Norah Brown MBE (awarded for her contribution to Food and Tourism) and one of Rick Stein’s ‘Food Heroes‘ is well known for her simple approach to traditional cooking.
Several years ago, while filming the Food Heroes series, Rick Stein and his crew overnighted in Grange Lodge, the 17th century house where Norah and husband Ralph had been running a Guest House with a Friday and Saturday night dining room since they moved in there over 25 years ago.
Stein was there to cover her award-winning breakfasts but was quite taken with the simple lamb stew, wheaten bread and good apple tart which met the tired and hungry crew when they arrived the night before the breakfast was to be filmed.
But Norah doesn’t need the endorsement of a celebrity chef. Her involvement with the Taste of Ulster took her all over the world promoting great Ulster ingredients and she often had to rustle up spreads for large groups at short notice using the produce of the Taste of Ulster members. Her passion drew her to catering but her supreme organisational skills made her a success at it.
Food was a huge part of the B&B for the simple reason that Dungannon, 25 years ago, did not have much in the way of restaurants, so offering dinner became as important as the bed or the breakfast. Then, having retired from the family electrical and gift shop in Dungannon some years ago, Norah needed no encouragement to find another outlet for that enthusiasm for great, local produce and so the cookery school was born.
She demonstrates for up to 16 people at a time how to make what she describes as ‘good, family food’ in the Lodge kitchen using her Aga and an electric cooker. “I hate to see a trolley in the supermarket filled with processed food,” she says, but being conscious of how busy parents are these days she is all for short-cuts, with the proviso that “If you’re going to cheat, cheat well” in other words use good quality tinned or frozen produce. She underlines the importance of a good store cupboard and shows her guests how fantastic fresh meat, fish, poultry, vegetables and fruit can be transformed using recipes with no more than seven ingredients many of which should be in that store cupboard. Norah’s also passionate about the art of making traditional soda bread, feeling that it is a part of our heritage that is being lost. She has even invented a soda bread base for pizza in an effort to spread the passion to the younger generation.