Classic French dishes from Ballynahinch bound for London
Authentic ready to eat French dishes from Ballynahinch will be featured at one of Europe’s biggest trade shows for artisan foods in London next month.
Lecale Harvest, an award-winning producer of gourmet meat and seafood products, will be aiming to increase sales in Britain for its new Kitchen range of innovative and delicious French meals for home cooks at the big Speciality and Fine Food Show at London’s Olympia in early September.
The epic event is the UK’s biggest showcase of artisan food and drink products, many of them winners of prestigious Great Taste Awards.
The show has resumed after being cancelled for two years due to the coronavirus pandemic. The biggest marketing opportunity for smaller food companies, the event is expected to attract upwards of 10,000 trade buyers from delis, other specialist food stores and major supermarkets seeking new foods for their shelves.
Lecale Harvest will have its own stand among 700 exhibitors also including Burren Balsamics from Richhill, Co Armagh, a producer of innovative flavoured vinegars, jams and relishes. Invest NI will also have a Northern Ireland Food and Drink showcase that includes representatives from a number of local companies.
Lecale’s new Kitchen range reflects the roots in classic French cuisine of its founder Patrice Bonnargent, originally from Tours in the Loire, who has been based in Northern Ireland for almost 30 years. Lecale Harvest is a Food NI member.
The small company will also be showing its extensive range of other handcrafted products including its seafood pates which have won a host of awards for originality and taste.
Produced at Lecale’s state-of-the-art plant at Ballynahinch, the Kitchen range features established French style dishes: Beef Bourguignon; Confit Duck Cassoulet with pork belly and Toulouse sausage; and Confit Duck and Puy Lentils.
The small company, which is owned by Patrice, wife Joy, son Luc and daughter Perrine, has already established business in the UK with customers such as food wholesaler Cotswold Fayre.
Patrice, commenting on the new range for the growing number of home cooks due to lockdowns from the coronavirus pandemic, says: “Our new Kitchen range is based on quality ingredients which are readily available from excellent suppliers in Northern Ireland. We’ve used these to create the ready to eat meals using classic French recipes which I’ve cooked from my upbringing in France and since coming to Northern Ireland.
“We’ve been encouraged by the success of our existing dishes such as pork belly and beef brisket as well as our range of seafood pates and also influenced by our market research which has indicated that cooking from scratch at home is now an important trend that’s set to grow especially in the short-term. Each of the new gourmet products in the Kitchen range offers two servings for a complete and convenient main course experience.” Patrice has vast experience in food production in both Northern Ireland and France.
His successful business began growing and marketing fresh oysters, mussels and other seafood. He farms his own sustainable oyster and mussel beds at Killough on the Down coastline.
In addition to selling these locally especially to high-end restaurants, he exports the fresh products to France.
He launched Lecale Harvest to develop the Killough oyster business around 20 years ago and subsequently decided to diversify into the creation of other French dishes due to the seasonal nature of seafood in Northern Ireland. The first step was the successful creation of an extensive range of pates in jars four years ago and subsequently moved into other food products.
Patrice originally came to Northern Ireland from Tours to play rugby and ended up making his home in the tiny village of Clough. He had been playing rugby for Orleans, a French second tier club close to his home in Tours in the picturesque Loire Valley, renowned as the ‘Garden of France’, when he decided to join the Portadown club here.
He met Joy, his future wife, married and decided to set up home here. That was in 1991. He’s since become one of the stalwarts of the local seafood industry, initially using contacts in France to help a friend here export oysters and other shellfish.
The affable Frenchman then decided to start growing his own oysters and mussels near Killough, a location he’d chosen because of its pristine waters. He took over an offshore farm, a four-hectare area that’s overlooked by Kilclief Castle. He’s been growing the Pacific variety of oysters and harvesting mussels for two decades. The success of this business led him to expand the business into seafood pates and then onto classic French meals, which required a new factory, that will be at the heart of the presentation at Speciality Food.
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