I was down in Cork presenting a training session on Parma ham and Parmesan cheese as part of the EU-funded Discover the Origin campaign.
Those great Italian ingredients are just two examples of food products protected under the EU’s Protected Geographical Status scheme. Products certified under the scheme can be granted PDO status (Protected Designation of Origin) as these two are, which means they are fully produced, processed and prepared within their region of origin. Or they can be granted PGI status (Protected Geographical Indication) as just four Irish foods are, which means the product is distinctive to the region but some of its ingredients may come from outside of that region. (The blaa is a great example of the latter: unique to Waterford in terms of its heritage and tradition, but based on imported flour landed on the city’s historic quays.)
Anyway, it’s worth a look at www.discovertheorigin.co.uk to find out a bit more about Prosciutto di Parma and Parmigiano Reggiano, both of which of are 100% natural products still produced as they have been for hundreds of years. There’s shedloads of gorgeous recipes for everything from Parma ham pizza with gorgonzola, pear and honey to the Heston-esque Parmagiano ice-cream with carmelised onion, fig and Parma ham tatin. And you never know what you might learn. Like, did you know that Parmesan cheese gets more nutritious as it matures and is recommended by sports nutritionists and paediatricians alike as a great source of easily digestible protein, calcium and vitamins such as A and B2? Nope, I usen’t to either.
So what’s all this got to do with lunch in the Farmgate? Well just that after talking up Italian food for a couple of hours it was a joy to stroll down to the warren of homegrown talent that is the English Market, past the coral-like tripe and curling ox tongue and shiny-eyed turbot and whole smoked mackerel, past the raisin-sized olives at The Real Olive company, past O’Flynn’s gourmet sausages and Hederman’s smoked mussels and On the Pig’s Back’s terrines, and up the stairs into the bosom of the Market that is Farmgate Cafe. And to ask what the salad of the day is and be told it’s Jack McCarthy’s white pudding, served with pickled cucumber and diced beetroot and butter beans and lettuce leaves singing with vitality.
It’s a shame we only have four products in Ireland which have been granted PGI status and no PDOs to boast of. But isn’t it great that we have pockets of such rich culinary heritage too?
Next time you’re Leeside make a beeline for Farmgate. And bring an appetite with you, not to mention a large shopping bag. You’ll be glad of both.