Murray’s Cheese Shop at Grand Central

Grand Central Station Terminal in New York used to be so grotty, paint peeling from the ceiling, a few dingy shops, a 99cent store and a few basic services for commuters like shoe shine stands. Commuters hurried through on the way to the trains, no reason to dally, nothing to distract or amuse if one’s train was delayed.
All that changed radically when the station was painstakingly renovated in the mid-nineties When it reopened in 1998 it was a whole new scene, lots of ‘upscale’ retail outlets to tempt the semi-captive 700,000 commuters who pass through daily. They responded with enthusiasm . Travellers are now building in a little extra time to visit the restaurants and shops.

Murray’s Cheese Shop, Pescatore Seafood company and Koglein German Royal Hams are just three of the speciality food shops within an area called Grand Central Market. . New York cheese guru Rob Kaufeld who runs Murray’s Cheese Shop is one of 90 retailers, food merchants and restaurateurs who have been doing a brisk business at Grand Central Station since it reopened. My daughter Emily spent a Summer’s break ‘chopping cheese’ at Murray’s Cheese Shop. She loved the camaraderie between the stall holders and was greatly amused by the frenetic jewel encrusted New Yorkers dashing in to buy some low fat cheese on the way home – Murrays, quite rightly, didn’t sell any ‘low fat’ cheese so she encouraged them in her soft Irish lilt to buy some Irish farmhouse cheese, perhaps a deliciously pungent Ardrahan or a toothsome wedge of Cashel Blue. Philip Dennhardt worked on the German meat stall next door to Murrays and sold copious quantities of cured meat, sausages and German salad.

This area has become one of the hippest areas to do one’s food shopping in New York. Its so blindingly obvious to site artisan food shops in a busy transit hub. Retailers at Grand Central are delighted with their semi-captive audience. Annual return per square foot in Grand Central Market where rent costs about €200 per square foot is about $2000, as opposed to malls where the return might be $1400 or a shopping centre $500 - $800 per square foot. There are now 22 restaurants to choose from, kids spots like Junior’s Dishes to the recently opened Ciao Bella Gelateria in the lower dining concourse, most like Paninoteca who make great panini, offer take-out only.

The drawback for the traders at Grand Central is that business seems to be almost exclusively tied to office hours and schedules of urban commuters.

Jerry Bocchino of the Pescatore Seafood Company says that 80% of their business is done between 4.30pm and 8pm and weekends are still not where he’d like them to be.

Here are some typical New York recipes From The New York Cookbook by Molly O’Neill –published by Workman Publishing Co. New York. The recipes are written in American cup measurements – 1 cup = 8fl.oz

Eileen’s Honey Walnuts

Eileen Yin-Fei Lo, is a cookbook author and a cooking instructor at The China Institute in New York City – ‘In China, honey walnuts are served with cold platters or sometimes as complementary nibbles for cocktails – many people enjoy them with their afternoon tea.
350g(¾ lb) freshly shelled walnut halves
2 tablespoons sugar
700 – 900ml (24-32 fl.oz /3-4 cups) peanut oil

Bring 900ml-1.2L (1½ - 2pints/4 - 5 cups) of water to the boil in a wok or medium-size saucepan over high heat. Add the walnuts and boil for 5 minutes (to remove the bitter taste). Strain out the walnuts and then run cold water over them. Strain again then return the nuts to the wok.

Add (900ml/32fl.oz/4 cups) of fresh water and bring to a boil. Cook for 5 minutes. Repeat the straining process. Set the nuts aside to drain.

Wash the wok. Then add 50ml(2fl.oz1/3 cups) of cold water. Bring to the boil over a medium-high heat. Add the sugar and boil, constantly stirring, for 1 minute. Add the walnuts. Stir and cook until the walnuts are coated with sugar and the remaining liquid has evaporated.

Remove the walnuts and set aside on a well-greased baking sheet. Wash the wok with extremely hot water to remove the sugar. Dry thoroughly.

Heat the of peanut oil in the wok over a high heat until very hot (you will see a wisp of white smoke). Carefully add the walnuts and fry until golden brown 2 to 3 minutes.

Mardee’s Yogurt Chutney

This chutney makes a great dip for cruditées, topping for rice or baked potatoes, or condiment for grilled meat or fish.
Serves 6

350ml (12fl.oz/1 ½ cups) plain yogurt
2 tablespoons finely chopped white onion
1 tablespoon finely chopped Scallion
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh coriander
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint
½ teaspoon ground cumin
Cardamom seeds from 6 pods
½ teaspoon coarse salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

Whisk the yogurt in a bowl until smooth. Stir in all of the rest of the ingredients, adding more of any to taste. Cover and chill for at least 1 hour to let the flavours develop.

Serve the chutney with grilled fish, chicken, or lamb, as a topping for potatoes or rice or as a spread inside a pita pocket. The chutney keeps for up to 2 weeks if covered tightly and stored in the refrigerator.

Grandma Dora’s Chopped Liver

The secret to this dish is boiling the livers and chopping each ingredient by hand in a wooden bowl or on a chopping board, best served on rye bread.
450g (1lb) chicken livers, cleaned and rinsed
1 white onion, finely chopped
6 hard boiled eggs, peeled and chopped
About 2 tablespoons melted butter (or rendered chicken fat)
Dash of paprika
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste 

Immerse the livers in plenty of boiling water, cover and boil gently until the livers are firm, 5 to 7 minutes. Drain well. Chill in the refrigerator for 40 minutes.

Using a sharp knife, chop the livers to a smooth paste. Using a wooden spoon, mix together half of the liver, onion, and eggs. Add the remaining liver, onion and eggs and stir to combine completely. Add enough of the melted butter to moisten and hold the liver together. Add the paprika. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Zabar’s Scallion Cream Cheese Spread

The bagel is one of New York’s typical brunch favourites, this silky scallion cream cheese spread comes from Zabar’s , Manhattan’s Upper West Side’s famous food emporium. The spread is simple and addictive and can be used as a dip, a spread for croutons or crackers or on top of baked potatoes. Keeps well covered in the refrigerator.
450g (1lb) cream cheese, at room temperature 
125ml (4fl.oz/½ cup) of sour cream
Pinch of salt
Pinch of garlic powder 
75g (3oz/½ cup chopped scallions 

Combine the cream cheese, sour cream, salt and garlic powder in a large bowl and stir until well mixed and smooth. Stir in the scallions. Serve on crackers or toasted bagel rounds. 

Le Cirque’s Crème Brulee

Sirio Macciono of the famous Le Cirque Restaurant in New York adapted this crème brulee from a crema he ate in Spain in 1982, which had a caramelized sugar topping so thick that it had to be broken with a small hammer. This version has a thinner elegant caramel crackle and can be tapped with the most elegant silver spoon.
Serves 8

900ml (32 fl.oz/4 cups) double cream
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
Pinch of salt 
8 large eggs
175g (6ozs (¾ cup plus 2 tablesp.) granulated sugar
8 tablespoons packed light brown sugar

Preheat the oven to 300°F. Place eight cup ramekins in roasting pan.

In a saucepan over low heat combine the cream, vanilla bean and salt. Warm for 5 minutes.
In a large bowl, combine the egg yolks and granulated sugar. Pour in the hot cream and stir gently to combine. Strain the custard into a jug and skim off any bubbles.

Pour the custard into the ramekins, filling them up to the rim. Place the roasting pan in the oven and carefully pour warm water in the pan until it reaches halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Loosely cover the pan with aluminium foil and bake until set, 1 ¾ hours.
Remove the ramekins from the water bath and allow to cool. Cover individually and refrigerate. For at least 3 hours or up to 2 days.

When ready to serve, preheat the grill.

Uncover the ramekins and place them on a baking sheet. Top each with 1 tablespoon of the brown sugar and using a metal spatula or knife spread the sugar evenly over the custards. Grill the custards until the sugar caramelises, 30 seconds to 2 minutes. Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to 4 hours. 

Baked Macaroni and Cheese

This is a great do-ahead dish for a crowd, keeps well and reheats like a dream.
Serves 4-6

1 tablesp. butter
1 tablesp. plain flour
725ml (24/fl.oz/3 cups) milk
1 teasp. salt
dash of freshly ground white pepper
dash of cayenne pepper
225g (8oz) grated Cheddar cheese
225g (8oz) elbow macaroni, fully cooked and drained
110g (4oz/½ cup) tinned tomatoes, drained and chopped
1 teasp.sugar

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas 4. Grease a 1½ quart baking dish.

Melt the butter in a saucepan over a medium-low heat. Whisk in the flour, then add the milk, salt and both peppers. Stir almost constantly until the mixture thickens and is smooth, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the cheese and cook, stirring, until it melts. Remove from the heat.

In a mixing bowl, combine the macaroni and the sauce. Stir in the tomatoes and the sugar. Transfer the macaroni mixture to the greased baking dish. Bake until the surface browns, 30-40 minutes.

Sophie Grigson’s Ruggelach

At one time there were fine bakeries on every street corner in New York, not as many now, but there are still some traditional pastry shops selling handmade pastries like Ruggelach, but Sophie Grigson’s version is my favourite.
Makes 16

110g (4oz) cream cheese
110g (4oz) softened butter
150g (5oz) flour

50g (2oz) pale brown sugar
½ teasp. cinnamon
35g (1½oz) walnuts, finely chopped
25g (1oz) raisins, chopped

1 egg, beaten
castor sugar

Beat the cream cheese vigorously with the butter until well mixed and softened. Gradually beat in the flour. Gather up into a ball and wrap in foil or cling film. Chill for 30 minutes.

Mix the sugar with the cinnamon, walnuts and raisins. On a lightly floured board, roll the pastry out into a 33cm(12 inch) circle. Brush with the beaten egg and sprinkle the filling evenly over the pastry. Cover with a sheet of greaseproof paper and run the rolling pin over it a couple of times to fix the filling firmly into the pastry. Lift off the paper.

Divide the circle up like a cake into 16 triangles. Roll up each one, starting with the wider end, as if you were making a croissant. Arrange on a baking sheet, brush with egg, and sprinkle with castor sugar. Bake at 200C/400F/gas 6 for 12-15 minutes until golden brown. 

Foolproof Food

Blackberry, Apple and Sweet Geranium Jam

All over the countryside every year, blackberries rot on the hedgerows. Think of all the wonderful jam that could be made - so full of Vitamin C! This year organise a blackberry picking expedition while they are still on the brambles.
Blackberries are a bit low in pectin, so the apples help it to set as well as adding extra flavour. If you have some sweet geranium leaves they are a wonderful addition, but it is quite delicious without them.
Makes 9-10 x 450 g/1 lb jars approx.

2.3 kg (5 lbs) blackberries
900 g (2 lbs) cooking apples (Bramley, or Grenadier in season)
1.8 kg (4 lbs) sugar (use (225g) 2 lb less if blackberries are sweet)
150ml (5fl.oz) water
8-10 sweet geranium leaves - optional

Wash, peel and core and slice the apples. Stew them until soft with 150ml (5fl.oz) of water in a stainless steel saucepan; beat to a pulp. Warm the sugar. 

Pick over the blackberries, cook until soft, adding about 100ml (3½ fl.oz) water if the berries are dry. If you like, push them through a coarse sieve to remove seeds. Put the blackberries into a wide stainless steel saucepan or preserving pan with the apple pulp and the heated sugar. Destalk and chop sweet geranium leaves and add to the fruit. Stir over a gentle heat until the sugar is dissolved. 

Boil steadily for about 15 minutes. Skim the jam, test it for a set and pot into warm spotlessly clean jars.

Hot Tips

Slow Food Cork Festival – Food Market in Patrick Street today 10-6 – don’t miss it.
More than 60 artisan food producers from all over Ireland.

Midleton Farmers Market – next Saturday 1st October, Gene Cunningham who sharpens knives will attend – so bring along your kitchen knives if they need sharpening.

Local Producers of Good Food in Cork by Myrtle Allen –

A revised edition of this invaluable little book published by Cork Free Choice Consumer Group is now available - €5 from Liam Ruiseal’s bookshop, Crawford Gallery Café, Ballymaloe Shop or by post from Myrtle Allen at Ballymaloe House for €6 including postage. 

Cork Free Choice Consumer Group meets on the last Thursday of the Month at 7.30pm (excluding December, June, July & August) at the Crawford Gallery Café, admission €6 including tastings. Next meeting Thursday 29th September –Speaker Jean Perry of The Glebe Gardens in Baltimore on Winter Vegetable Gardening – make the most of your polytunnel or glasshouse, harvest and store your crops, saving your seeds and resting your garden until Spring.

Youghal Through the Ages running from 23 September till 2nd October – Heritage programme focussing on ‘the Life and Times of Sir Walter Raleigh’ will feature an Elizabethan Market at Barry’s Lane on Saturday 1st October from 10 – 3, with street entertainment. Programme from Youghal Tourist Office Tel 024-20170 or visit 

Green Festival in the Northwest – 16 - 25 September, celebrating our environment , heritage, culture, food and economy, on – tomorrow Sunday 25th there will be an Organic Fair at the Organic Centre, Rossinver, Co Leitrim – Stalls of food, wines, crafts and much, much more - this is the single biggest organic event in the country and attracts hundred of visitors.  

About the author

Darina Allen
By Darina Allen


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