The Hillsborough Honey Fair returns to Hillsborough Castle and Gardens

Northern Ireland foodies create a buzz at historic venue this week

By Sam Butler
Saturday, 6th August 2022, 3:00 am
Glen Houston of Granny Shaw’s Fudge from Ballymena has created
Glen Houston of Granny Shaw’s Fudge from Ballymena has created

This weekend, around 50 local artisan producers and food suppliers, famous for creating uniquely flavoured and richly textured produce will showcase their creations in the most regal of settings here.

The Hillsborough Honey Fair returns to Hillsborough Castle and Gardens on August 6 and 7, and in association with Food NI, the fair has once again attracted the finest foodies from here to create a buzz about our fabulous fayre – and some of them have tweaked their products to give them a honey twist for the weekend that’s in it. Here are some products to look out for…

Burren Balsamics has been taking the flavoured vinegar scene by storm since 2014, and has sweetened up its balsamic offering with a kick with their chilli and honey Infused product. Created by Suzy Hamilton Stubber over a cup of coffee in her kitchen at Richill and developed alongside chef Bob McDonald, every product has a unique infusion of flavours, from fruits to herbs and spices.

Suzy Hamilton Stubber and Bob McDonald of Burren Balsamics in Richill

Suzy explains: “We’ve developed a unique chilli and honey balsamic that’s ideal, for instance, in dipping into freshly baked focaccia. It’s perfect also for drizzling over a gorgeous summer salad such as grilled peach and burrata with rocket leaves.”

The multi-award winning company supplies iconic retailers such as Harrods in London and includes Aer Lingus among a host of high-profile customers.

Trevor Dawson will be on site at the Honey Fair with his Mead Masterclass, which can be catch both days at 1pm on the Chef Demo stage. Mead is an alcoholic drink, which some people call honey wine because it is made by fermenting raw honey with water – the sugar from the honey is the star of the show.

Innovator Trevor will be using raw honey during his presentation, which, when mixed with water and yeast to ferment, turns into alcohol – some say Mead is the oldest alcoholic drink in the world thanks to the humble honey ingredient. It’s very sweet, but definitely one to try.

One of Northern Ireland’s favourite confectioners, Granny Shaw’s has been hand making fudge for decades from a base at Cloughmills in Co Antrim, using the finest Irish butter and ingredients to sell around the world.

Led by husband and wife team Glen and Rhonda Houston, Granny Shaw’s also bring a host of delicious creations to local artisan foodie festivals such as the Hillsborough Honey Fair. The event provides a tremendous opportunity to enjoy the small company’s Honey Tablet, which is made with real Irish honey. Tablet, created by those sweet-toothed Scots, is the crumbly sister of fudge, and is a sugary treat which, according to Glen Houston, founder of Granny Shaw’s, “just melts in the mouth”.

Belfast’s Andrews Flour will be using its wheaten flour and Hillsborough Castle and Garden’s honey to bake up a sweetened up local delicacy – honey wheaten bread, which not only will the company be demonstrating on the Chef Demo Stage on Sunday at 11am, but will be available to sample and buy.

Andrews Flour is one of Northern Ireland most historic food producers, with their first mill built in Comber in 1722 – the company is celebrating 300 years of producing flour and wholemeal this year!

From grass fed cows raised on their Newtownards farm, to beef prepared and packed by a local butcher, North Down Beef Company prides itself on its cuts of premium beef that can be delivered straight to a customer’s door.

The company will be showcasing various cuts at the Honey Fair, which can be sampled fresh from the barbeque, plus the products will be available to purchase and take home to cook a feast with. The range includes unique honey-chilli beef.

Hillsborough Castle and Gardens, furthermore, has its own hives. They’re looked after by beekeeper Gwen Earnshaw, who has recently created a new Queen for the hives. Gathered by Hillsborough’s honeybees from wildflowers, hedgerows and trees in the garden and beyond, the honey is uniquely sweet thanks to the bee friendly patches in The Walled Garden and the different flora the bees feast on to create the raw honey, which will be available to taste at the Honey Fair.

Headlining the Chef Demo Stage across both days of the Honey Fair is respected chef, Paula McIntyre. What Paula doesn’t know about cooking isn’t worth knowing, and her love for local ingredients makes all her recipes taste even sweeter.

The Hillsborough Honey Fair is supported by the Northern Ireland Regional Food Programme, Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council and Tourism NI.

Honey Fair and Gardens only tickets: Adults £11.20 / Children £5.60 / concession £8.90. Honey Fair combined Castle and Gardens tickets: Adults £17 / Children £8.50 / Concession £13.60. Historic Royal Palaces Members and Under 5s go free.