Delicious treats for Saint Patrick's Day

WHAT better way to celebrate St Patrick’s Day than with an Irish cheese board.

Delicious treats for Saint Patrick's Day

Served with a colourful winter salad and good-quality, chunky bread or crackers, it can make an excellent lunch.

While I’ve selected eight excellent cheeses this week, I don’t recommend all eight for a cheese board, and certainly not two cheddar styles. For the survey, I wanted to contrast a farmhouse cheese with one readily available in supermarkets.

I often serve a bug hunk of just one cheese, or, if I’m not sure what people favour, up to four.

Homemade or shop-bought oatmeal crackers suit cheese very well, also S Sheridan’s rye and linseed and brown bread crackers are delicious.

The cheeses here are available in some supermarkets, and in most speciality cheese shops, such as Sheridan’s in Dublin, Galway, Waterford (Ardkeen Stores) and Meath, and online.

In Cork city, the best sources are On the Pig’s Back, English Market (and Douglas Wolleen Mills); Iago, Prince’s Street; O’Keeffe’s in Dillon’s Cross; Bradley’s supermarket, North Main Street, Cork. Also, check out Manning’s Emporium, Bantry; Lettercollum Kitchen Project, Clonakilty, and, of course, the great farmers’ markets nationwide.

Aldi Ardagh mature Irish white cheddar, €6.37/kg

This is the bargain cheese of the selection and has a deep flavour, a lovely dryness. It was the favourite of our supermarket purchases to make our final eight. A good all-rounder, it’s delicious with sliced pears on the side. Very good value. Made in Co Limerick.

Crozier Blue sheep’s milk cheese, €28/kg

When serving a cheese board, it’s good to include a blue cheese and a sheep’s one and this pleases both camps, with its rich, salty, complex flavours and silky, creamy texture. Made in Tipperary, it’s delicious with a dessert wine for a special celebration.

Corleggy goat’s milk cheese, €38.70/kg

Lovers of raw, mature goats milk cheese will enjoy this tall barrel. Attractively wrapped in muslin, this is full-on goat, yet there are no back acidic flavours, just deep, salty nuttiness melting to cream in the mouth. The most expensive per kilo of the selection, but a real treat. This barrel costs just €12 and would give a taste to 10-12 people. Made in Co Cavan.

Ardrahan cow’s cheese, €17.50/kg

This semi-soft cheese can be bought younger in supermarkets, or mature in speciality shops when the flavour intensifies and it goes slightly crystalline and yet creamier. We enjoyed this one with a rich, red wine or port, and chunky bread. Fair price. Made in North Cork.

Knocklara ewe’s milk cheese €35.50/kg

Medium to hard, this can be bought young, or mature when it gets quite rich and intense, with the saltiness becoming more concentrated. Good with membrillo quince paste or drizzled with local honey. Made in West Waterford.

Hegarty’s cheddar €22.50/kg

It’s hard to beat this for flavour and to show how good cheddar can be. Full of rich flavour, its salty dryness on first bite gives way to a creamy palate. Very satisfying. It’s a cheese for a hearty sandwich, but as part of a cheeseboard or lunch serve with crackers or bread and a pint of local stout.

Toonsbridge Buffalo hard cheese €20/kg

Made near Macroom in Cork, Toonsbridge produces mainly soft Mozarella and this addition is the mild part of an otherwise flavourful cheeseboard.

Made from raw buffalo milk, the maturity brings an unusual taste, almost like a goat’s milk cheese with an interesting edge. Try with crackers and glass of red wine.

Milleens cow’s milk €17.50/kg

This whole milk medium-soft cheese is made by Veronica Steele, one of the pioneers of cheesemaking in Ireland. Other excellent cheesemakers, such as Geana Ferguson of Gubbeen, credit Steel for their inspiration. The cheese has slightly salty, slightly fruity, mature, yet elegant and light, flavours. No odd tastes or aromas here, evocative of the Béara peninsula where it is made.

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