First of the Goats Cheese

Wandering through the English Market in Cork the other day I saw the first of the little Min Gabhar, the sublime Goats cheese made by Luc and Ann van Kampen in Co Wexford. This signalled the beginning of this year’s goat cheese season. The Min Gabhar is a sister cheese of Croghan
Luc and Ann have 100 goats (British Saanen, British Alpine, Anglo Nubian and Toggenburg) and make cheese from March to November, though they started a bit earlier this year because the goats started kidding immediately after Christmas
The Min Gabhar rolled in cinders is quite exquisite. They are also producing a fresh cheese in rolls, as yet this is only available through Sheridans Cheese Shop in South Anne St, Dublin and locally in Co. Wexford. Luc and Anne have won numerous prizes, including Silver and Bronze at the British Cheese Awards in 2001, best overall farmhouse cheese at IFEX in Belfast in 1999, 3 overall prizes at IFEX in 1996 – in fact they nearly always win a prize in any show they enter. Luc prefers to eat them on their own or with a glass of fruity red wine, but they may be used in countless recipes too.
St Tola and Lough Caum from Inagh were originally created by the much loved farmhouse cheesemakers, Meg and Derek Gordon.
In a remarkably successful transition, Meg and Derek have initiated John McDonald into the art of cheesemaking. The St Tola log which comes charmingly wrapped in a piece of net like your Granny’s dance frock, has won a place in the hearts of all goat cheese lovers.
Up to relatively recently, Irish people in general, weren’t great chevre fans, but now goat cheese salad, pasta, croquettes and soufflés are all hot items on restaurant and dinner party menus.
The quality of Irish goat cheese is fantastically good – still too many chefs opt for the cheaper imported French or Dutch log just because its cheaper. Next time you order a goat cheese salad in a restaurant, ask if its Irish goat cheese, chefs should highlight the name of the Irish cheese on their menu and serve them proudly, to support the farmhouse cheesemakers and to educate their customers.
At Ballymaloe we’re fortunate that our local goat cheese makers staggered the kidding so we have the creamy Ardsallagh goad cheese virtually year round. Jane Murphy knows each of her 200 goats by name and was in a great state of excitement last week when one of her Nubian goats had just kidded. It takes about ten litres of goats milk to make just over a kilo of goat cheese.
Ardsallagh is available from the Midleton Farmers Market and selected shops countrywide.
Celebrate the new goat cheese season this weekend and have fun with one or two of these recipes.
Ardsallagh Goat Cheese – Tel. 021-4882336
Inagh Farmhouse Cheese – Tel 065-6836633
Croghan & Min Gabhar Cheese – Tel -053-27331

Goat Cheese and Thyme Leaf Souffle

Serves 6
We bake this souffle until golden and puffy in a shallow oval dish instead of the traditional souffle bowl, it makes a perfect lunch or supper dish.
90g (3oz) butter
40g (1½ oz) flour
300ml (½ pint) cream
300ml (½ pint) milk
a few slices of carrot
sprig of thyme, a few parsley stalks and a little scrap of bay
1 small onion, quartered
5 free range eggs, separated
110g (4oz) crumbled goat cheese, we use St. Tola or Ardsallagh goat cheese
85g (3oz) Gruyere cheese
55g (2oz) mature Coolea or Desmond farmhouse cheese (Parmesan – Parmigiano Reggiano or Regato may also be used)
a good pinch of salt, cayenne, freshly ground pepper and nutmeg
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
Garnish: Thyme flowers if available
12 inch (30cm) shallow oval dish (not a souffle dish)
Preheat the oven to 230C/450G/regulo 8
Brush the bottom and sides of the dish with melted butter.
Put the cream and milk into a saucepan, add a few slices of carrot, a quartered onion, 4 or 5 peppercorns and the fresh herbs. Bring slowly to the boil and allow to infuse for 10 minutes. Strain and discard the flavourings, (we rinse them off and throw them into the stockpot if there is one on the go.)
Melt the butter, add the flour and cook for a minute or two. Whisk in the strained cream and milk, bring to the boil and whisk until it thickens. Cool slightly. Add the egg yolks, goat cheese, Gruyere and most of the Coolea or Desmond (or Parmesan if using.) Season with salt, freshly ground pepper, cayenne and nutmeg. Taste and correct seasoning. Whisk the egg whites stiffly and fold them gently into the mixture to make a loose consistency. Put the mixture into the prepared dish, scatter the thyme leaves on top and sprinkle with the remaining Coolea or Desmond cheese.
Cook for 12-15 minutes, or until sides and top are nicely puffed up and golden, the centre should still be creamy. Garnish with thyme flowers.
Serve immediately on warm plates with a good green salad.

Ardsallagh Goat Cheese with Roast Pepper, Rocket Leaves, and Tapenade Oil

Serves 5
10ozs (285g) Ardsallagh goat cheese (or a similar fresh mild goat cheese)
seasoned flour
beaten egg
flaked almonds
white breadcrumbs
2 large red peppers
Extra virgin olive oil
Tapenade Oil
110g (4ozs) stoned black olives
1 scant tablespoon capers
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Freshly ground pepper
170ml (6fl.ozs) olive oil
A selection of lettuces and rocket leaves
4 tablesp. extra virgin olive oil
1 tablesp. Balsamic vinegar
½ clove garlic crushed
salt and freshly ground pepper
Wild garlic flowers in season
First divide the Ardsallagh goat cheese into 25 balls, chill.
Next make the Tapenade oil
Coarsely chop the stoned black olives, add the freshly squeezed lemon juice.
Whisk in the olive oil as you whiz and process to a coarse or smooth puree as you prefer.
Coat the cheese in seasoned flour, beaten egg, flaked almonds, breadcrumbs. Arrange in a single layer on a flat plate. Cover and chill well.
Roast the peppers in a preheated oven 200°C/400°F/gas mark 6 for approximately 20 minutes. Put into a bowl, cover the top with cling film and allow to steam for 5 or 10 minutes. Peel, remove seeds and cut into strips.
Next make the dressing Whisk all the ingredients together in a bowl.
Heat the oil in a deep fry or a pan to 200°C
Fry the goat cheese croquettes in batches until crisp and golden. Drain on kitchen paper.
Toss the lettuces and salad leaves in a bowl with just enough dressing to make the leaves glisten.
Divide between the six plates. Put five croquettes on each plate, decorate with strips of roast red pepper, rocket leaves and a drizzle of Tapenade oil.
Scatter some wild garlic flowers over the top and serve immediately

Crispy Hot Goat Cheese Salad with Beetroot Julienne

Serves 4
2 small goat cheese or 4 slices 1 inch (2.5cm) thick cut from a log
seasoned flour
white breadcrumbs
frizzy lettuces and salad leaves eg. golden marjoram, purslane, sorrel leaves, chive flowers, sprigs of chervil
Vinaigrette made from:
3 tablesp. walnut oil
1 tablesp. peanut oil
2 teasp. Dijon mustard
1 tablesp. wine vinegar
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 large or 2 small beetroot peeled and cut into julienne or very thin rounds
oil for deep frying
Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/regulo 6.
Wash and dry the lettuces. Mix all the ingredients for the vinaigrette. Dip the pieces of cheese, first in seasoned flour and then in crumbs, dab with a little walnut or olive oil and place on a baking sheet. Bake in a hot oven for 8-10 minutes or until the breadcrumbs are golden.
Cut the beetroot into julienne or into very thin rounds, toss in cornflour and deep fry until crisp at 150°C/300°F/regulo 2.
Drain on kitchen paper, keep warm.
Toss the frizzy lettuce and salad leaves in a little dressing - use just enough to make the leaves glisten.
To serve:
Divide the salad between 4 plates, put a crispy cheese in the centre of each, garnish with crispy beetroot julienne, a few fresh walnut halves and some sprigs of chervil.

Goat Cheese and Rocket Bruschetta with Tomato and Chilli Jam

Serves 1
Italian bread or a ¾ inch slice of good quality French stick
1 clove garlic, peeled
Extra virgin olive oil
Rocket leaves
Fresh goat’s cheese eg. Ardsallagh, Croghan or St Tola
Tomato and Chilli Jam (see recipe)
A few olives
Just before serving chargrill or toast the bread. Rub the surface with a clove of garlic, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Drop a few rocket leaves over the bruschetta, top generously with goat cheese. Drizzle with Tomato and Chilli Jam.
Pop onto a large plate, add a few olives and some freshly cracked pepper.
Serve immediately.
Variation: Tapenade is great with this brushchetta also.
Tomato and Chilli Jam
This zingy jam is great with everything from fried eggs to cold meat. Terrific on a piece of chicken breast or fish or spread on bruschetta with goat’s cheese and rocket leaves.
500g (1lb 2oz) very ripe tomatoes
2-4 red chillies
4 cloves of garlic, peeled
about 2.5cm (1inch) piece of fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
30ml (1fl oz) fish sauce (Nam Pla)
300g (11oz) golden castor sugar
100ml (3½fl oz) red wine vinegar
Peel the tomatoes and chop into 1cm (2 inch) dice. Puree the chillies, garlic, ginger and fish sauce in a blender. Put the purée, sugar and vinegar into a stainless steel saucepan, add the tomatoes and bring to the boil slowly, stirring occasionally. Cook gently for 30-40 minutes, stirring every now and then to prevent sticking.
When cooked pour into warmed, sterilized glass jars. Allow to cool. Store in the fridge.

About the author

Darina Allen
By Darina Allen


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