It might appear that cows milk cheeses pioneered the farmhouse cheese movement here in Ireland and that only recently there has been a huge emergence of amazing quality goats cheeses which are just as varied in their styles as their cow counterparts.
When we were younger it appeared that goats cheese just meant one thing, a sort of hockey puck shaped slice atop a generic salad with the obligatory drizzle of balsamic glaze.
This was how most goats cheese was presented and consumed, always as the one vegetarian option on the menu.
In reality artisan Irish-produced goats cheese has a relatively long history by Irish farmhouse cheese standards (which doesn’t go back much past the ’70s). Producers like St Tola, Ardsallagh and Croghan have been making exceptional cheese for as long as many of the cows milk farmhouse cheese makers.
There must therefore be a general awakening to something which has been there all along but which wasn’t as appreciated or perhaps just wasn’t as available or visible as it has now become. There is still much to discover out there as many smaller producers still only sell their amazing cheeses in specialist stores.
We recently discovered what is now our favourite Irish goats cheese in a wine and cheese shop called loose canon in Dublin. This cheese is from a small producer in Galway, called The Galway Goat Farm.
Larry Maguire makes exquisite cheeses from pasteurised goats milk produced on his farm in Dunmore in Galway. We always take home a small pyramid of lightly ashed goats cheese when we happen to pass by Loose Canon. It has a medium strong zesty flavour and dry texture. We find this example the most versatile as it holds its shape well whilst still being spreadable.
These recipes hopefully show some unexpected ways of cooking and eating goats cheese. We have included one of our favourite salads which requires just a small bit of very simple preparation to produce something extremely elegant and packed full of flavour. A gorgeous pairing of buttery mashed potatoes and soft goats cheese and crispy, dreamy little bites of fried goats cheese balls with black pepper and honey.
Serves 2 as a light lunch
Delicious ribbons of pink trout and the creamy luxury of soft goats cheese make for surprisingly hearty eating. Whenever I make this I like to use the very best Irish trout from Goatsbridge along with the distinctive and deliciously smooth goats cheese from Galway Goat Farm, who sell in specialist stores around Ireland, like our favourite Dublin cheese shop Loose Cannon or if you’re in Cork pick it up in Iago.
Slice the fennel as thinly as possible into thin wafers and arrange on a large plate. Squeeze the lemon juice over the slices of fennel, sprinkle with salt, pepper, chopped dill and drizzle it with rapeseed oil.
Cover the plate with wax paper or parchment and leave to marinate in the fridge for 20-30 minutes.
The fennel should soften slightly as the acidic lemon juice effectively cooks it. When the fennel has marinated, flake the smoked rainbow trout over the slices of fennel, add the goats cheese in dollops all around the plate and sprinkle with the pink peppercorns and pickled samphire if using.
Simple, fresh and delicious.
Serves 4 as a side
Here in Ireland, it can sometimes feel like heresy to fiddle with something as reliably familiar as mashed potato both in its pure form (with lots of salty butter) and the jazzed up colcannon or champ variations. These ways of eating mash have so much history, personal nostalgia and the kind of comforting mindfulness you can only get from eating something so purely delightful and indulgent.
Globally, mashed potato is just as loved as it is in Ireland and there are many different local ways of eating it, such as cheesy, garlicky ‘aligot’ from France or the Danish ‘Brændende Kærlighed’ which literally means burning love.
Our version holds true to the devilish decadence mashed potatoes should always have, being loaded with lovely butter and enhanced with sweet caramelised onions and creamy sharp goats cheese, adding up to a deeply satisfying eating experience.
Scrub the potatoes well, no need to peel them. Cover with cold, generously salted water in a large saucepan with a lid. Bring to the boil with the lid on and then turn the heat down to a simmer. After about 10 minutes of cooking, pour off most of the water, leaving around 2cm for the remaining 20 minutes, where the potatoes will be steamed until completely tender.
Put the milk in a small saucepan and boil. Removed the skins from the potatoes, which should be easy to pull away from the flesh. Mash well with a potato masher until as smooth as you can get it.
Add the boiled milk slowly baring in mind that the mash might not take all of the milk, you want a smooth mash but not something with the consistency of a puree. Add the butter, stirring it through the mash with a wooden spoon and check the seasoning.
To make the caramelised onions, heat 2 tablespoons of butter and one tablespoon of olive oil on a frying pan over a medium heat. Add the sliced onions and season well with sea salt and black pepper. Stir over a medium heat for around 20 to 30 minutes until the onions are golden brown and sticky. Take off the heat and stir through the potato, leaving a little to garnish the top. Stir most of the goats cheese into the mash and again leave a little to garnish the top with. Taste for seasoning and serve.
Makes roughly 8 goats cheese balls
These are such a great snack to have for a cosy night in watching a movie. You won’t need to make too many of these as they are very rich. We usually make around eight of them but feel free to double the recipe if you wish. The goats cheese you use needs to be thick and not too smooth as they need not to fall apart in the batter or frying oil. A good hack is to use those goats cheese pearls you can buy in little cartons of oil.
For the goats cheese balls
In a large mixing bowl add the 120g of cream flour, sifted along with the baking soda, pinch of salt and tablespoon of honey. Whisk in the soda water until you have a smooth, bubbling batter. Keep cold in the fridge until ready to use.
On a medium plate, prepare the seasoned flour by combining 60g flour with pinch of salt and black pepper. Roll the goats cheese in to eight or so balls, refrigerating until reasy to use.
Heat the oil in a frying pan or wok until sizzling slightly (around 190 degrees celsius). Roll the goats cheese balls in the seasoned flour and then dip in the batter before transferring to the oil. Depending on how deep the oil is you may need to turn them to make sure the balls are golden all over. Fry for around one minute, in batches if needed. Remove from the oil with a slotted spoon onto kitchen paper or towel.
In a small saucepan gently heat the honey and black pepper until just about simmering.
Serve the goats cheese on a warm plate or bowl with the black pepper honey either drizzled over or on the side. A perfect snack for watching a movie.