Weekend Bites: Cheese please
Let's get a few things straight. We're very good at lots of things in this country but not so good at acknowledging them.
We tend to veer towards negativity and cynicism rather than heaping praise on success stories. Sometimes we need recognition from an international community before we'll acknowledge how good we really are.
Take farmhouse cheese, for example. There's no avoiding the fact that we make rather excellent cheese in Ireland.
Not only has it scooped lots of homegrown awards, but our cheeses regularly impress at the prestigious World Cheese Awards, with Crozier Blue and The Little Milk Company's Slievenaman Vintage Cheddar both scooping awards this month at the Mondial du Fromage in France.
Irish farmhouse cheese is made by 50 different artisan cheese makers, producing over 150 different types. Each cheese is created independently and tells the story of the cheese maker and of the farm where it was made.
When you factor in the herd, the land, the milk, the technique and the local climate it makes sense that each cheese will be as unique in flavour as bottles of wines.
Bearing this in mind, why not approach the cheese counter with a renewed curiosity? Skip your usual purchase and pick up something you've never tried before.
Experiment with it at home. Maybe it's best served simply with crackers, added to a salad, melted on good bread or grated over a dish you usually use cheddar or mozzarella on.
Summer's an ideal time to discover the unique character of individual Irish cheeses.
If you're stuck for inspiration check out www. discoverfarmhousecheese.ie, where you'll find 30 recipes using some of our finest artisan produce.
Farmhouse Scones with Sage and Blue Cheese
450g/1lb plain flour
A few sage leaves, chopped
2 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp bread soda
1 tsp salt and twist of freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of cayenne pepper
225g/8oz farmhouse blue cheese, eg Cashel Blue
300ml/1/2 pint yoghurt or buttermilk
1 egg, whisked with a dash of milk for glaze
Mixed sesame seeds for sprinkling on top of scones
1. Preheat the oven to 210⁰C/Gas 7. Mix the flour, sage, cream of tartar, bread soda, salt and pepper, and cayenne pepper in a bowl.
2. Crumble the cheese into small pieces and add to the dry ingredients with the egg and yoghurt. Mix to a soft dough.
3. Turn out onto a floured surface. Pat or roll out to about 2.5cm/1-inch thick and cut into scones with a floured 6cm/21/2 inch scone cutter. Place on a greased baking tray. Brush with the whisked egg mixture and sprinkle with mixed sesame seeds.
4. Place in oven at 210⁰C/Gas 7 for 10 minutes. Then reduce the temperature to 180⁰C/Gas 4 for 5-10 minutes.
5. Cool on a wire rack. Serve with soup or simply as a snack topped with artisan chutney.
Squash, Goat's Cheese & Prosciutto Pizza
For the pizza base:
1 sachet dried yeast
1 tsp sugar
200ml warm water
300g strong white flour
Pinch of salt
1 tbsp olive oil
For the topping:
1/4 lb butternut squash
Extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and black pepper
1 small garlic clove, minced
6 slices prosciutto, torn
2 tbsp chopped thyme
1/4 cup shredded mozzarella
2oz goats cheese, crumbled
1 tbsp aged balsamic vinegar
1. For the dough, combine yeast, sugar, warm water and set aside for 15 minutes. Mix the flour, salt and olive oil. Slowly add water to make a soft dough. Mix for five minutes until smooth and elastic.
2. Transfer to an oiled bowl, cover with cling film and leave to rise for about one hour, until doubled.
3. Cube the squash, toss in oil, season with salt and pepper and bake at 180⁰C/gas 4 for 15 minutes. In a small bowl, combine a tablespoon of olive oil with the minced garlic. 4. Brush the base with the oil and garlic mixture. Add prosciutto and thyme. Sprinkle on the mozzarella, goat's cheese and squash. Bake at 215⁰C/gas 7 for 10-12 minutes. Drizzle with balsamic.
Chargrilled Veg Salad with Mature Farmhouse Gouda
1 red and 1 yellow pepper, each deseeded and quartered
10-15 asparagus spears
1 courgette, sliced into 1cm discs
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
15g rocket or flat leaf parsley, leaves chopped
10g fresh basil, leaves
Salt and black pepper
50g mature farmhouse Gouda shavings, eg Coolea
1/2 tsp balsamic vinegar
1. Heat the barbecue, grill the peppers, skin side down, until the outer skin is blackened. Place in a bowl, cover with cling film and leave for 20 minutes (trapping the steam which loosens skins). Peel and slice into strips.
2. Snap off the hard woody ends from each asparagus spear. Brush asparagus and courgettes with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill for 5-10 minutes until charred on the outside. Cut in half.
3. Combine all the warm vegetables in a bowl and toss in the extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic.
4. To serve, combine the chargrilled vegetables with the rocket, basil and shavings of mature farmhouse Gouda.