Over this past two years Shamrock and Peach Tours have had the honor of working with Chef Emmett McCourt author of the new Feast to Famine cook book- and it’s quite a book I can tell you! Emmett meets my tour group at the award winning Beechill Courtry House after breakfast and takes us on a culinary adventure in his beautiful part of Ireland, around Derry. We walk the fields of gold at the Broighter rapeseed oil farm and then explore Derry’s rich food heritage with both a driving and walking tour. We also get totally spoiled by Emmett’s culinary friends and chefs who roll out the red carpet and prepare us a menu that is a Feast to the eyes. Everyone loves his Derry accent too and he is never slow at teaching us some local slang like “keep ‘er lit”…
When you open up the Feast to Famine cook book it is truly a labor of love for Emmett and contains a culmination of 5 years research. When it comes to food and drink, the North West of Ireland has a heritage second to none. Emigrant farmers from Derry and Donegal were the first to plant the Americas with seed potatoes and apple trees. They carried their recipes with them, too, and their descendants fed both sides in the Civil War.
The Scots-Irish from the North West didn’t forget their distilling skills, either – producing whiskeys, bourbons and moonshine across the Southern states. And fishermen from Inishowen, who settled on the New England coast, helped found some of the finest fishing ports in the New World.
Derry chef Emmett McCourt researched the importance of his hometown’s contribution to world cuisine for many years. Through the Irish Food Heritage Project he has recovered age-old recipes, revived traditional cooking techniques, and rediscovered long-forgotten Irish treasures such as the lumper potato.
Feast or Famine takes you on an historical tour of Derry and Donegal and explores what makes this region such an abundant source of food and drink.
The author recalls the heady days when Lough Swilly was the herring capital of the world, Magilligan was a world leader in rabbits and Derry was producing millions of gallons of whiskey for the US. But he also records, using first-hand testimonies, the devastation wrought by the Great Famine in the 1840s.
On his travels, McCourt cooks some brilliant meals, meets some fascinating characters and visits some of Ireland’s most celebrated food-spots – and a few unsung ones as well.
I highly recommend you order a copy of the Feast to Famine that is now available on Amazon.com, and for those planning on an Irish foodie adventure we are planning more tours for this July and August!
Judith the Irish foodie
(keep ‘er lit!)