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Whetting the appetite at second Clare Harvest Banquet

FOR the second year in a row, Ennistymon are preparing to host a guilt-free culinary treat when the Clare Harvest Banquet takes place early next month. Organising an event that would stand up as something which people would want to support, even if the money was not going to charity, was a challenge embraced by Sinéad Ní Gharbhith.

“I wanted to think of something that would work every year for fundraising so I wouldn’t always have to be coming up with new ideas. I had been to a few food things and that helped me come up with the idea,” Sinéad recalls. 
In fact, the lengths that the Inagh woman has gone to ensure everything is Clare sourced, are startling.
“Every single thing is from the local area. We boiled the sea water to make salt. We made butter to cook the food in so that absolutely every element of the food would be coming from the locality. Last year, lots of people were blown away with the banquet. You would never know that we have everything we need here in the county, not just within Ireland but in the county. It is quite amazing really,” she reflects. 
The reaction from producers, says Sinéad, has been very positive, with many contributing food for free, others at greatly reduced prices and some in exchange for tickets to the five-course buffet.  
“People from North, South, East, West Clare, fishermen, potato growers, butter makers, down to the man growing cabbages in his back garden, they have all given something. It has been amazing. People are so kind,” Sinéad states.
Even the chefs are sourced locally, with some coming from very well-known establishments around the Mid-West.
“They are all happily giving their time for free. Even though they are restricted in one way, they are directed in another way by what we do have here in Clare,” Sinéad reveals.
This year the banquet is taking place than it did last year, a change that is resulting in greater challenges. As well as sourcing in-season product from around the county, Sinéad has also had to begin preserving some ingredients to keep them fresh for the feast. She doesn’t mind though, “I had to think ahead for this year when it comes to freezing or preserving things but that is exactly what people had to do long ago to make sure the harvest lasted.”
On the menu will be cheeses, hot and cold fish and meat dishes, vegetables, ice cream, wine and cordial, to name just a few. For those who want to know more about what they are eating, Sinéad is hoping to produce a leaflet that people can take home with them outlining where their food came from and where they can buy it. 
The money raised on the night will be donated to Asral, a charity Sinéad believes is particularly deserving.
“I fundraise for Asral, a charity named after the Mongolian word for giving. It supports families so that children don’t end up on the street. It is run by Mongolians for Mongolians and in fact the three Mongolian women who run the charity were over in Clare last year. Everyone who raises money for the charity in Ireland does so for free, which means all the money we make from the banquet goes straight into the bank account and back to the Mongolians,” she explains.
Asral has also started its own business producing high-quality felt products with a view to making the charity self-sufficient.  
Aside from the obvious benefits such as enjoying great food and raising money for charity, why should people go to the Clare Harvest Banquet?
“The average European dinner travels 26,000 kilometres to come to our table. Sourcing the food locally has benefits for the environment by reducing carbon footprints and buying food produced in the vicinity means your local guy is kept in business. Plus, you don’t need to worry about calories because there will also be great music to dance to with a harp soloist and ballad singer followed by a live trad rock band The Fiddle Case,” Sinéad concludes. 
Tickets for the event on Friday, October 9 are available from The Falls Hotel, Ennistymon or from Sinéad on 085 7607037.


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