At present there are 14 or 15 craft brewers and the public, bored with the usual offerings, can’t get enough of it.
These beers are incredibly diverse, some with citrus notes, others with a distinct hint of chocolate or bitter caramel.
Just like the farmhouse cheeses, I always imagine that they reflect the personality of the brewers, eclectic feisty hand made beers with real character and flavour.
Many are best drunk with food or enjoyed leisurely as you read the daily newspapers.
This week, on our 12-week Certificate Course students school tour, we visited the 8 Degree Brewery in Mitchelstown.
There we found ‘two cocky foreign guys’, as Cameron Wallace from Australia and Scott Baigent from New Zealand describe themselves, having lots of fun making beer.
Both were lured to Ireland by their Irish wives. Scott, an ex-engineer, is married to a past Ballymaloe Cookery School student and well known blogger, Caroline Hennessy — see www.Bibliocook.com.
They made a plan, did lots of home brewing, found a great warehouse outside Mitchelstown and started to brew. Last Easter they launched at the Franciscan Brewery in Cork.
At a recent Slow Food feast in O’Briens Chop House in Lismore, 8 Degree beer was served side by side with Dungarvan beers made by Cormac O’Dwyer and Tom Dalton with their partners Jen and Claire.
We drank little shots of their Blackrock Stout with chef Robbie Krawczyk’s Native Oysters and Smoked Blackwater Salmon, a delicious combination.
Dan Hegarty, who makes that really good cloth bound Hegarty’s cheddar on the family farm in Whitechurch, was also with us.
Cheese and the artisan beer was a terrific pairing.
Beer-battered Scampi with Tartare Sauce
Scampi was the ‘must have’ starter of the ’60s and ’70s, utterly delicious when made with fresh prawns. Sadly, nowadays it is more often a travesty made with inferior soggy frozen prawns. For the batter I sometimes dispense with the water and just use beer. It produces a crisp coating for fish
Very fresh Dublin Bay prawns, peeled
Tartare sauce (see recipe)
250g (9oz) self raising flour
Good pinch of salt
4 fl ozs (110ml) beer — Howling Gale or Helvick Gold Blonde Ale
6 — 8 fl ozs (175 – 225ml) cold water
Preheat the oil to 180C/350F in a deep fry. First make the batter; sieve the flour and salt into a bowl.
Make a well in the centre and gradually whisk in the beer and water.
Just before serving dip the very fresh prawns individually in the batter and deep fry in hot oil until crisp and golden.
Drain on kitchen paper. Serve immediately with a little bowl of tartare sauce and a segment of lemon.
This classic is great with deep-fried fish, shellfish or fish cakes. Tartare sauce will keep for 5–6 days in a fridge, but omit the parsley and chives if you want to keep it for more than a day or two.
2 organic egg yolks, hard boiled
¼ tsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
225ml (8fl oz) extra virgin olive oil and 125ml (4fl oz) sunflower oil, mixed together
1 tsp capers, chopped
1 tsp gherkins, chopped
2 tsp chives, chopped
1 tbsp parsley, chopped
salt and freshly ground pepper
lemon juice, optional
Take the hard boiled eggs and remove the yolks from the whites.
Sieve the hard boiled egg yolks into a bowl and add the raw egg yolks, Dijon mustard and vinegar.
Mix well and whisk in the oil drop by drop, increasing the volume as the mixture thickens.
When all the oil has been absorbed, add the capers, gherkins, chives and parsley.
Roughly chop the hard boiled egg white and fold it gently into the base with salt, freshly ground pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice if necessary.
Irish Beef and Dungarvan Blackrock Stout Stew
This kind of recipe belongs to the newer tradition of Irish cooking, using some of our best ingredients. It makes a wonderful gutsy stew which tastes even better a day or two later.
900g (2 lbs (900g) lean Irish stewing beef
3 tbsp oil
2 tbsp flour
Salt and freshly ground pepper and a pinch of cayenne
2 large onions (10oz/285g) approx.
1 large clove garlic, crushed optional
2 tbsp tomato puree dissolved in 4 tablespoons water
1 bottle Dungarvan Blackrock Stout (300ml)
2 lb (225g) carrots cut into chunks
Trim the meat of any fat or gristle, cut into 2 inch (5cm) cubes, toss in a bowl with a tablespoon oil. Season the flour with salt freshly ground pepper and a pinch or two of cayenne, toss the meat in this mixture.
Heat the remaining oil in a wide frying pan over a high heat; brown the meat on all sides.
Add the coarsely chopped onion, crushed garlic and tomato puree to the pan, cover and cook for about 5 minutes.
Transfer the contents of the pan to a casserole, deglaze the frying pan with some of the stout, bring to the boil and stir to dissolve the caramelised meat juices on the pan, add to the meat with the remaining stout, add the carrots cut into chunks.
Stir, taste and add a little more salt if necessary. Cover with the lid of the casserole, simmer very gently until the meat is tender — 2-3 hours.
The stew may be cooked on top of the stove or in a low oven 150C/300F/regulo 2. Taste and correct the seasoning. This stew can, of course, be eaten the moment it is cooked but tastes even better if cooked a day or two ahead. Scatter with lots of chopped parsley and serve with Champ, Colcannon or plain boiled potatoes.
Knockmealdown Porter Cake
Serves about 20
The porter, be it Guinness or Murphy’s, plumps up the fruit and gives it a very distinctive taste. If you can manage to hide it away, this cake keeps really well.
225g (8oz) butter
225g (8oz) golden caster sugar
300ml (½ pint) Knockmealdown Porter
Zest of 1 orange
225g (8oz) sultanas
225g (8oz) raisins
110g (4oz) mixed peel
450g (1lb) white flour
1 level tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tsp mixed spice
110g (4oz) cherries, halved
3 organic eggs
23cm (9in) round tin, lined with silicone paper
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/ gas mark 4.
Melt the butter, caster sugar and stout in a saucepan. Add the orange zest and the fruit and peel (except the cherries).
Bring the mixture to the boil for 3–4 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from the heat and leave to cool until it is lukewarm.
Sieve the flour, bicarbonate of soda and mixed spice into a mixing bowl.
Add the fruit mixture to the flour and add the cherries. Whisk the eggs; add them gradually, mixing evenly through the mixture.
Bake in the oven for about one hour and 10 minutes.
If you wish, when the cake is cooked, you can pour 4 tablespoons of stout over it.
Keep for 2–3 days before cutting.
Slow Food East Cork event — Spectacular Cakes for Christmas with Pamela Black at Ballymaloe Cookery School on Wednesday, November 16, at 7pm. Lots of special techniques and decorating tips. Slow Food Members €35 — Non Slow Food Members €40 Proceeds to the East Cork Slow Food Educational Project. Booking Essential on 021-4646785 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
The Ballymaloe International Poetry Prize in conjunction with Moth Magazine. Entries close on December 31, 2011, so stir up those creative juices to pen a winning poem — first prize is €2,000. The competition is open to everyone and will be judged by Matthew Sweeney, whose most recent collection was shortlisted for The Irish Times/Poetry Now Award and the TS Eliot Prize. Go to www.themothmagazine.com for entry details.
Check out a new book Farmhouse Cheeses of Ireland — A Celebration by Glynn Anderson and John McLaughlin. Ireland farmhouse cheeses win top prizes in cheese shows all over the world yet many of us are hard pressed to name more than four or five.
There are over 60 to choose from — cow, goat, sheep and buffalo milk cheeses from all four corners of the island. At last a book to catalogue and celebrate the achievement of Farmhouse Cheese-makers who have helped to change and enhance the image of Irish Food both at home and abroad. Published by The Collins Press.