Flavour Taste Lab – Gran Grans Foods

For this Taste Lab, I worked my way diligently through a #gifted hamper of condiment goodies, and was delighted with the quality!

For this Taste Lab, I worked my way diligently through a #gifted hamper of condiment goodies, and was delighted with the quality!

One of the perks of being a food writer is that I get sent surprise boxes of products from small food businesses. I could just pop a post up on Instagram and walk away, but then I think if someone has gone to the trouble of seeking me out and sending me some of their products, the least I can do is give them are darn good test run and then give them a write up here, on The Flavour Files!

I’m going to call these my Flavour Taste Labs, and not only will I give an honest opinion of the products that arrive in my door, but I’ll also give you a few serving suggestions and recipes too.

This time around, I’m looking at condiments from a Galway-based company called Gran Grans Food. Based in Kilcogan, the business is a pantry store stocking a range of artisan food items, as well as the full range of Gran Grans products. The whole selection is vast and encompasses jams, chutneys, condiments, flavoured oils, dressings, dipping sauces, meat and seafood sauces as well as beautifully put together hampers.

In the selection sent to me was the Aged Balsamic Salad Dressings, Dill Sauce, Homestyle Tartare Sauce, Beetroot Onion and Ginger Chutney, and a condiment they have called Indian Chutney with a spiced apple and ginger base.

Before I say more on my thoughts, and how I enjoyed them, here’s a little about the company…

“Great aromas were coming from Gran Grans Murray’s kitchen, from her treacle bread to her roast pork with crackling with which she would make a fresh Bramley apple sauce, there was a never-ending beautiful smell coming from the stove. It was about then, that Nigel realised, that a career in the kitchen was definitively for him. Years later, he would meet Magaly in Venice, Italy, while both working in the hospitality industry. They travelled together across the Caribbean and Mediterranean, and they finally settled in Peru, Magaly’s Birthplace, a country rich in history which cuisine is a seamlessly blend of different cultures and ancient Peruvian food creating something utterly unique.

In 2005 they made the decision to come to Ireland with their three children. Sean returned to cheffing at the Ardilaun Hotel and The Glenlo Abbey Hotel, all while keeping the dream of owning their own business again.

In 2014, Nigel and Magaly launched Gran Grans Foods. Inspired by their love of travelling, the dup create handcrafted condiments following traditional and innovative recipes using quality fresh ingredients. In May 2021, another big step in the journey of Gran Grans took place, they opened “Gran Grans Foods Pantry” beside the Post Office in Kilcolgan, Co Galway.”*

As you know, I love a good story behind a product! With their experience of global flavours and Nigel’s stock and trade as a chef, I was confident that these condiments would hit both notes of quality and flavour – and I wasn’t wrong!

The condiment market is a crowded one, so to make a mark and stand out, products really have to deliver something great. I often find condiments are over reliant on spice or vinegar, making them difficult to keep dipping into regularly. Gran Grans Food products though are truly balanced and bursting with flavour, and because of that it makes you want to keep adding another dollop to your plate.

They are moreish, rich, with great texture and a definite expression of quality. I thoroughly enjoyed them all, and unlike so many condiments that get opened once and then hang around the fridge for months after unloved and forgotten, I find myself reaching for Gran Grans all the time, or even thinking of what I might put with them to make a meal. I wouldn’t usually start thinking about a meal with the condiment to the front of mind, so that will tell you how good these are!

So how did I use them?

Dill Sauce

Dill herb is one of my most favourite herbs, so I was very excited to try this. Even though we are enjoying an Indian Summer, I’m already thinking ahead to Christmas and, with that in mind, wanted to try this sauce with one of my other most favourite Irish products, Goatsbridge Irish Trout. I love all the Goatsbridge products, but for this sauce, I went with their smoked trout on a blini. Looking so similar to salmon, but with a more delicate flavour and lighter mouthfeel, it was instance match made in heaven. In no time at all, you’ve made a perfect canape light bite which I reckon would go down an absolute storm for a Christmas Eve get-together!

Indian Chutney

Although I have a slight issue with the name of this chutney, I really enjoyed this! With a base of apple, ginger, onion and spices, it is a sweet, sour, mildly spiced addictive hit. I found myself going back to this time and again, and is ideal served with an equally mild and fruity curry – which is what I did!

I made a curry using some left over chicken from a weekend roast, tomatoes and chickpeas which had me reveling in a new found appreciation for that 70’s classic store cupboard ingredient – the Mild Curry Powder!

First, gently saute an onion in oil until transparent. Add 3 tsp of Mild Curry Powder, garlic and 1 tbsp of tomato paste and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add in 1 x 400g of chopped tomatoes, refill the tin with half the amount of water and add to the tomatoes. Cook for 15 mins until it begins to thicken, then add a drained and rinsed tin of chickpeas and the chicken. Cook for a further 10 minutes, adjust seasoning with salt and pepper and add the juice of half a lemon. Stir through, and serve hot.

I served this dish with a take on Kachumber, a salad of tomato, cucumber, red onion and coriander using tomatoes from my garden, and some poppadoms – all of which went perfectly with this chutney.

Homestyle Tartare Sauce

This sauce is very similar in look and texture to the Dill Sauce above, but with added piquancy from gherkin, capers and a zing of lemon. I really wanted to try this with some homemade fish cakes. Who doesn’t love fish cakes?!

I had placed an order from online fish shop The Gannet Fishmonger, who had a special deal on some white fish goujons (basically some off cuts from monk fish, lemon sole, hake, haddock, ling, cod etc). It’s really good value for money. I split my 1kg bag into three, put two in the freezer and kept one portion for frying off in just a little oil for the fish cakes. To get some extra flavour in there, I drained a tin of Goatsbridge Trout Fillets in olive oil, and crumbled that in with the cooked and cooled white fish. I steamed some new season potatoes, mashed them (no butter), added the fish and a small bunch of cut chives from my garden. I added some lemon zest, salt and pepper, and then shaped them into palm-sized patties. I paneed them in egg and panko bread crumbs and fried until golden. Again, as I’m drowning in tomatoes at the moment, I made a little casserole of locally grown string beans and garden tomatoes dressed with EVOO, a little lemon juice and parsley.

The tartare sauce was the perfect foil for these fish cakes. Between that nights’ dinner and the following days’ lunch where I cooked off the leftover fish cakes and served it up with a small salad dressed in some of the aged balsamic dressing, we pretty much finished the entire jar. Delicious!!

Beetroot, Red Onion and Ginger Chutney

It’s beetroot season here in Ireland, and it’s time to celebrate one of most versatile and abundant vegetables that we can grow. I love beetroot and it has so much going for it. Of course, the classic pairing with beets is goats cheese. I stumbled across a camembert-style goats cheese in my local Dunnes Stores called Gortnamona. Made by the Maher family in Co Tipperary, this cheese is whiter-than-white ethereal looking with a soft rind and a creamy centre and super mild flavour with just a background hint of goat. It’s delicious! A good cheese toasty is something always worth striving for so, two slices of sourdough bread slathered in butter with thick slices of ham and goats cheese and generously topped with heaping mounds of this ruby-red chutney and toasted to crispy perfection. Absolute bliss!

This chutney is really good, and I could easily see it gracing a lunchtime salad plate, a still-warm quiche, or even served up with the ham on Christmas day (there’s that C-word again!) as an alternative to the ubiquitous Cranberry sauce and made from Irish grown, Irish made beetroots instead of imported cranberries.

Aged Balsamic Vinegar

This is a really good all round salad dressing, but this time of year it is perfect with just picked sweet tomatoes from the garden. There’s enough mustard for piquancy, and the aged balsamic means the vinegar is mellower and sweeter than in other ready to go dressings. It can thicken in the neck of the bottle, but just give it a good shake to release and you are on your way! A little goes a long way, so you don’t need to drown your tomatoes in dressing. Just enough to bring their flavour to new heights!

I thoroughly enjoyed sampling this selection of Gran Gran Foods – just some from an extensive range on offer. It’s put it in my mind for next time I find myself up around the west coast of Ireland in the Galway area to drop by and see the shop in real life – maybe by some more condiments…maybe!


*extracted from the About page on the Gran Grans website.

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