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Killeen cheese 028 marion roeveld killeen cheese
Marion Roeleveld of Killeen Farmhouse Cheese

Beef, butter and potatoes among winners of Irish Food Writers’ Guild Food Awards

The winners were announced online today.


The winners of the Irish Food Awards were revealed today, with Irish staples taking home the top titles.

Usually, the winners of the Irish Food Writers’ Guild Food Awards are revealed at an elaborate ceremony and lunch but this year, owing to the ongoing restrictions, the ceremony was cancelled. For the first time ever, the winners were announced virtually, with interviews and recipes catalogued in the IFWG Food Awards e-zine. 

This year, Irish potatoes, butter and good quality meat were some of the top winners, highlighting just how important staple ingredients are to us all. For the full list of winners, read on. 

Food Award:

Abernethy Butter, Co. Down

Owned and operated by husband-and-wife team Allison and Will Abernethy, Abernethy Butter is revered by chefs around the country - for good reason too. This handmade, handrolled butter is completely unique, made from grass-fed, single-herd cream and shaped with wooden pats, resulting in a dry, flavourful product. 

As well as the regular unsalted and salted varieties, Abernethy Butter offers a variety of flavoured options too, including dulse, black garlic, chipotle chilli and smoked paprika, and smoked butter. 

For more info, or to buy online, head to abernethybutter.com.

Food Award:

Ballymakenny Farm Irish Heritage and Specialty Potatoes, Co. Louth

Another wildly popular food product, Ballymakenny Farm potatoes have achieved cult-like status over the past few years, with 2020 seeing the brand reach new heights. Last year, owners Maria and David Flynn opened the drive-through Ballymakenny Spud Shack on their farm which, along with their online store, helped the company not only survive but thrive during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Well known for their heritage purple Violetta potatoes, Ballmakenny also grow Red Emmalies, Yukon Gold and Pink Fir Apple potatoes, all of which you've probably seen listed on menus at some of the best restaurants around the country. For more info or to buy online, click here

Maria Flynn of Ballymakenny
Maria Flynn of Ballymakenny

Food Award:

Tom Durcan’s Spiced Beef, Co. Cork

Tom Durcan has been selling traditional Irish beef from his butcher's stall in the English Market in Cork since 1985, using a recipe developed during a teenage apprenticeship at Jim Kidney's butcher shop in Carrigaline. 

This spiced beef is uniquely flavoured, thanks to a month-long slow cure in brown sugar, saltpetre and a secret spice mix made with pimento, cloves and black pepper. This lengthy, labour-intensive process ensures that the flavours are absorbed into the Irish Hereford heifer beef, which is finished on maize for three months, resulting in tender meat that is beloved around the country. Click here for more info. 

Irish Drink Award:

Kinsale Mead Wild Red Mead – Merlot Barrel Aged, Co. Cork

Established in 2017 by Kate and Denis Dempsey, Kinsale Mead is Ireland's first commercial meadery in over 200 years. Crafted using Spanish orange blossom, Irish fruit and local botanicals, the winning Wild Red Mead is flavoured with Irish blackberry and cherry, before being aged for twelve months in Bordeaux wine casks.

While the challenges of 2020 caused difficulties for the brand, the Dempseys responded by setting up virtual tastings and talks, which showcased their unique product to new consumers around the country. For more info, click here

Outstanding Organisation Award:

NeighbourFood, Co. Cork

This virtual farmers market was started in Cork in 2018 by Jack Crotty and Martin Poucher, but has grown massively in the past three years, and now boasts 40 locations in Ireland and 20 in the UK. The business is based on the concept of an online marketplace where local producers can easily sell their products to customers who order online and then collect their goods on a designated day, eliminating waste, packaging and stress for all involved.

NeighbourFood was essential to small producers in 2020, allowing them to connect with their customers and continue to sell their goods as their livelihood was threatened by the pandemic. The IFWG awarded this title to not just Crotty and Poucher, but also to NeighbourFood markets around the country, suppliers, staff and customers. To find out more about NeighbourFood, click here

Environmental Award:

Ballymore Organics, Co. Kildare

Founded by James Kelly, Ballymore Organics was the first mill to operate in County Kildare since 1989, producing high-quality stoneground wholemeal flour, plain flour, oats and semolina. While the products are expensive to grow and mill, the end result was worth it for Kelly, who found eager buyers in chefs, restaurants and hotels around the country.

As well as selling directly to the hospitality industry, Ballymore Organics products are also available to purchase online, an outlet which helped the brand to survive the Covid-19 pandemic. For more info or to buy online, click here

James Kelly of Ballymore Organics
James Kelly of Ballymore Organics

Community Food Award:

The Green-Schools Food & Biodiversity Theme

Although schools don't teach crucial skills associated with food, this two-year food education programme is designed to teach children in an engaging, creative way. The system offers a hands-on approach to food that shows where food comes from, where it's grown and how it affects our lives. In a practical sense, the programme provides cooking kits to all participating schools, plus seeds to grow food, teaching resources and support to staff. Some of Ireland's leading chefs have joined the initiative by offering their skills to teach workshops or host demonstrations. 

Eight schools piloted the programme, with a further 45 joining this year and another 65 next year. For more information, click here

Irish Food Writers’ Guild Food Awards 2021 Winners of Community Food Award: The Green-Schools Food & Biodiversity Theme Pictured: Freya Chilton (L), Evie Chilton (R).
Irish Food Writers’ Guild Food Awards 2021 Winners of Community Food Award: The Green-Schools Food & Biodiversity Theme Pictured: Freya Chilton (L), Evie Chilton (R).

Lifetime Achievement Award:

Marion Roeleveld, Killeen Farmhouse Cheese, Co. Galway

Irish cheesemaking royalty, Marion Roeleveld is the brains behind Killeen Farmhouse Cheese, which she started in 2004 using milk from her partners Haske's goats.  The company's main cheese is a hard goats' cheese gouda, although a cow's milk version is also available in plain, basil and garlic, cumin seed varieties, plus an Emmental-style cheese called Kilmóra. 

Roeleveld's extensive knowledge of farmhouse cheese has seen her work with other companies to help produce exceptional cheeses, including Cáis na Tíre, Mossfield Organic and Kylemore Farmhouse Cheese. Under her leadership, Killeen Farmhouse Cheese has been awarded several top titles, including the Supreme Champion Award at the the Irish Cheese Awards - three times. For more info, click here.

For more information on the Irish Food Writers' Guild or to see the inaugural award-based e-zine, click here.