This Autumn has been an eventful one. Politically, the Arab Spring has resulted in the final demise of the Gaddafi regime in Libya to be replaced by what looks like the beginning of a new democracy. Unfortunately Syria is still in turmoil and has been ejected from the Arab League. In Europe the finanacial crisis continues with Berlusconi as its latest casualty. Volatility in world markets has led to significant prices rises - and some falls - in commodities such as cereals, sugar and butter - the staples of the baking industry. Closer to home, in October Robert Ditty was winner of the Baking Industry Awards " Baker of the Year". Robert has also won a number of "Firsts" and other awards for his honey at various Honey Shows round the country in recent weeks.
On Tuesday evening at 7.30, 15th November 2011 at the Bakery, Robert Ditty and chef Bob MacDonald will be demonstrating a number of recipes using honey as an ingredient. Tickets are £10.00 and include supper. All proceeds from ticket and any produce sales will go to Gift Aid International. This Northern Ireland charity supports a number of small horticultural, forestry and beekeeping projects in rural Kenya. Robert, together with other members of Randalstown and District Beekeepers Association visited some of the projects in August this year. Without exception, all said it was a life-changing experience. (Tickets may be obtained from Susie Turner Tel: 028 9445 3892)
Production at the Bakery has been stepped up recently to meet the demand for the Christmas season - principally puddings, mince-pies and Christmas cakes. Earlier in the year we had an expression of interest from a distributor in Dubai for some of our mince-pies as well as our long shelf-life products. As a result of the local prohibition of alcohol in the United Arab Emirates, we have developed a new recipe with our supplier in Armagh to produce an alcohol-free sweet mince. Sweet mince for own domestic market will still have the benefit of flavour enhancing brandy as a standard ingredient.
For the festive season we have drawn on the expertise and knowledge of Bob MacDonald to develop three easy-to-make recipes using some of our Oatcakes as a ready made component. The two desserts and one savoury recipes are for Pear & Ginger Trifle, Christmas Crumble and Smoked Salmon Cheesecake. Each recipe is individually printed on card with its own photograph of the finished dish providing a helpful guide to what it should it should look like. The cards can be picked up from a number of stores where our Oatcakes are on sale or from inside selected packs. The idea behind the recipes is that they should be simple and use ingredients readily available straight from the cupboard.
Ditty's Bakery is a member of Good Food Ireland. This organisation, under the direction of Margaret Jeffares from Wexford, promotes Irish food through tourism and provides a forum for producers to help develop their markets and benefit from the experiences of one another; it is also the only industry group with an all-island food tourism strategy. On Tuesday 22nd November, Good Food Ireland holds its annual conference at the Shelbourne Hotel in Dublin. An Taoiseach Enda Kenny will launch the Conference and Awards, the prime sponsor is Kerrygold. Robert Ditty and Bob MacDonald will be making breakfast for delegates using Ditty's soda and potato breads and products from other Good Food Ireland members such as black pudding, sausages, rashers, soft cheeses, sauces, relishes and chutneys. In the evening, conference will end with a dinner and the presentation of awards - Robert has been nominated for "Good Food Ireland Food Producer of the Year Award 2011". It promises to be an interesting day all round. We will just have to wait to see what the results are...