Earlier on this Summer, I was invited along to The Royal Highland Show 2014 which was held in Edinburgh back in June. Whilst there, myself and Nicola had a great time meeting various food and drink producers from all over the UK and Ireland, as well as tasting some of the fantastic products that they had brought to sample and sell. One of the stands that caught our attention was from the people behind Mash Direct, potato farmers cum ready meal producers. Mash Direct is a family run business, based in County Down Northern Ireland, that provide a range of potato and vegetable based products packed with the taste and texture of home cooking. The products are all cooked on the very same farm where the vegetables grow and aim to supply their customers with their five a day the easy way, from field to fork.
Here's the Mash Direct story;How Did You Get Started?
At a dinner party in 2003, whilst savouring a glass of Irish whiskey with his host and friend, Tony Reid, Martin Hamilton had an idea. He dreamed of setting up a production facility on his farm to produce Champ, the traditional Ulster dish. After much discussion, determination and hard work, that dream became a reality. A small factory was built and Mash Direct was born.
Martin and his wife Tracy had been successfully growing and selling vegetables for over 25 years, Martin himself being a fifth generation son of the soil. They decided to return to the traditional tastes their mothers and grandmothers used to know, now almost lost. Using vegetable varieties grown for taste - not appearance - they developed a small plant on the farm to recreate a traditional cooking style. A number of pieces of equipment were specially built by Tony, including a unique masher and a steam cooker and Mash Direct was ready to begin. The only thing that was left were the potatoes. Martin and his two sons, Lance and Jack, went out to the fields and harvested the first Mash Direct crop.
Ten years later they have grown from our humble beginnings supplying Champ to local butchers and St. George’s Market in Belfast to now supplying over thirty different products across the UK and Ireland and as far as New York and Dubai. They now not only mash but dice, slice, chop, shred, steam and fry to make their multi-award winning range.
What is the Best Piece of Business Advice That You Can Give?Never stop innovating.
Where Would You Like to See Your Business in 5 Years Time?
Our markets in the UK and Ireland are growing from strength to strength and we believe that the vegetables that we have in this part of the world are amongst the best out there. We already export to Dubai, Abu Dhabi and New York and we believe that we will continue to grow strongly in the next five years both at home and abroad.
If you could only cook one of your own products/recipes, what would it be & why?
We introduced our Vegetable Burgers during the celebration of our 10 Year Anniversary earlier this year and since then I have basically been living on them so it would be hard to look past the Vegetable Burgers.
You can invite one person (living or dead) to your last meal – Who would it be and why? …and what’s on the menu?
Antoine-Augustin Parmentier - a true champion of potatoes.
I'm normally not a big fan of precook end food, especially something as easy as vegetable dishes but I have to say that I was pleasantly suprised when I tasted the potato, carrot and parsnip croquettes that were Mash Direct had available to sample. In fact with three of the product range recently being awarded Great Taste Awards from The Guild of Fine Food, it's clear that I'm not the only one impressed by the quality of food coming out of the farm.
The products are stocked at various branches of Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury's, Booths, Budgens, Mace, and Dunnes Stores so the next time you're out shopping, if you happen to see Mash Direct in the chiller isle, grab yourself a treat and let me know how you get on.
Written by Gerry Haughian