Paul Rankin: ‘My passion is championing local produce’

Chef Paul Rankin
Chef Paul Rankin

Since its launch in 2002, the Rankin Selection range, created and produced by Irwin’s Bakery in partnership with top chef, Paul Rankin, has been delivering a ‘slice’ of traditional Irish bread across the UK and Ireland.

“When the range launched in GB in the early 2000s we were able to tap into a new-found popularity for all things Irish,” said Paul Rankin.

“Initially the breads were introduced into Waitrose, but demand grew quickly, leading to availability in the other major supermarkets.

“Ireland and all things Irish had become very cool – in no small part thanks to The Corrs!”

Paul continued, “Throughout my career my passion has always focused on championing great local produce - and it was this passion that inspired the development of the Rankin Selection brand and product range with Irwin’s Bakery.

“Trying out new flavours and seeing how they combine together to create new food experiences has always been a love of mine. As a young chef, I learned very quickly good food, without good produce, is impossible.

“I wanted to bring an authentic, real taste of Irish bread to a wider audience – I knew people would love it.”

As Northern Ireland’s largest independent bakery, the partnership with Irwin’s Bakery was a natural one for Paul,

“I wanted to work with a bakery which had a track record of developing exciting and innovative products bursting with authentic flavour.

“Irwin’s Bakery was formed over 100 years ago by the grandparents of the present-day directors, Brian and Niall Irwin.

‘‘The company has grown from horse and cart deliveries in 1912, to exporting its award-winning bread across the UK and Ireland, whilst staying true to its traditional family values and authentic recipes. For me, Irwin’s fitted the bill to a tee.

“Together we developed a range of products which centred on the use of quality ingredients and traditional flavour combinations – and Rankin Selection was born!”

With the products ‘proving’ a hit following the launch in GB, the Rankin Selection range quickly became a staple in homes across Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

“From the original products, the range has grown in the past 16 years to include a variety of different breads – from Stoneground Irish Wheaten and Barmbrack to Potato Slims and Brown Soda Bread – everyone has their favourite.”

“From the very beginning we produced a series of recipes to demonstrate how to use the bread in everyday cooking and highlight the versatility of the range. This has remained at the heart of the brand - I am constantly coming up with new recipes using the breads as an ingredient to share with our shoppers,” added Paul.

With the 20th anniversary of Rankin Selection on the horizon, it seems an appropriate time to reflect on the impact of the breads since its launch,

“All of the breads are different, bringing something delicious and comforting to the breakfast, lunch or dinner table. I feel a great sense of pride, that through the range, we have been able to bring a taste of tradition to every corner of the UK and Ireland.

“It’s also heart-warming to hear how those living away from home can be transported back to their childhood kitchens, simply, by a slice of toasted wheaten or through the addition of a potato slim to breakfast or brunch.

“Bread holds a real sense of pride, and often it’s intrinsically linked to family. We grow up eating it, feed it to our children, and so the cycle continues. It’s part of who we are, and our wider sense of identity.”

Currently filming for a new TV series, Paul will be spending St Patrick’s Day this year in New Zealand.

Paul said, “With a busy schedule, I’m often away from home. But regardless of the distance, give me a kitchen and I will be able to cook up the taste of home. Surely the next best thing!” The Rankin Selection range includes Brown Soda Bread (£1.20), Stoneground Wheaten (£1.20), Potato Slims (£1.20) and Barmbrack (£1.80) - and is available in major retailers across NI including Tesco, Asda, Morrisons, Waitrose and Sainsbury’s.

For further information on Rankin Selection, plus more recipes, visit www.rankinselection.com