By ELEANOR MCGILLIE 1 August, 2018
Northern Ireland is full of unique flavours and our food producers, chefs and bakers are fantastic at laying these flavours on a plate for us. So when we think of Co Armagh, we think about the Armagh Bramley and there’s one Co Armagh native who has combined the tart flavour of the apple with a traditional recipe to make a pie so good we think it deserves an award.
In 2012, the Armagh Bramley Apple was awarded PGI status which means Europe identified this apple as a product produced in the county Armagh landscape.
This was, and still is, a big deal for fruit growers, food producers, chefs and bakers who are proud of the Armagh Bramley Apple and are always keen to incorporate it into their dishes.
One woman who is certainly very proud of the Armagh Bramley is Sheelagh Macklin of Digby’s Bar & Restaurant in Killylea – a rural village about five miles from Armagh city itself.
Many of you will know of Digby’s Bar & Restaurant but perhaps further afield it may not be so well known. But if you are in the area, this is a family run bar and restaurant worth visiting. It is steeped in history – a history which it continues to revive as it continues to be past down through the generations.
Its owner Sheelagh Macklin is so proud of the restaurant’s history that she continues to create dishes using family recipes which have been handed down through the generations.
One of these dishes is Digby’s Homemade Armagh Bramley Apple Tart and Sheelagh got notification recently to say this fabulous dish has been shortlisted as a finalist in the Food Heartlands 2018 Awards in the Best Dish Using Local Ingredients Award.
But what is so special about Digby’s Homemade Armagh Bramley Apple Tart?
Sheelagh said: “We believe that the best dishes are often the most simple and that too many ingredients can make flavours fight against each other creating neither a dish that tastes good or leaves a lasting impression.
“Our Digby’s Homemade Armagh Bramley Apple Tart is a popular dessert among our customers because people know it is a traditional dish which has been created using a traditional family recipe. I perfected the method using ingredients from Co Armagh, and bordering counties, to create the product which customers love today.”
Sheelagh has a unique way of preparing the tart from baking the pastry to stewing the apples along with a top secret way to get a lovely crispy sugary top.
The ingredients used include the PGI protected Armagh Bramley Apple, Fane Valley Butter, Neil’s Flour, sugar and Grange Farm eggs.
She keeps the dish free from additives and preservatives and it is baked using only natural ingredients. Many bakers do often introduce different spices and textures, however, Sheelagh maintains her belief in her baking that the natural flavours sourced locally should speak for themselves.
Sheelagh added: “The Armagh Bramley Apple is celebrated widely across the county. We saw this as an opportunity to embrace the flavour and celebrate our connection with our land. What we have created is a heritage dish which allows our customers to connect with the land using local ingredients which are European protected as an Armagh product. Our customers love that we keep this dish as simple as possible to the extent that people can taste the tart of the apple almost as it has just been picked from the orchard. Tourists staying in the area, in local B&Bs and hotels, dine in Digby’s and our apple tart is a popular dessert option for them. We receive compliments regularly from tourists, and, when we explain the provenance of the ingredients, they love it.”
The judges will be in for a real treat when they go out to do that tasting in a few week’s time.
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