Visitors treated to a ‘taste’ of Derry

Emmett serves up some Doherty's baps and Grant's ham.
Emmett serves up some Doherty's baps and Grant's ham.

Food critics from across the globe have been finding out exactly what the people of the city ate during the Siege of Derry as part of the Feast or Famine Food Tours.

Local chef Emmett McCourt treated a group of American visitors, including a leading food critic from New York, to a real taste of Derry as part of the City of Culture celebrations.

The group of 30 visitors were taken on a tour of the city’s Food Heritage Trail to find out exactly what people ate during the Siege of Derry while walking the Feast or Famine food trail guided by Emmett.

The food tour stems from the research Emmett undertook into the North West’s culinary heritage for his book ‘Feast or Famine’ which is due to be published later in the year.

“The Derry food tour is the first strand of the project to be launched and similar tours of the North West and Inishowen are planned for the future,” Emmett explained.

“The plan is that eventually all visitors to the area will be able to have a guide of the food walking tour and be able to take in samples from local restaurants along the way.”

The launch tour took in Derry’s 400-year-old walls where Northern Period Productions dramatised exactly what people ate during the Siege of Derry.

The visitors learned that during the siege local people often ate rats, mice, horses, and tallow (animal fat mixed with spices to make pancakes).

At the other end of the scale, they heard of the lavish Georgian banquets which were hosted during revolutionary times.

The city’s famous artisan butchers and the pork and bacon industry were celebrated with samples of such legenderry products as Biggers, Cruibeens, Grants Ham and James Doherty meats.

And no Derry food tour would be complete without a bap supplied by Doherty’s Bakery.

Emmett also took part in this weekend’s Return of Colmcille events, giving a hearth cookery demonstration in Guildhall Square showcasing Colmcille and Viking foods presented on bog oak.

He additionally cured a salmon on the 9000 year old Bog Oak -Doire

More recently Emmett featured in the Summer edition of the Food magazine which looked at food available in Derry.

A lecturer at the North West Regional College Emmett recently picked up the Best Local Food Promotion Event/Initiative 2013 prize at this year’s NI Food and Drink Awards, for his Irish Food Heritage Project.

In doing so he beat off stiff competition from major food events including The Balmoral Show, The Flavours of Tyrone and famous Tayto Crisps Potato Festival.

Emmett who penned the book ‘Feast or Famine’ co-authored the book ‘Food Reflections of Northern Ireland’ and has also contributed to Irish Country Sports and Country Life magazine’s cookery pages.

You can learn more about the Irish Heritage Food Project on www.feastorfamine.ie