HERE ON our farm in Shanagarry, we milk three docile Jersey cows every morning (they remain with the calves in the evening).
The milk is separated from the rich yellow Jersey cream in a brilliant new electric separator which replaced the old hand cranked Alfa Laval.
As a family we love fresh un pasteurised milk, the flavour and texture is so wonderful — like many of you I was reared on raw milk. Twice a week we make thick unctuous yoghurt (just milk and a live yoghurt culture — no milk powder or additives needed) and cheese, usually a cheddar type in little 1kg truckles that take at least three months to mature.
Every day except at weekends we make beautiful butter from the cream, rich golden butter reminiscent of what my great Aunt Lil in Co Tipperary made when I was a child though not with such a ripe flavour.
We serve thick pouring Jersey cream with pudding; it also makes the most sublime homemade ice-cream.
More recently we’ve been experimenting with making ricotta from the whey left over from cheese making. Ricotta means ‘re-cooked’.
According to Wikipedia, “Ricotta is an Italian dairy product made from sheep, cow, goat, or buffalo milk whey left over from cheese production.
Although typically referred to as ricotta cheese, ricotta is not properly a cheese because it is not produced by coagulation of casein. Rather, it is made by coagulating other milk proteins, notably albumin and globulin, left over in the whey that separates from the milk during the production of cheese.
In fact, ricotta is safely eaten by individuals with casein intolerance.” The latter is brilliant news for the growing number of people who are dairy intolerant.
To make the ricotta we leave the whey to settle overnight, then in the morning simply bring the whey back up to 94 degrees in a large heavy stainless steel bottomed saucepan (don’t boil).
Allow to settle for at least two hours, the ricotta ‘curds’ are tiny, so we strain them through a sterilised jelly bag or double thickness of sterilised cheese cloth. The resulting ricotta is fine and tender.
Depending on what you plan to use it for, it can continue to drip overnight; the ricotta will be firmer and brilliantly versatile.
We use it in a myriad of ways. For breakfast, we serve it with local honey drizzled over the top. When we fold in a little cream and sugar, it tastes exactly like the French Petit Suisse, irresistible on its own or with Summer berries.
I also love it with a dice of candied citrus peel folded through and maybe some dark chocolate grated on top.
Ricotta is also delicious with pasta, in ravioli, tortellini or cappelletti; Italians also love it in lasagne as a filling for Sicilian cannoli.
Bill Granger uses it to make his famous ricotta hot cakes which I enjoyed for brunch at Granger and Co in London on my last trip.
For those of you who don’t have your own, seek out Toonsbridge Buffalo Ricotta – made by Sean Ferris and Toby Simmonds, available at Farmers Markets and from their newly opened little shop beside their warehouse and buffalo dairy in the old creamery near Macroom, West Cork — 021 4270842.
Ricotta, Tomato and Thyme Tart
2–3 ripe tomatoes, finely sliced
225g (8oz) puff or savoury short crust pastry
450g (1lb) ricotta
2 free range eggs, lightly beaten
50ml (2 fl oz) cream
150g (5oz) finely grated Parmesan
1 tsp thyme leaves
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup finely chopped rocket (arugula)
1 egg yolk, lightly beaten, for glazing
Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Mark 6. Slice the tomatoes in a colander, sprinkle with salt and allow to drain on a wire rack.
Roll pastry dough into rounds about 35cm (14in) in diameter and 3mm (¼ in) thick. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured baking tray.
Whisk the eggs and cream and add the ricotta and ½ the thyme leaves, season with a little salt and pepper in a bowl.
Add the chopped rocket, mix well.
Spread this ricotta mixture in the centre of the dough leave a 5cm (2in) border around the edge.
Fold the border onto the filling. Arrange ripe tomato slices over the top of the filling.
Brush the pastry with whisked egg yolk. Sprinkle the remainder of the thyme leaves over the top.
Bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes or until golden. Serve with a good green salad.
Bill Granger’s Ricotta Hotcakes with Honeycomb Butter
Serves 6 – 8
300g (10½ oz) ricotta
180mls (6fl oz) milk
4 eggs, separated
110g (4oz) plain white flour
1 tsp baking powder
A pinch of salt
50g (1½ oz) butter
Honey comb butter, sliced (below)
Icing (confectioners’) sugar for dusting
Place ricotta, milk and egg yolks in a mixing bowl and mix to combine. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl.
Add to the ricotta mixture and mix until combined.
Place the egg whites in a clean dry bowl and beat until still peaks form. Fold egg whites through batter in two batches, with a large metal spoon.
Lightly grease a large non-stick frying pan with a small portion of the butter and drop 2 tablespoons of batter per hotcake into the pan (don’t cook more than 3 per batch). Cook over low to medium heat for 2 minutes, or until hotcakes have golden undersides. Turn hotcakes and cook on the other side until golden and cooked through. Transfer to a plate and quickly assemble with other ingredients.
Slice one banana lengthways onto a plate; stack 3 hotcakes on top with a slice of honey comb butter. Dust with icing sugar.
Note: Hotcake batter can be stored for up to 24 hours, covered with a plastic wrap in the refrigerator.
250g (8oz) unsalted butter, softened
100g (3½ oz) sugar honeycomb, crushed with a rolling pin
2 tbsp honey
Place all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth.
Shape into a log on a plastic wrap, roll, seal and chill in a refrigerator for 2 hours.
Store leftover honeycomb butter in the freezer – it’s great on toast.
JR Ryall’s Honeycomb
JR, head pastry chef at Ballymaloe House shared this recipe with us.
400g (14oz) caster sugar
100ml (3½ fl oz) Irish honey
2 tbsp liquid glucose (use the same amount of powdered glucose if liquid is not available)
1½ tsp bicarbonate of soda (sieved)
Line a large baking tray with parchment paper.
Place the sugar, glucose and honey in a heavy bottom saucepan with 100ml (3½ fl oz) water.
Place the saucepan on a medium heat and stir until the sugar has dissolved.
Once dissolved stir no more. Simply swirl the pot to ensure the mixture heats evenly.
Use a thermometer to monitor the temperature.
Allow the boiling sugar solution to reach 160C in temperature; then quickly whisk in the bicarbonate of soda and tip the molten honeycomb onto the lined tray.
Allow to cool and store in an airtight container.
Rory O’Connell’s Ricotta and Lemon Cake
Serves 6 -8
175g (6oz) butter at room temperature
175g (6oz) caster sugar
3 lemons, zested
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 eggs, separated
250g (9oz) ricotta
125g (4 1/2oz) self-raising flour
1 tsp of baking powder
Pre heat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4.
Butter and flour an 18cm (7 inch) cake tin and line the base with a disc of parchment paper.
Beat the butter and sugar until pale light and fluffy. Add the lemon zest, vanilla, egg yolks and ricotta and mix gently.
Mix in the sieved flour and baking powder. Whisk the egg whites to stiff peaks and fold into the ricotta mixture.
Bake for 35 minutes until risen, firm and golden in colour. Allow to cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes.
Remove from the tin and peel off the parchment paper.
Serve the cake with fresh or poached fruit, caramel sauce and cream or yoghurt.
There are still a few places left on the half day course, How to Make Homemade Butter, Yoghurt and Several Cheeses, at Ballymaloe Cookery School on Wednesday, October 3.
This morning course (which includes a light lunch after the demonstration) will also teach you how to make a long list of delicious dairy products including cottage cheese, labneh, paneer, ricotta and a simple farmhouse cheese. Phone 021-4646785 or www.cookingisfun.ie
Kinsale’s 36th Gourmet Festival in association with the Kinsale Good Food Circle will take place from Friday to Sunday, October 12-14.
Don’t miss ‘The Mad Hatter’s Taste Of Kinsale’ on Saturday where you can join Alice and friends for an escorted tour of the 10 Members of Kinsale’s Good Food Circle and sample dishes from their kitchens which show the culinary skills of the chefs of Kinsale. For tickets and more details — www.kinsalerestaurants.com
Kilcolman Rectory in Enniskeane/ Clonakilty is running gardening classes throughout the Autumn – some interesting guest teachers are lined up, phone 023–8822913 for details.
Autumn Food Festivals: Galway International Oyster Festival, September 28-30.
Tipperary Harvest Food Festival, Clerihan, Clonmel, Co Tipperary, September 30.
Leenane Autumnal Festival, Leenane, Co Galway, September 29-30. Macroom Food Festival, Sept 28–30.
OktoberBeerFest, Dublin Docklands, Sept 20 – October 7.
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