In honour of our Made in Munster special edition, Joe McNamee creates a four-course meal showcasing the best produce from the province. And there’s a lot to celebrate.
There’s, understandably, been a lot of talk about Michelin Stars and high end dining over the past week or so, with seven starred restaurants now in Munster alone.
I confess to having been guilty myself in the past of dallying with the foams and fusions and even essaying the tweezer fandango, so we’re going to park all the fancy stuff for today and instead enjoy a good, old-fashioned, home-cooked menu based on some of the finest ingredients to be found in the the province of Munster.
(All the seafood can be sourced from various suppliers in Kerry and West Cork. Oysters, from Harty’s, Ring, Co Waterford.)
Crab claws with garlic butter
20 cooked crab claws
50gm Glenilen Butter
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp Galtee Irish honey
1 Tbsp lemon juice
Sauté garlic in butter for one minute over medium heat, stir in honey, add already cooked crab claws, until warmed through, dress with lemon juice and parsley.
Prawns & lemon dill mayonnaise
2 free-range egg yolks
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
350ml sunflower oil
150ml extra virgin olive oil
1-2 tablespoons Knockmealagula Apple Cider vinegar
Juice ½ lemon
Whisk egg yolks then whisk in mustard.
Whisk in oil, drop by drop until it begins to emulsify, then you can slowly increase amount.
When oil is incorporated, whisk in vinegar, lemon juice, zest and season to taste.
Store in a sterilised jar until ready to use, keeps for up to a week in the fridge.
Harty’s Oysters Shuck oysters, cut adductor and dress as you please (lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, etc etc) but I prefer them ‘naked’, tasting entirely of the ocean.
Mackerel Pate with herbed sourdough crisps
2 Burren Smokehouse Mackerel fillets
50gm Glenilen Country Butter
50gm Glenilen Yoghurt
Tsp Lemon Juice
‘frosting’ of paprika
Blend all ingredients except pepper to a smooth puree, add pepper to taste Herbed sourdough crisps Slice frozen (easier to cut) baguette very thin (4mm aprox) Dip into olive oil, place on baking tray lined with baking paper.
Sprinkle with herbes de Provence, dust with smoked paprika, cover with another sheet of baking paper and another baking tray weighted down.
Bake for 10-12 mins at 200˚C. Place on wire rack, sprinkle with Irish Atlantic Sea Salt, leave to cool and crisp.
Mussels with Black Pudding
150gm Rigney’s Farm Black Pudding, roughly crumbled
10-15 cherry tomatoes
Tbsp Knockmealaguala Apple Cider Vinegar
Tbsp tomato puree
200 mls Glenilen Cream
200ml roasted mussel liquor
Rinse and debeard mussels.
Discard open ones. Dry thoroughly (so they roast, not braise) and put in high-sided oven pan. Roast for 12-15 mins until most are open.
Discard closed ones.
Roast tomatoes at the same time in a separate dish.
Sauté black pudding in butter for three mins.
Deglaze pan with cider vinegar and add 200ml of mussel liquor from mussels and tomato puree, reduce by half, stirring occasionally to avoid sticking.
Add cream, reduce slightly to thicken. Serve with mussels.
Sea Salad, Cucumber and Carrots
15gm Wild Irish Sea Veg dried sea salad mix, rehydrated in cold water for 10-15 mins, patted dry with paper towel, torn into pieces roughly the same size
1 Cucumber, sliced, salted with 1/4 tsp fine salt for five mins, then squeezed ‘dry’
Carrot, washed, peeled into long strips with veg peeler
1 tsp toasted sesame seeds
Dressing 3 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp Galtee Irish Honey
Mix well until sugar dissolves. Add to sea salad, carrot and cucumber, top with sesame seeds
Honey Butter Figs
(Not very common in Ireland but these were grown in a greenhouse, not ripe enough to eat fresh but perfect for braising)
4-6 figs (as many as will fit in pan over low heat), sliced in half from top down
50gm Glenilen Butter
1 tbsp Galtee Irish Honey 1 tbsp
Knockmealaguala Apple Cider Vinegar
1 sprig rosemary
Melt butter in pan, when it stops foaming, add honey, vinegar and bay leaf. Stir gently for one minute to infuse rosemary.
Add figs, flesh down. Sauté for two minutes, remove carefully from pan. Reserve syrup for lamb.
400gm Ballyhoura Mushrooms (cultivated or foraged, including chanterelles, shiitakes, oysters)
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
50gm Glenilen butter
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil Herbes de Provence
1 tbsp Knockmealagula Apple Cider
Glenilen creme fraiche
Melt butter and oil in sauté pan over medium heat, sauté garlic for one minute, stir in herbs, then add mushrooms.
Stir to coat, then sprinkle 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Cover and braise for four or five mins or until tender, remove lid, add vinegar, reduce.
Stir in 2 tbsp of Glenilen creme fraiche.
Comeragh Mountain Lamb rump
50gm Glenilen Butter
Tsp chopped oregano
Salt Season and place, skin-side down on to a medium hot pan and render out all the fat.
When golden, pour off fat, turn to colour meat evenly all over then baste well with butter and oregano.
Place pan in oven at 200˚C for 20-24 minutes aprox (55˚-60˚when tested with meat thermometer) for medium-rare meat.
Allow to rest for ten minutes. Serve with braised fennel, honey butter figs and steamed potatoes.
6 eating apples (from Con Trass’s apple farm)
1 punnet blueberries
150gm Glenilen butter
3 tsp muscovado sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
500gm Glenilen natural yoghurt
3-4 tsps Galtee Irish Honey
Core apples with corer, discard core.
Place in buttered baking dish. Mix blueberries, muscovado and cinnamon, then stuff mix into apples.
Top each with knob of butter and drizzle of honey. Bake at 200˚C for 25 minutes or until a skewer passes through easily.
Allow to cool slightly then serve with Glenilen yoghurt with Galtee Irish Honey stirred through it.
Made in Munster Cheeseboard It is ironic that in a province that has been the breadbasket of Ireland for centuries, possessed as it is with such an abundance of prime agricultural land, that the modern Irish farmhouse cheese revolution should have begun on the rocky outcrop that is the Beara peninsula, in West Cork, when Veronica Steele began experimenting with the spare milk from her cow, Brisket, back in the late 70s.
Sure, wherever there is land, humans will find a way to farm it and Beara certainly has its share of green fields but it is a far cry from, say, the verdant rolling pastures of the Golden Vale, one of farming Munster’s crowning glories, and an epicentre of dairy production.
But therein lies the key: in the Golden Vale, the lush land, once properly husbanded, can provide a very comfortable living for a conventional dairy farmer; in Beara, back in the 70s, when there were over 200 small holdings, there was a greater requirement to improvise, to add as much value as possible to an infinitely more meagre output.
Mind you, it took the particularly unique magpie mind of a quite extraordinary woman to make the quantum leap from a few churns of excess milk to producing Milleens, an international award-winning farmhouse cheese of global renown, and thus birthing not just the modern Irish farmhouse cheese sector but also providing inspiration and putting wind beneath the sails of any budding specialty food producers at that point when State policy was solely concerned with developing and promoting a bludgeoning industrial model of agriculture and food production that could so easily have swamped those small producers entirely in its backwash.
Those small specialty food producers, including the farmhouse cheesemakers, would go on to play an absolutely central role in developing Ireland’s current international reputation as a gourmet destination and one of the best food-producing nations on earth.
The success of Veronica’s experimentation soon led her to pass on knowledge to her friend and fellow novice cheesemaker, Jeffa Gill, on nearby Sheep’s Head.
She created Durrus cheese, this year celebrating its 40th anniversary.
Jeffa, in turn, passed the torch of knowledge on to Giana Ferguson, who lived just outside Schull, on Mizen, with her husband Tom on the family farm in Gubbeen.
And there, with Milleens, Durrus and Gubbeen, you have the holy trinity of Irish farmhouse cheese, the three-legged stool that has over the decades supported the growth of an entirely new food sector and Munster, the dairy province, has proven to be a natural home to some of the great names of Irish cheese, a comparative handful of them listed below for my Made in Munster Irish farmhouse cheese board.
Co Clare St Tola Goat’s Cheese
Siobhán NI Ghairbhith, began to take cheesemaking lessons in the late 90s from her nearby neighbours Meg and Derrick Gordon who began St Tola in 1978 and a year later, Meg handed over the running of the business to Siobhán who relocated production to her parent’s family farm.
A young, mild and creamy St Tola is a perfect introduction to goat’s cheese for the novice and is infinitely malleable as a cooking ingredient.
Cratloe Hills Sheep’s Cheese
Sean and Deirdre Fitzgerald have been producing their cheese since 1988, the very first sheep’s cheese in Ireland, a hard cheese made with the milk of their own Friesland ewes.
The youthful version is a delicious mild, sweet cheese with crisp floral notes but as it ages it grows more complex and is wonderful on its own or as an ingredient in risottos or baked savoury tarts.
Co Cork Durrus
Jeffa Gill hit on her formula for Durrus in 1979 and it has gone on to become one of the great internationally-acclaimed Irish farmhouse cheeses and is still produced in Coomkeen, near Durrus on Sheep’s Head.
A round semi-soft washed rind cow’s milk cheese with a gorgeous amaranthine rind, it is mild and creamy in youth but when allowed to age and served in prime condition, it can be utterly sublime, rich, earthy and flush with the essence of its local terroir.
The ‘ur-cheese’, the original of the species, a washed rind whole milk cheese first developed by Veronica Steele, in 1977, on the Beara Peninsula, where it is still made to this day by her son, Quinlan, the first impression is made by a strident pungency of aroma that utterly belies a first tasting of this superbly balanced and utterly compelling cheese: rich, creamy, sweet, flora, it is both complex and utterly elemental.
I first tasted it in Steele’s backyard while still a callow ‘Calvita Kid’ back in the 1980s, when my experience to date hadn’t stretched far beyond easi-singles.
It was a complete shock to the senses but I still went back for a second bite.
It entirely changed my attitude to food which in many ways changed my life.
Helen Willems began to make a Dutch-style gouda-like cheese in 1980, in mountainous Coolea, near Macroom, on the border of Cork and Kerry, using milk from her husband Dick’s herd and it is now made by their son Dick Jr, using the milk of neighbouring Holstein and Friesian herds.
When young, it is sweet, nutty and wonderfully textured but more and more chefs are coming to appreciate the mature version, a deep, complex caramel flavour with sometimes salty crystals that is exquisite on its own but adds serious depth as a cooking ingredient.
Giana Ferguson developed her semi-soft, cow’s milk cheese in the late 70s and it has gone on to become an international star.
This nutty, slightly salty cheese is often flush with fungal mushroom and leaf mulch notes, a funky echo of the terroir of its Mizen home, particularly on a rainy day.
Her son, Fingal, renowned in his own right for the charcuterie from his own Gubbeen Smokehouse, produces a Smoked Gubbeen.
Teampall Geal (Templegall)
Dan Hegarty’s dairy farm, in Whitechurch, north of Cork city, is a comparative newcomer to cheese making but their Hegarty’s Cheddar was an especially strong addition to the national cheeseboard but it is their newer Teampall Geal/Templegall that is truly stunning, a comté-style creation, it is sweet, nutty and possesses oodles of that delightful tingling-on-the-tongue Comté finish.
There is something of the romantic wild west about cheesemaking in Kerry that has seen some great cheesemakers come and go but the Beal Organic is the only one to really have stayed the pace over time, though Kell’s Bay and Kerry Blue appear to be staging a revival.
Until such time as the sector in Kerry becomes truly established, the best way to take the temperature of such a revival is with regular visits to very fabulous Little Cheese Shop, in Dingle.
Béal Organic Cheddar
Kate Carmody began making cheese on her North Kerry family farm in 1987 and converted entirely to organic in 1997 and her cheddar is pale and nutty when young but evolves with age into something more complex with a piquant edge.
O’Brien’s Bally Brie Farmer Jim O’Brien began making farmhouse cheeses with the milk of his Jersey cows on his dairy farm in Ballyhahill, a short few years ago, and it is quite something to witness how he has taken to the craft, producing a range of cheeses, from a good aged cheddar to a gouda-style and even a feta, but it is the soft, creamy, even buttery Bally Brie, a soft-ripened cow’s milk cheese with the faintest fungal funk that makes this particular cheeseboard.
Little Milk Company Organic Irish Brie
The Little Milk Company began in Waterford in 2008 as an organic milk farmers’ co-operative venture and as it sources organic milk from 10 farmers around Munster, including two in Limerick, there’s nothing wrong with sharing the glory with the Treaty county, a place so naturally flush with fertile farming land that farmhouse cheesemaking is still in its nascent stages.
The Little Milk Company range includes a gorgeous aged organic cheddar but I find it hard to look beyond the Organic Irish Brie, made for them by the very splendid cheesemaker, Paddy Berridge, of Carrigbyrne renown.
It is worth allowing it to ‘age’ to experience it at full maturity when it is ripe, runny and chockfull of rich, even fruity flavours.
Co Tipperary Crozier Blue
The Grubbs are another famous name in Irish cheesemaking.
The business is now run by Sarah Grubb but harks back to the 1980s when her parents, Louis and Jane Grubb, first determined to create a cheese that would exploit their county’s rich dairy heritage, creating the renowned Cashel Blue cow’s milk cheese in 1984.
They also do a gorgeous hard cheese, Shepherd’s Store, but it is their Crozier Blue sheep’s cheese that is my most favourite of all, the the closest thing to an Irish roquefort (hardly surprising as it uses the same penicillin strain as the world renowned French ewes milk cheese), it has a mellow, beautifully calibrated saltiness, particularly around the rind and paste and within it is sweet, rich, creamy and possessed of a high spicy tingle—a truly world-class cheese.
Cáis na Tíre
Barry Cahalan and Lorraine Davis are a young couple who met in school and eventually started a sheep farm on Barry’s family land in 2013, milking Friesland sheep which renowned cheesemaker Marion Roeleveld used to produce Cáis na Tíre.
Barry and Lorraine took over cheesemaking duties themselves two years ago and there has been no drop in the standard of one of the best cheeses to arrive in recent years.
It can be eaten from three months but benefits from aging, a recent tasting of a 11-month-old revealing still supple and sumptuous hard cheese with notes of sweet caramel notes and green fruit.
Co Waterford Knockanore
Eamon and Patricia Lonergan have been making their Knockanore cheddar-type cheeses on their Ballyneety farm since 1987, using raw cow’s milk from their Friesian herd.
It The smoked (using natural locally sourced oak) Knockanore is possessed of a meaty heft which makes it a great cheese for cooking, anything from a fine grating on risotto or into an omelette or to add serious ballast to a char-grilled burger.
Waterford Wolfgang and Agnes Schliebitz make cheeses on their farm near Cappoquin and the younger Knocklara Sheep’s Cheese, pale, creamy, nutty and ever so slightly sweet is a most versatile creation but is especially fine shaved over a light green salad, including some very thinly sliced courgette.