Food lovers are being urged to join in Northern Ireland Seafood Week with a range of events taking place in the run-up to the event's 4 September launch.
Festivals and cookery schools are taking place throughout August and September, showcasing Northern Ireland's rich seafood produce:
The Derry Seafood Festival Guildhall Square is a celebration of the Maiden City's seafood produce. Taking place on August 20, the festival features quality local produce including mussels, oysters, shellfish and prime fish. Chefs will give cookery demonstrations throughout the day and visitors can buy and try the seafood delights.
The Kilkeel Annual Fish Fest, which takes place August 26 - 29 in the stunning Co. Down costal town, has a wide array of events and attractions including seafood buffet and tasting sessions, seafood cookery demonstrations, an oyster eating competition, oyster and fresh fish stall, live music, crafts, family entertainment, funfair, face painting, children's fish sculpture competition and Bonny Baby, Little Miss Mermaid and King Neptune pageants. There will also be stalls from around Northern Ireland bringing the best of local produce to buy and sample, and a range of local restaurants will be offering special seafood dishes throughout the festival.
The popular Hillsborough Oyster Festival in Co Down is now in its 19th year and will once again boast fun and entertainment for visitors of all ages from September 1 - 4. Events returning as part of the festival include the popular World Oyster Eating Championships, Miss Oyster Pearl finals, Soap Box Derby, Viva La Glam fashion show, Iron Oyster Challenge, a gala ball on the Friday and a live music event and barbecue will finish the Saturday evening proceedings. A host of new events have been added to the festival including the Oyster Masters Golf Tournament and the Spectacular Motoring Event.
For those wishing to learn how to prepare food from the sea and impress friends and family with new-found culinary skills a visit to the Belfast Cookery School is ideal. Belfast's first purpose-built cookery school is run in association with the popular Mourne Seafood Bars and all staff are dedicated to helping people learn how to prepare and cook seafood. Students are encouraged to enjoy their cooking experience and classes are run with an atmosphere of fun and learning that stays with them long after the class is over. The courses themselves last from a couple of hours to a full day and there are a wide variety of different classes available to suit all ages and level of ability.
Many people find cooking fish and seafood difficult but with a little help from the experts ‘learners' can incorporate it into everyday cooking to form an important part of a healthy diet. Co. Down's main fishing port, Kilkeel, also known as the 'seafood capital of the Mournes', is home to the Mourne Seafood Cookery School. The school has state-of-the-art teaching kitchens and is located in the Nautilus Centre, with panoramic views of Kilkeel harbour.
In 2011 the Mourne Seafood Cookery School was ‘Highly Commended' in the NITB Tourism Awards. Courses are available on either a half-day or full-day basis and cover what to look for when buying, handling and cooking seafood - they also include mini taster sessions. Added value can be achieved by taking a deep-sea angling trip and catching your own fish.
Local seafood delicacies to watch out for include:
Glenarm Organic Salmon is renowned for its outstanding quality derived from the clean, clear and fast flowing coastal waters of the Irish Sea and is first choice for many top UK and International chefs.
Cuan Oysters have been named best in the world. Harvested off the western shore of Strangford Lough in Co Down, Cuan Oysters are supplied to hotels and restaurants across the world, as far afield as the Middle East. It is the speed of the tidal movement and the huge nutrient richness of the water that makes the oysters taste so good.
Ardglass Herrings or ‘The Silver Darlings' have been fished from the small fishing village for the last two thousand years and are available during the summer months.
Lough Neagh Eels are one of Northern Ireland's best kept secrets and served up at some of Europe's top restaurants, especially in Holland, where they are particularly prized. Or they may make it to London where they will be served up as that staple of modern Cockney cuisine - eel pie.
To find out more information on Northern Ireland’s local produce, festivals, restaurants and cookery schools click on www.discovernorthernireland.com.
For further information please contact Nigel Tilson, Northern Ireland Tourist Board’s Destination PR Officer, on 028 9044 1650 or Alana Taylor/ Kate Ferguson of Duffy Rafferty Communications on 028 9073 0880.