed a trip to the seashore to see where the lambs are finished before slaughter. On the menu was traditional Lamb Belly – a pudding made with lamb’s blood and a slow-roasted lamb shank.

There was time for a visit to the Achill Mountain Lamb abattoir and butchers in Keel where they saw Grainne Calvey get carcasses ready for Ashford Castle, Cong, Co. Mayo.

“It was fantastic to see how this lamb is all reared, slaughtered and butchered on the island with the maximum freedom and the minimum of stress. I had heard how good it was, but seeing it in its natural environment and then tasting it confirmed to me that I had to get it on the menu at Ballyrobin” said Head Chef, Jim Mulholland.

“I think we should be doing more trips like this across the island to connect with the hardworking suppliers and families who make Irish food what it is”.