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Tuesday, September 19, 2017
Taste of the Week
Bó Rua Mature Cheese
During the recent FEAST in East Cork, I enjoyed a multi-course dinner at Sage and one of the highlights of the evening was the delicious mature cheese from nearby Bó Rua Farm, so much so that people, pretty full after the amazing meal, were taking some home with them. This is our current Taste of the Week.
The Dineens, Norma and Tom, have been making cheese from the milk of their Montbéliarde cows for just a couple of years. I was impressed with their early efforts at the Cork/Kerry Food Forum in 2015 but didn't know about this gem until Sage.
On this blog, you’ll often read of winemakers saying healthy fruit is a prerequisite for good wine. And the Dineens say the “cheese begins long before milk reaches the cheese vat with the careful breeding of our cows”. In 2015, they were honoured to receive an AHI ‘Milking For Quality Award’.
And you can expect a certain consistency from year to year as this is a “closed herd” meaning that all of the herd is born and bred on Bó Rua Farm, with cow families remaining for generations. Quality in, quality out. So do look out for the cheese from the red cow farm in Ballynoe!
Wednesday, September 6, 2017
Al Fresco in F-EAST Cork
Superb Sage Meal
|A sharing plate of one of our four starters, Ballycotton Smoked Salmon|
Kevin Aherne has some serious form when it comes to an outdoor feast. He has even one or two on board a small boat. Tuesday's outdoor event though was in the much more stable, much more comfortable courtyard at Sage, his Midleton restaurant famous for the #12 mile menu!
Of course, the food would be local and Kevin emphasised the importance of provenance as we sat down to eat at the Long Table. As soon as the starters arrived, the oysters, the salmon, the mackerel, the mussels, we were on a roll and total strangers began to chat and enjoy the occasion and the food.
It reminded me, to a degree, of the supper that often followed a day's threshing back in the day. But we wouldn't have had wine in those days, mostly bottles of stout and other beers. And, of course, it would have been in an open barn or in the farmyard, not under a heated canopy.
|The other starters: oyster, mackerel and mussels|
No doubt the forty or so of us gathered for this event, the second of FEAST, the newly rebranded food festival in East Cork, were soon in good form, especially after a glass or two of the lovely organic Cava, the Alta Allela, from a family vineyard close to Barcelona. The La Source blend of Vermentino and Chardonnay, another organic wine, was a delight and it accompanied our starters and the Le Caveau import from the Languedoc was an excellent match indeed.
Kevin, Réidin and their team were now busy, working hard to assemble the food for the mains. But there wasn't a problem (not that we noticed!) and soon the large group were tucking into the local duck and beef with the various sauces and side dishes. An amazing display of just how good local produce is once in the proper hands. Again that velvety wine from Portugal was just the job.
Just like the starters, there were four items for dessert, all delicious. Perhaps the highlight though, certainly for those around me, was the Bó Rua mature cheddar from just out the road. Then again was it the Wilkies 64% chocolate delice served as the memorable feast came to a sweet and appropriate conclusion.
Still time to enjoy a visit to FEAST. This Thursday evening, Ballymaloe is the venue for a Seasonal Cocktail and Feast. Tomorrow, take a trip to Rostellan for chocolate, cheese, shellfish, wines, prosecco, teas and hot chocolate in a historic courtyard. Saturday is the main event with demos and stalls all over Midleton. Highlight may well be the restaurant tent with 11 local restaurants serving small dishes for a fiver (max.) and a long table outside. On Sunday, it will be wind-down time in Sage with a #12 mile BBQ in the Courtyard.
Last Tuesday’s FEAST Menu in Sage:
|Local man Kevin.|
On arrival: Cava Alta Alella, a Brut Nature (biodynamic)
To Start: Ballycotton hot oysters, breadcrumbs, aged cheddar.
Ballycotton smoked salmon.
Pickled and charred Ballycotton mackerel.
Ballycotton mussels and Jameson cream.
La Source, Pays D’Oc 2016 (Vermentino/Chardonnay.
To Savour: East Ferry roast Aylesbury duck, spiced plum sauce.
Beef sirloin (James Walsh, Buckstown), béarnaise.
Pickled beet salad (Joe Burns, Killeagh)
Cauliflower gratin (Joe Burns, Killeagh)
Last of new the new potatoes with gremolata (Staffords, Roche's Point).
Beyra, Douro 2015; Alfrocheiro/Jaen/Tempranillo/Touriga Nacional
To Finish: Toasted mallow and lemon verbena posset, wild strawberries.
Wilkies 64% organic chocolate delice.
Soft Ardsallagh goats cheese, elderberries.
Bo Rua cheddar, Terry’s honey crackers.
Highbank Orchard organic proper dessert cider.
Thursday, November 17, 2016
Veronica Steele. Pioneer in Irish cheese. Focus too on County Cork in new Oxford Companion to cheese.
Veronica Steele. Pioneer in Irish cheese.
Focus too on County Cork in new Oxford Companion to cheese.
|A buffalo on Johnny Lynch's farm, near Macroom|
Pioneer cheesemaker Veronica Steele is credited with the development of modern Irish artisanal cheese and County Cork cheese in general gets a section to itself in the The Oxford Companion to Cheese, due to be published on December 1st.
The 1084 page book, edited by Dr Catherine Donnelly, is the first major reference work dedicated to cheese and contains 855 A-Z entries in cheese history, culture, science and production.
In the early 1970s, Steele and her husband, Norman, a lecturer in philosophy at Trinity College Dublin, decided to leave the city and the academic life in favour of raising a family on a small farm.
Veronica first experimented to provide an alternative to processed cheese for her family and to preserve the excess milk from their one cow. She eventually evolved a soft and pungent washed rind cheese called Milleens. It was a great success and by 1981 was selling in shops and restaurants throughout Ireland and as far away as London and Paris.
Steele was also inspired by cheesemaking as a route to viability for a rural area struggling with high unemployment. Today, Veronica and Norman’s son Quinlan carry on the tradition of making Milleens, but the book says that all of Ireland owes Veronica Steele a debt of gratitude for her vision and generosity of spirit.
The big breakthrough for Milleens came when Declan Ryan and Myrtle Allen tasted her cheese and enthusiastically featured their discovery on the cheese boards of two of Ireland’s most renowned restaurants, Arbutus Lodge and Ballymaloe House.
The West Cork washed-rind cheeses Milleens, Durrus, Gubbeen, and North Cork’s Ardrahan, each has an international reputation, and were all created by remarkable, spirited women, most inspired by Veronica. The flavour of Milleens is reminiscent of Munster (not the local Munster!).
Jeffa Gill started to make her semi-soft, washed-rind Durrus cheese on her hillside farm in Coomkeen on the Sheep’s Head Peninsula in 1979. She too was one of the first generation of Irish farmhouse cheese-makers. Using artisanal methods, Jeffa and her team, gently and slowly craft a cheese that is closely linked to the land and the mild and humid climate.
Gubbeen farmhouse cheese is made from the milk of Tom and Giana Ferguson’s herd of Friesian, Jersey, Simmental, and Kerry cows. One of the distinguishing characteristics of Gubbeen cheese is the unique type of microflora on the rind, which has now been identified and given the name Microbacterium gubbeenense.
Ardrahan, made by Mary Burns near Kanturk in North Cork since 1983, is possibly the feistiest and most pungent of all the washed-rind cheeses of County Cork.
Although the washed-rind cows milk cheeses have the highest profile they are by no means the whole cheese story of County Cork. Other fine cheeses, made from both cows milk and goats milk and now buffalo, round out Cork’s contribution to cheesemaking.
Dick and Helene Willems started making Coolea cheese in 1979 as a way to use up excess raw milk from their own herd of cattle and to provide the Gouda cheese that they were craving from their native Netherlands. Their son Dicky continues to make the superb cheese using milk from two local herds.
Dicky told me an interesting story on a recent visit. Their cheese was to be called Milleens after the local townland but that was knocked on the head as the Steeles, further west, on the Beara peninsula, and living in a townland of the same name, had just started making a cheese called Milleens. And so the Coolea brand was born.
|St Gall, by Fermoy|
Frank Shinnick and his German wife, Gudrun, began making raw-milk cheese in 1996 from their own dairy herd outside Fermoy, in North Cork. The cheeses are made in a 396-gallon (1,500-litre) copper vat procured at considerable effort from Switzerland. Fermoy cheeses are part of the Slow Food raw-milk cheese presidium.
There are many other cheesemakers in the Cork area, such as the O’Farrells in Carrigaline and the Hegartys in Whitechurch, both well established.
“I love the smoked cheese”, declared Padraig O’Farrell during a visit. “It is indigenous to Carrigaline. The milk is local, and the wood, old beech, is local. And we smoke it out the back.”
Hegarty’s make cheddar and their more mature versions are in great demand. The oldest is indeed the more popular though, according to Dan Hegarty, his bank manager would prefer if the youngest was in top position!
Goats Milk Cheeses
Jane Murphy, a microbiologist by profession, is perhaps the queen of goats milk cheese in County Cork, having started to make cheese on the Ardsallagh farm in 1980. At the other side of the city, Orchard Cottage thrives as does Blue Bells Falls in Newtownshandrum in North Cork.
In Kilmichael, you’ve got the Sunview goats. Further west, on Cape Clear Island off West Cork, the remarkable blind cheesemaker Ed Harper makes small quantities of cheese from the milk of British Alpine goats that graze on his beautiful rocky farmland.
|Franco, cheesemaker at Toons Bridge Dairy, near Macroom|
A few years back, neighbours Toby Simmonds and Johnny Lynch imported water buffalo and began making Toons Bridge mozzarella. A “parting” saw Johnny continue to make and sell the cheese, but now under the Macroom label.
There followed a burst of creativity at Toby’s Toons Bridge dairy and a few interesting Italian style cheeses emerged, including Cacio Cavallo (traditionally tied in pairs and transported to market by pack horse). And thanks to an Italian living near by, who has a small herd of sheep, Toons Bridge also began to make Vicenza’s Pecorino.
|Cacio Cavallo (mainly) in Toons Bridge|
And two new cheesemakers have emerged in East Cork this year. You’ll find the cheddar style cheese from the farm of Bó Rua used in the 12 mile menu at Midleton’s Sage Restaurant and on sale generally. Not too far away, Stephen Bender produces a delicious Gouda style cheese called Ballinrostig.
Looks like there’s no end to what Veronica Steele started!
The Oxford companion, the most comprehensive work on cheese available, has drawn on an astonishing 325 authors (from 35 countries), from cheesemakers and cheese retailers to dairy scientists, microbiologists, historians and anthropologists.
It is a landmark encyclopaedia, the most wide-ranging, comprehensive, and reliable reference work on cheese available, suitable for both novices and industry insiders alike.
* Cork has a butter museum. Time now for a cheese museum?
Cashel Blue featured in new Oxford Companion to Cheese
* Cork has a butter museum. Time now for a cheese museum?
Cashel Blue featured in new Oxford Companion to Cheese
Tuesday, August 2, 2016
Taste of the WeekBó Rua Farm Cheese
In Ballynoe, in a corner of North East Cork, you’ll find Bó Rua Farm where Norma and Tom Dinneen make excellent cheese. I first came across the cheese - it came on the market early this year - in Sage where chef Kevin Aherne has it on his 12 Mile Menu. If it’s good enough for Kevin, it’s good enough for me.
But I must admit I forgot about it for a few weeks until I met Tom at the Cork Kerry Food Forum in the City Hall. Had a few samples there and bought a wedge or two of this handmade and handsome cheese with great quality and flavour and already a winner at the CÁIS Awards.
One of the secrets is that the milk comes from their Montbéliere cows, also known as red cows (hence the Bó Rua). The breed is known for the exceptional quality of the milk, a quality enhanced by the rich local grass.
It is basically a cheddar style cheese, semi-hard. They make a natural version and then two flavoured varieties, Cumin Seeds and Tomato with Oregano, Basil and Garlic. The Tomato and Herb was the one I enjoyed at leisure at home and is Taste of the Week.
Careful nurturing of the cheese is needed during maturation, with regular turning and grading. It takes a minimum of six months for the cheese to mature, before it can be sent out for customers to enjoy. The rind is inedible, so remove before eating the cheese.
Bó Rua Farm
Ballyknock, Ballynoe, Fermoy, Co. Cork, Ireland. P51HYH6.
Tel: +353 (0) 86 8385547
Twitter: @boruafarmWeb: http://boruafarm.ie