Chef Paul to cook up tasty foods for Carlingford cruisers
Celebrity chef Paul Cunningham is aiming to introduce more local people and visitors to the rich flavours of Carlingford Lough, including oysters regarded as among the world’s best, during a summer food cruise.
Paul, one of the stars of the popular BBC TV Great British Menu series, will be showcasing his culinary skills on a foodie tour of Carlingford Lough that will feature seafood tasting dishes inspired by the lough and the iconic Mournes.
A founder of the popular Brunel’s restaurant in Newcastle, the chef, who also owns Mourne Larder, a small business harvesting wild herbs and other botanicals from the Mournes, has teamed up with Carlingford Cruises and Whitewater Brewery in Castlewellan on the food cruise that will see Paul coming up with highly original dishes from local ingredients especially the naturally delicious seafood for participants to enjoy. He hopes the first cruise, scheduled for 8 th August, will be the start of a regular attraction.
Paul (35), now working with his longstanding friend and fellow chef Jim Mulholland, the owner of 14 The Georgian House in Comber, a successful local eatery that’s widely recognised for its fresh seafood dishes including lobsters and languoustines. The popular restaurant also has a counter selling fresh fish and shellfish.
“The Carlingford Lough food cruise is one of a number of ideas that I’ve been developing to embrace the rich bounty of food and drink that’s readily available throughout the Mournes,” Paul explains. “The cruise will be a very special evening of outstanding food and drink from local suppliers, especially seafood on the lough, among the most picturesque stretches of water anywhere in the British Isles.”
He plans to create five different tasting plates on the two-hour long lough cruise for passengers sourced from an area he’s been foraging for edible herbs since childhood. These will be coupled with five beer tastings selected by Bernard Sloan, the owner and master brewer of Whitewater Brewery, a winner of national awards especially for its Imperial Russian Stout, a potent brew which gained a UK Great Taste Regional Fork.
The skilled and affable chef is also continuing to develop healthy and innovative products under his Mourne Larder artisan brand. His interest in food is “local ingredient-led with very strong flavours”. “It’s all about flavours with me; there’s no point a dish looking great if it doesn’t taste good. Taste is easily the most important and memorable feature. This is one of the reasons why I opt for natural ingredients from the Mournes that I can always count on being both fresh and tasty,” he adds.
As a result, 80% of the ingredients in the vast majority of his dishes come from within 30 miles of the home he shares in Dundrum with wife Jennifer, a successful textile designer, and two young daughters. Local chefs, including the highly rated and creative Jim Mulholland, are now regular customers for his Mourne Larder products that include Dulse Salt, Smoked Heather, and Sea Truffle Salt. In the pipeline are infused vinegars, brines and rubs for meats.
Paul, a self-taught chef, says he was reared to respect nature and the land by his grandfather and father who both grew a wide range of herbs and wild garlic and also harvested seaweed from the coastline.
“I first started out in food at six, because my grandad, Paddy Cunningham, was a keen forager and grew a lot himself. I’d go foraging with him all the time and that’s where my love of local food and my respect for nature came from.”
Paul featured on Great British Menu for the second time earlier in the year and demonstrated his passion for fresh, seasonal produce and for Northern Ireland’s rich heritage. Some of his dishes on Great British Menu, he continues, were “inspired by Northern Ireland pioneers who have made their mark on the globe, including Frank Partridge, inventor of the defibrillator with Dr John Anderson, and Harry Ferguson, the man behind the first farm tractor.
The lough is also home to Millbay Oysters, part of Rooney Fish in Kilkeel and the biggest oyster farm in Ireland. The unique oysters have been named the best in the UK and Ireland.
Other food and drink highlights of the area include Irish whiskey, gin and poitin distilled by Mourne Dew in Warrenpoint and by Killowen at Rostrevor; organic chocolate from Neary Nogs, also from Rostrevor; and fresh fish and shellfish from the fishing communities in Kilkeel and Ardglass.
The cruise will also include live music during the leisurely trip on the stunningly beautiful lough, with its panoramic views of the Cooley Peninsula and the majestic Mourne Mountains. The tour pass the medieval Carlingford town with its picturesque marina and imposing King John’s Castle, as well as Greencastle Royal Castle, and Rostrevor Bay.
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