Unwind: Sleepless to settle

Insomnia is the inability to fall asleep or stay asleep. We all experience insomnia from time to time. It can be acute – lasting one to several nights – or chronic – lasting months or years. In the United States, about 30-40% of adults sleep poorly, according to the National Centre for Sleep Disorders Research at the National Institutes of Health. Most adults say they suffer from some form of insomnia each year, and about 15-20 per cent of adults say they have chronic insomnia.

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BiaSol: Create Taste, Reduce Waste

Guinness is probably the most popular beer exported from Ireland, but back home, it competes with more than 75 small, independently operated craft breweries. St. James Gate produces 50.7 million barrels of beer every year. But these ‘microbreweries’ can’t compete with that. They don’t need to. These beers are appealing to beer enthusiasts who enjoy discovering new flavours of craft beer brewed by knowledgeable and dedicated professionals. Despite its growth, Ireland’s beer sector is creating an increasing amount of food waste. For beer, grain is needed, but once the brewing process is over, the wet and steaming grain is discarded. The grain at this stage is referred to as ‘spent grain,’ but it is still perfectly edible.

In the United States, companies are recycling waste grain into food, but here in Ireland no one is doing it. Siblings Niamh and Ruairi Dooley from Ballykeeran, Athlone have joined forces to start a new food business called BiaSol, which aims to turn spent grain waste from breweries back into food. There has been a lot of research into the benefits of spent grain. I had the pleasure of meeting the brother-and-sister team at their Ferbane Business Park headquarters.

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The Cake Artist from Karachi

Growing up in Karachi, a city in Pakistan with a population of 16 million people, Bakhtawar Sadique never dreamed that one day she would be living 6,500 kilometres away in Monksland, Athlone, and owning a custom cake-making business that is suitably called Bakeaholic.

“In Pakistani culture, the girls in the family learn to cook from a young age, so I knew how to bake. But to bake professionally was definitely not something that was ever on my radar. I’m a self-taught cake baker and spent countless hours experimenting in my kitchen and learned the craft through trial and error. My driving force was to make the best looking and best-tasting cakes for my friends and family, and never thought people would pay me to make cakes and buns!”

Karachi to Manchester

Bakhtawar was raised in a traditional Muslim household alongside her four sisters and brother. Her dad was in the Pakistan Army while her mother ran a successful clothing boutique. She had planned on using the business degree that she had earned, to get a good quality job in Pakistan.

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The Pantry: Mother Knows Best

In the true spirit of Irish hospitality, the only job requirement is to provide excellent service in the hope that your paths will cross again. Add to this mix, a large helping of generosity, delicious food and a quaint notion that any favour is never too big or too small to ask. So, when a guest walks away feeling that the staff went above and beyond, they will keep coming back, again and again. Annette Dalton, the proprietor of The Pantry on Main Street in Moate and The Pantry Dún na Sí could write a book or two on this subject.

Born and reared in Moate, Annette was one of six children and freely admits to being someone who has always preferred the sunshine and fresh air of outdoors life. This suited her in spades, when aged 13, her family moved further into the countryside and took over Coolatore House in Rosemount. Coolatore is now forever linked to the late singer Michael Jackson, who stayed there with his family in 2006.

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It’s Magico from the first bite to the last crumb.

There is nothing more delicious than the distinctive aroma of freshly baked bread that has come straight out of the oven without preservatives and additives. I’m talking about artisanal bread which is made at the hands of a skilled baker in a traditional way. Bread is one of the fundamental foods of a balanced and healthy diet and can be found right across the world in many shapes, sizes, textures, and tastes.

For baker Matteo Zanardo the smell of Sourdough takes him back every single time to his roots in Pordenone, Italy. As a boy, Matteo watched his grandfather bake naturally leavened Sourdoughs that are the mainstay of every Mediterranean dinner table. With his wife Giulia by his side, Matteo brings the art of good Italian food made by hand from his Moate-based family business, Magico Food.

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Tara Jams: Preserving the Goodness

With the implications from Brexit and Covid-19 likely to be lingering for a good while yet, there has never been a better time to support Westmeath’s artisan food producers. These delicate small-scale operations use tried-and-tested methods to produce foods of the finest quality that are healthy, nutritious and supremely delicious.

According to Teagasc, the Agriculture and Food Development Authority, the artisan industry in Ireland generates over half a billion Euro each year – a figure that can’t be sniffed at. There are approximately 300 artisan producers across Ireland that contribute to this significant figure, in an industry that only took off from the 1980s in Ireland.

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Kilbeggan: Whipping Up a Chocolate Delight

Chocolate is one of the few foods that has a universal appeal. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a simple chocolate bar or a delectable, unique masterpiece of confectionery. At both ends of the spectrum – blissful, indulgent pleasure is likely to be the verdict by whosoever is eating.

Referred to as the ‘food of the gods,’ by Swedish botanist, Carl Linneaus in the 18th century, chocolate and confectionery production in Ireland is worth €239 million Euros to the Irish economy and employs 1,725 people. In 1933, Cadbury opened its Ossory Road factory in Dublin and ever since the nation has taken the beans of the tropical cacao tree, named Theobroma Cacao, to its heart.

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Picture The Scene: A Winning Coffee Experience

In October 1969, a Hollywood film called ‘For Love Or Money’ starring Kirk Douglas and Mitzi Gaynor was being screened at the Adelphi Cinema and Theatre on Gleeson Street in Athlone. It was the sort of light-hearted and fluffy romantic comedy usually reserved for the highly successful on-screen partnership of Rock Hudson and Doris Day. That being said, the on-screen chemistry between Douglas and Gaynor; vivid and bright Technicolor cinematography; talented and good-looking supporting cast; great wardrobe choices and sumptuous locations – made the movie a joy to watch. It was essentially a very sophisticated take on 1960s chic and a perfect way to escape a cold October night in Westmeath.

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The Refill Mill – Our Planet in Your Hands

For almost 70 years, we have been soothed and enlightened as a tv audience, by the voice of legendary broadcaster Sir David Attenborough presenting natural history documentaries. Now, aged 94, his distinctive oration gives a sombre warning to reverse a devastating trajectory the planet is headed on. Or, as he eloquently puts it, ‘The human race will regret it if we don’t act on plastic now.’

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William Leonard: A home grown success

When we feel down in the dumps, we instinctively reach out for our favourite food. And as if by magic, equilibrium is restored inside, our spirits are lifted and we feel better again, till the next time. Countless medical and scientific studies have proved that what we eat affects both our mood and our physical health.

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