In Ireland, in the early 70s, farmhouse cheese production had all but vanished.
Then, a lady named Veronica Steele started experimenting, in the wilds of the Beara Peninsula, with the milk from her single cow.
Her early cheeses were adapted and tinkered with, until what we now know as Milleens was created.
Veronica’s son now makes the wonderful Milleens and its strong, memorable taste reflects the outstanding countryside where it is produced.
Since then many others have taken to the industry.
Durrus is made nearby with the raw milk of local cows.
Irish dairy is among some of the best in the world, our lush green grasses, heathers, and herbs all help to create a rich creamy milk for cows, goats and sheep.
To make cheese you add a rennet to milk and this separates your milk into curds and whey.
The curds are the important part, these are cut up by the cheese maker and the size they are cut to will determine the texture of the final product.
The cheese is then drained, rubbed with salt, and stored for a length of time to develop its flavours.
Where it is stored, the temperature, humidity, bacteria and length of storage time all affect the taste.
In Ireland, a wide variety of cheese from tart, hard cheddars, to soft milky blues are created and each is unique to their area and to their maker.
Thanks to this hard-working group of cheese makers, Irish farmhouse cheeses stand proudly beside the best in the world.
Cheeses such as Cashel Blue, Cooleeney, and Hegarty’s are relished by people here as well as abroad.
It always delights me to explain the origins of each cheese to the visitors in the café.
I tasted Young Buck cheese recently, it is a raw milk blue cheese being made in Co Down and it is delicious, I also really like the simple website and graphics that have been created.
Gubbeen Farm near Schull, in West Cork, has diversified, they not only create a variety of cheeses but also charcuterie and smoked hams.
I included a recipe for a slightly unorthodox mac and cheese with butternut squash and some spicy Gubbeen chorizo.
Thomas Jefferson is thought to have returned from a trip to Paris with a macaroni mold in the early 1800s, and macaroni and cheese has been a staple in the American diet ever since.
It is a real comfort food dish and you can experiment with it a bit.
I also do a version without the squash and chorizo and substitute those for smoked mackerel.
QUICK MID-WEEK MEALS
macaroni for four, about 300g
1 large butternut, cut into cubes
a dash of rapeseed oil
150g of Gubeen chorizo, diced
1 tsp of milk chilli powder
50g of buttermilk50g of spelt flour – plain flour can be used instead
500mls of milk
2 tsp of Dijon mustard
200g of Hegarty’s cheddar, grated
Put the macaroni on to boil in lightly salted water and drain when cooked to al dente.
Toss the squash chunks in the oil, some seasoning and the chilli powder.
Roast until soft.
Toss the chorizo through for the last 10 minutes of cooking.
Melt the butter in a frying pan until it is beginning to sizzle.
Stir in the flour and continue to stir for two minutes.
Add the milk a little at a time and stir it in until it forms a smooth paste, season.
Stir the pumpkin and chorizo through the pasta and coat it all in the sauce.
Place into an oven proof dish, sprinkle with the cheese and roast at 200 degrees for 15 minutes until the sides are bubbling and it is turning golden.
1 tsp of fennel seeds
1 tsp of mustard seeds
a dash of olive oil
6 red onions, sliced
2 tbs of red wine vinegar
2 tbs of honey
2 pizza bases
a handful of black olives, de stoned and chopped
200g of Durrus cheese, roughly grated
Dry fry the fennel and mustard seeds until they are starting to give off an aroma.
Remove from the pan and set aside.
Heat the dash of olive oil and sauté the onions slowly on a low heat until they look like they have completely softened.
Add the vinegar and honey and the spices to the saucepan.
Add about two tablespoons of water and then continue cooking until the mixture is reduced.
It should be a nice sticky consistency.
Taste and season.
Spread the onion mixture over the pizza bases, sprinkle with the olives and cheese.
Place in a very hot oven until the base is golden and the cheese has melted.
SOMETHING FOR THE WEEKEND
8 slices of bread
2 tsp of mustard
180g of smoked Gubbeen cheese, grated
8 slices of home cooked ham
2 pinches of smoked paprika
green leaves for four
a dash of olive oil
a squeeze of lemon juice and zest of 1
Spread one side of each slice of the bread with the butter.
Spread the mustard on the other side of four of the slices.
Sprinkle the cheese on top of the mustard and then put the slices of ham on top.
Cover with the other slices of buttered bread keeping the butter on the outside.
Heat a large pan and place the sandwiches in the pan.
You can press the sandwich down with a heavy saucepan if you wish.
Once the butter has melted on the outside and becomes golden, turn the sandwich and cook the other buttered side.
Mix the oil, zest and juice and season to taste.
Toss the leaves in the dressing and serve beside the melt.
200g of butter, room temperature
240g of blue cheese, rind removed and then crumbled
330g of plain flour
2 tsp of freshly cracked black pepper
Combine the butter and crumbled cheese.
Add in the flour and pepper and bring together with your hands until it forms a ball of dough.
Add a spoon of water if it is needed.
Allow to rest in the fridge for about an hour.
Roll the dough as thin as you possibly can and cut to what ever shape you wish, just be sure that they are relatively uniform so that they cook evenly.
Bake at 180 degrees for about 15 minutes depending on their size.
They will turn golden at the edges.
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