PRODUCER: Passion Preserved, Co Antrim
PRODUCT: Indian Inspired Tomatoes
REGION: Northern Ireland
CATEGORY: From the Earth (Artisan)
WHAT THEY DO
In 2012, Claire Kelly, a former chartered accountant, went from crunching numbers to pursuing her passion for gardening and cooking. Following in the footsteps of her maternal great-grandfather, who supplied his own vegetable shop, and inspired by her grandfather’s prolific gardens she visited as a child, Claire today produces a range of preserves, largely from her smallholding’s bounty.
Claire first planted a herb garden 25 years ago, dotted with a few vegetables and flowers. She says, “When I moved to our current home over 20 years ago I was fortunate that it had previously been a pig farm so the ground was amazing. Over the years the garden has grown and extended with the addition of a greenhouse and then a polytunnel when I outgrew that!” Originally Claire grew all her own fruits and vegetables; she now concentrates on ingredients for her seasonal collection – over 150 chilli plants in a polytunnel, 60 rhubarb crowns, beds of Jerusalem artichokes, plum trees and hundreds of raspberry canes.
Claire is passionate about organic gardening, preferring to let nature do its work in place of chemicals; a family of frogs in the polytunnel takes care of the slugs, and interplanting of marigolds deters aphids. The quality of soil is maintained by discarding hoes in favour of hand weeding.
Sustainable production is at the centre of the business, with Claire composting all vegetable waste and recycling or re-using cardboard for packaging. Extra ingredients are sourced locally, including Armagh cider vinegar and cider apples from 30 minutes away. In the height of the summer season when demand is high, chillies from Ballinderry and tomatoes from Drumbeg, a 20-minute journey, are used in Passion Preserved’s Indian Inspired Tomatoes.
All products are made by hand in small batches in Claire’s new purpose-built kitchen, with no artificial colourings, preservatives or added pectin and setting agents. She made her first chutney over 25 years ago to use up several large marrows left over from a church harvest festival; Claire still likes to experiment with natural ingredients, and is inspired by old recipes and her travels. The preserves can be used as dips, marinades, cooking sauces and condiments, and the sweet and spicy Indian Inspired Tomatoes is especially versatile.
WHAT THE JUDGES SAID:
The judges appreciated the company’s use of locally grown and sourced ingredients and the fair price that accompanied such effort, hailing Passion Preserved as showing a real willingness to think outside the box.
VISIT THE WEBSITE: passionpreserved.co.uk