The Loaves and Fishes nets a bumper haul of visitors

19 October 2017

The Loaves and Fishes, a celebration of Seafood Week in Northern Ireland returned to Ballywalter Park in Co. Down on 8th and 9th October 2017. The event was organised by Ards and North Down Borough Council in partnership with Seafish and with support from Food NI and the hosts, Lord and Lady Dunleath, who opened their private estate, Ballywalter Park, for the event.

Fishmongery, seafood cookery and fantastic fish-to-go gave the thousands of visitors a chance to touch, taste and learn about the fabulous seafood landed around the coast of Northern Ireland. 

NI Oct 2017 merge

Worshipful Master Fishmonger drew crowds with his skills in fish filleting - monkfish, lobster, crab, haddock, plaice, mackerel, lemon sole, cod and gurnard were all carefully prepared and samples given to those who wanted to take some seafood home to prepare themselves. 

Inspiration on what to cook came via chef demos by some of the best in the country.  Michelin star chef Martijn Kajuiter from the Cliff House in Ardmore cured, marinated, smoked and seared Portavogie prawns to create two amazing seafood dishes which some lucky visitors had a chance to sample. 

Stevie Toman of Ox in Belfast used local lobster to create a wonderful seasonal dish with a local seaweed called dulse, red wine and leeks picked fresh from the Victorian walled garden at Ballywalter. 

Danny Millar of Balloo Inns showed visitors how to create an amazing seafood bouillabaisse using a variety of local fish and shellfish. 

Seafood-to-go stalls, Simply Scampi and the Mourne Seafood Bar did a roaring trade selling salt and chilli squid, seafood chowder and fried scampi, both selling out in just a few hours. 

As well as the seafood stands and demos, the Loaves and Fishes saw 23 other local artisan producers selling their wares and demos from a fermentation expert (Dearbhla Reynolds), artisan bread maker (Lady Dunleath), culinary educator (Kim Close) and cheesemonger (Christo Swanepoel). The packed programme was expertly compered by Kim Lenaghan of the BBC, presenter of the popular programme, The Foodie. 

Students from Northern Ireland's catering colleges also came along to the Loaves and Fishes and took part in a series of private masterclasses with the chefs and food experts. The highlight of the student event was the Ready, Steady, Cook competition, won by Elaine McFerran of Belfast Met. Students were challenged to create a recipe with local mackerel and winner Elaine got to cook her dish with Martijn Kajuiter in front of her contemporaries winning a copy of Martijn's book and dinner in Ox. 

Dr Lynn Gilmore, Seafish Northern Ireland Manager, said: "We were delighted to work with Ards and North Down Borough Council, FoodNI and Ballywalter Park to celebrate local food and in particular seafood at the Loaves and Fishes. The event was a huge success attracting over 6000 visitors including student chefs from across Northern Ireland. It was a great celebration of local seafood during Seafood Week and the success of the Loaves and Fishes reflects the vibrancy and diversity of the fantastic seafood industry in Northern Ireland."