On Thursday last we all packed into a bus at the crack of dawn, well 7.15am, to head off into the Knockmealdown mountains on our school tour. A bus full of excited students of 10 nationalities and ranging from 18-50 years of age, full of anticipation.
We headed for Clogheen where Dick and Anne Keating make Baylough farmhouse cheese from the milk of their Friesian and MRI herd. Theyâ€™ve just started into the new season, having had a break since November.
Ann is a pragmatic lady with an indomitable spirit, characteristics of many of the Irish farmhouse cheese-makers. As she cut the curd she delighted the students with the story of how she initially taught herself how to make cheese and gradually perfected her cheddar type which is now called Baylough.
She explained the cheese-making process in detail to the fascinated students, the importance of the quality of the milk, the function of the starter, which gives the cheese its unique flavour and character. They saw how the rennet coagulated the milk which is then cut into curds and whey. The cheesemaking process canâ€™t be hurried or delayed, it has its own rhythm and is ever changing as the year progresses â€“ the best cheeses are made from summer milk when the cows are grazing on the rich green pasture.
Anne makes five cheeses, the traditional Baylough is the original cheese, aged for a minimum of three months, some are waxed (they are first painted with a liquid wax and then dipped in a hot wax), but demand grows for cheese wrapped in cheesecloth in the traditional way. Anne is pleased with this development, because the cheeses gain an extra complexity of flavour as they age and are increasingly sought out by cheddar connoisseurs. Ann has also built up a loyal following for her garlic and garlic and herb, versions, which are also available smoked.
From small beginnings in her own kitchen Anneâ€™s business has now grown into a custom built dairy with dedicated cold rooms and a packing room.
She is loud in her praise of David Mitchell from Mullinahone Co-op who offered not only inspiration but practical help as she struggled to learn the art of cheesemaking initially, Tim Cogan and his colleagues from Moorepark are also an ongoing support, the business now employs two part-time staff in summer, and Anne simply can scarcely keep up with the demand for Baylough. It now sells at Peter Wardâ€™s Country Choice in Nenagh, McCambridges in Galway, Sheridans in Dublin, Trevor Irvine in Carrick-on-Shannon, On the Pigs Back in Corkâ€™s English Market, Al Vinos in Athlone, Hudsons Wholefoods in Ballydehob, and I regularly see people buying it at Cork Airport to present to friends.
We left Anne and Dick as they were preparing to fill the moulds and sped towards Dungarvan.
We had the most delicious lunch at the Tannery â€“ weâ€™re big fans of Paul and Maire Oâ€™Flynnâ€™s cool and sophisticated restaurant. The spiced parsnip and coconut soup drizzled with olive oil was light and full of delicious flavours. Pudding was poached apple with caramel ice cream and cinnamon biscuit.
The students tucked in and polished off every morsel â€“ and they loved when Paul, who is naturally shy, came out and shared his advice and experience of the highs and lows of the restaurant business with them.
Next we sped towards Cork to visit the indomitable Frank Hederman to learn the secrets of smoking fish at his traditional smokehouse at Belvelly near Cobh. Frank has built up an enviable reputation for his artisanal products, salmon, eel, mackerel, sprats, mussels, herrings, hakeâ€¦ and now sells not only in the Cork, Temple Bar and Midleton Farmers Markets, but in other selected outlets around the country and Fortnum and Masonâ€™s in the UK, and he exports to Germany. Yet another example of an artisanal producer who has helped to enhance the image of Irish food abroad .
No culinary education is complete without a visit to the Cork Market, this food lovers paradise continues to gather momentum. It is unique, the only covered market of its type in Ireland, open 6 days a week. A recent annex to Toby Simondâ€™s Olive Stall run by Jenny Rose and situated opposite Oâ€™Connells fish stall, sells fat juicy sandwiches made with ciabatta, delicious salads, tapenade, couscous and other goodies.
The Organic stall owned by Mark Oâ€™Mahony sells a wide range of organic products, some fresh vegetables and organic meat butchered by Willie Beechinor. They are situated in the middle aisle opposite Mary Rose Dalyâ€™s new coffee shop â€˜Coffee Centraleâ€™ and close to Mr Bellâ€™s ethnic ingredients stall and Isobel Sheridanâ€™s treasure house of gastronomic temptations â€˜On the Pigs Backâ€™. Mary Rose, one of the markets best loved characters, dispenses latte, expressos and cappuccinos with great good humour and aplomb.
I just love showing the students around the market â€“ showing them the skirts and tripe, kidneys, pigs tails, corned beef and telling them about the history of Cork which has been a trading port back to the time of the Phoenicians. I wonder whether Cork people realise that they are the envy of food lovers all over he country with the variety of produce they have access to, from Paul Murphyâ€™s selection of Irish honeys to fine fresh meat, fish, fruit, vegetables, cheeses, breads, cakes, nuts, grains. It was unbearably tempting, so laden with bags we headed for the Long Valley for a little sustenance before we headed back to Shanagarry for a delicious market supper.
Paul Flynn from the Tannery has generously shared some of his delicious recipes with us.
The Tannery Restaurant, 10 Quay Street, Dungarvan, Co Waterford, 058 45420
Tannery Parsnip and coconut soup
- serves 4 - 6
1 medium onion chopped
10 medium parsnips peeled and chopped
3 sticks celery
1 teasp Singapore laksa paste
Â½ teasp curry powder
1 standard tin coconut milk
2 pints (1.2L) chicken stock
1 tablespoon honey
salt and pepper to season
few sprigs coriander to garnish
Sweat the onion, curry powder and paste for two to three minutes until the onion is transparent. Add the parsnips and celery and sweat again for another two to three minutes. Add the stock and simmer for 20 minutes or until the parsnips are cooked through. Add the coconut milk and cook for a further two minutes. Blitz with a hand held blender, add the honey and season with salt pepper. Garnish with coriander
Paul Flynnâ€™s Cinnamon biscuits
150g (5 oz) flour
115g (4Â¼ oz) butter
50g (2oz) castor sugar
115g (4Â¼) brown sugar
2 Â½ teasp. cinnamon powder
Beat the sugar and butter until creamy and white. Add the egg. Fold in the
flour. Chill for at least an hour.
Roll out and cut into desired shapes. Bake at 180C (350F/regulo 4) for 10 to 12 minutes until golden but still softish. They will completely crispen up when cold.
Serve with Caramel Ice-cream or on their own with a cup of tea.
Ballymaloe Caramel Ice-cream with Caramel Sauce and Bananas
Instead of bananas you could also try this ice-cream with poached apples and Paulâ€™s cinnamon biscuits
50g (2 oz) sugar
125 ml (4 fl.oz) cold water
125 ml (4 fl.oz) hot water
2 egg yolks, preferably free range
Â½ teaspoon pure vanilla essence
600 ml (1 pint) softly whipped cream
Put the egg yolks into a bowl and whisk until light and fluffy (keep the whites for meringues). Combine the sugar and 125 ml (4 fl. oz) cold water in a small heavy bottomed saucepan. Stir over a gentle heat until the sugar is completely dissolved, then remove the spoon and boil until the syrup caramelises to a chestnut brown. Quickly pour on 125 ml (4 fl oz) of hot water. Do not stir. Boil gently until it again becomes a smooth, thick syrup and reaches the â€˜threadâ€™ stage, 106-113C/223-236F. It will look thick and syrupy when a spoon is dipped in. Pour this boiling syrup onto the egg yolks. Add the vanilla essence and continue to whisk until it becomes a thick, creamy mousse. Fold the softly whipped cream into the mousse, pour into a bowl, cover and freeze.
225 g (8oz) sugar
75ml (3 fl oz) cold water
250 ml (8 fl.oz) hot water
2 bananas, sliced
Dissolve the sugar in 75 ml (3fl.oz) of cold water over a gentle heat. Stir until all the sugar has dissolved, then remove the spoon and continue to simmer until the syrup caramelises to a pale-chestnut colour. If sugar crystals form during cooking, brush down the sides of the pan with a wet brush, but do not stir.
Remove from the heat, pour in 250 ml (8 fl.oz) of hot water and continue to cook until the caramel dissolves and the sauce is quite smooth.
Allow to get cold.
To Serve: Scoop the ice-cream into a chilled bowl or ice bowl. Slice the bananas at an angle and add to the sauce. Spoon over the ice-cream or serve separately.
Caramel Sauce keeps almost indefinitely in a glass jar in the fridge or any cold place.