Glebe Brethan farmhouse cheese wins Gold Medal

G
David and Mairead are intrigued by the cheesemaking process and to see the potential of Glebe Brethan named after Baothan or Brethan, founder of the fifth century monastery in what was known as Lannleire, now Dunleer.

David and Mairead Tiernan won several major awards for their Glebe Brethan farmhouse cheese, last year. In June they won a gold medal at the World Cheese Awards. They were thrilled and just recovering from the excitement when they scooped another gold medal for the Best New Cheese at the prestigious British Cheese Awards in August, the 2006 Eurotoques Cavan Crystal Award and the 2006 Bridgestone Guides Megabytes Award followed – not bad for a chap who would scarcely let a bit of cheese pass his lips 2 years earlier – it’s a great story. 
David and Mairead are fourth generation dairy farmers. They farm 100 acres near Dunleer in Co Louth. Originally they had Holstein/Friesian cows but in 1995 they became interested in the Montbeliarde breed from the Jura region in Eastern France, so they headed off to Besançon to visit a third level dairy college Ecole Nationale d’Industrie Laitiereet des Biotechnologies de Besançon, which teaches cheesemaking, butter making etc. They visited a local dairy farm and were welcomed into the farmhouse to share a family meal around the kitchen table with the Rognon family. Their hosts were warm and hospitable, the meal was followed by a cheese course - David hated cheese but rather than appear ungracious he nibbled a piece of the local Compté cheese, just one of the mountain cheeses made in that area. 
To his amazement he really enjoyed the experience. His hosts told him that the cheese was made in the time-honoured way by their son Cristel from the milk of the Montbeliarde cows which are looked after by his twin brother, and aged in the local caves on pine boards at exactly 12º. 

The farmers in that area move their cows up to the higher pastures in the Summer to feed on the wild herbs and grasses at the higher altitude. The cows were often milked in the fields and the cheese made on the spot. This type of cheese was traditionally made in big wheels. The milk is heated to 55º which produces a thermophilic cheese which ages beautifully to a rich sometimes nutty buttery flavour. David became fascinated. He was convinced that if he enjoyed this cheese so would 80% or more of the Irish people who, he believes, like himself enjoy plain food.

He and his wife Mairead chatted and the germ of an idea grew. Why not add extra value to his milk by making a farmhouse cheese – great idea but he hadn’t the first idea how to go about it. He contacted the Rognons in France again who put them in touch with a dairy student Julien, a friend of their son Cristel, he was looking for work on a farm making cheese, he helped them get started. Julien spent most of the summer on the farm, he helped them source secondhand equipment and moulds, not only was this cheaper but it was also impregnated with the exact bacteria needed for a Comté cheese. They made their first cheese in July 2004 and waited anxiously until the following Christmas to taste the results.

It takes 1,000 gallons of milk to produce two 50 kilo cheeses. Each day’s production is different, depending on the season, the pasture, the mood of the cows. David decided to make the cheese only from the Summer milk when the cows are grazing on lush grass, cheese made from cows fed on silage is nothing like so interesting or nutritionally complex. David has been greatly encouraged by the reaction to his cheese. He sells it to selected cheese shops, and has been sending some to Myrtle Allen for the cheeseboard in Ballymaloe House for since last Spring.

His biggest problem is to keep up with the demand. When he and Mairead came down to the Cookery School recently at my invitation to tell the story about their cheese, we tasted the very last piece of his mature cheese. We must now wait for another few weeks for some more.
David has noticed that he has two distinct markets for his cheese. One group loves the milder flavour of the younger cheese, others drool over the nutty flavour of the mature cheese. Both cheeses retail for €26 a kilo at the Farmers Markets.
David and Mairead are intrigued by the cheesemaking process and to see the potential of Glebe Brethan named after Baothan or Brethan, founder of the fifth century monastery in what was known as Lannleire, now Dunleer.

Cheese Souffle Tart with Summer Herbs

Serves 6-8
6oz (175g) approx. Shortcrust or flaky pastry 
Filling
1 oz (25g) butter
½ oz (15g) flour
5 fl.oz (150ml) milk
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
pinch of cayenne pepper
1-2 teasp. freshly chopped herbs eg. chervil, thyme and parsley

3 ozs (85g) grated cheese, eg. 2 ozs (55g) gruyere and 1 oz (30g) parmesan or 3 ozs (85g) cheddar
2 egg yolks, beaten
2 egg whites

7 inch (18cm) flan ring

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/regulo 6. Line the flan ring with pastry. Bake blind for 20-25 minutes in a moderate oven until almost fully cooked.
Melt the butter and stir in the flour. Whisk in the milk and bring to the boil. Season with salt, freshly ground pepper, a pinch of cayenne and the herbs. Cook gently for 4-5 minutes. Then stir in the grated cheese and beaten egg yolks. Allow the mixture to cool and then fold in 2 stiffly whipped egg whites, pour this mixture into the pastry case and bake for 12-15 minutes until risen and brown on top.
Serve immediately with a nice green salad or a tomato salad.

Coolea Cheese and Leek Fritters

Makes 25 approx. depending on size.
400g (14oz) leek, trimmed and thinly sliced
25g (1oz) butter
200g (7oz) flour
2 eggs, free-range and organic
250ml (scant 8 fl ozs) milk
200g (7oz) mature Coolea farmhouse cheese, freshly grated
salt and freshly ground pepper
chilli pepper
freshly grated nutmeg

Melt the butter, add the thinly sliced leeks, cover and sweat on a gentle heat until soft but not coloured, 5 minutes approx. Cool.
Put the flour into a bowl, make a well in the centre, add in the eggs, break up with a whisk. Add the milk gradually, whisking all the time in a circular movement from the centre to the outside of the bowl. Add the cooled leeks and the grated cheese. Season with salt, freshly ground pepper, chilli pepper and nutmeg to taste.
Heat a frying pan, preferably non-stick, on a medium heat. Drop a small spoonful of the batter onto the pan, allow to cook until golden on one side, flip over onto the other and cook for a minute or two more. Taste and correct the seasoning if necessary. 
Cook the remainder in the same way. Serve hot on their own or with a little Tomato and Chilli Sauce or Tomato Fondue.

Macaroni Cheese

Serves 6
Macaroni cheese is one of my grandchildren's favourite supper dishes. We often add some cubes of cooked bacon or ham to the sauce with the cooked macaroni.

8 ozs (225g) macaroni
6 pints (3.4L) water
2 teaspoons salt

2 ozs (55g) butter
2 ozs (55g) white flour, preferably unbleached
1½ pints (850ml) boiling milk
 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon freshly chopped parsley, (optional)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
5 ozs (145g) grated mature Cheddar 

1 x 2 pint (1.1L) capacity pie dish

Bring a large pot of water to the boil, add the salt. Sprinkle in the macaroni and stir to make sure it doesn't stick together. Cook until just soft, 10-15 minutes approx. drain well. 
Meanwhile melt the butter, add in the flour and cook on a medium heat, stirring occasionally for 1-2 minutes. Remove from the heat. Whisk in the milk gradually; bring back to the boil, stirring all the time. Add the mustard, parsley if using and cheese, season with salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Add the cooked macaroni, bring back to the boil, taste, correct seasoning and serve immediately. 
Macaroni cheese reheats very successfully provided the pasta is not overcooked in the first place, it is very good served with cold meat particularly ham.

Top Tip: Macaroni soaks up an enormous amount of sauce. Add more sauce if making ahead to reheat later.

Macaroni Cheese with Smoked Salmon
Add 4 ozs (110 g) of smoked salmon pieces to the macaroni cheese.

Macaroni Cheese with Mushrooms and Courgettes
Add 8 ozs (225 g) sliced sautéed mushrooms and 8 ozs (225 g) sliced courgettes cooked in olive oil with a little garlic and marjoram or basil and add to the Macaroni cheese. Toss gently, turn into a hot serving dish and scatter with grated cheese – delish.

Cooks Book
The Hairy Bikers Ride Again – published by Penguin Michael Joseph
Dave Myers and Si King are back, carving up the roads of the world on their motorbikes in search of adventurous food and foodie adventures. As usual, they take with them their unique blend of natural charm, northern humour and infectious enthusiasm for new countries, people and experiences and they cause much confusion and amusement wherever they go. This, their second book is full of their travelling tales, bizarre anecdotes and, of course, their wonderful laid back food. This is one of the recipes they came across in Belgium.
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Cheese Croquettes

Makes 12 croquettes and serves 6
These are very similar to shrimp croquettes and sometimes at Belgian restaurants you can have one shrimp and one cheese instead of two of the same. The mixture has to sit in the fridge overnight so give yourself plenty of time. Great for vegetarians.

For the croquettes
75g unsalted butter
100g plain flour
350ml milk
100g Parmesan cheese, grated
100g Emmental, grated
100g Gruyere, grated
3 egg yolks 
½ teaspoon white pepper
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
A pinch of cayenne pepper

For the coating
3 egg whites
100g plain flour
100g dried white breadcrumbs

Vegetable oil for deep-frying
Lettuce leaves, to serve
Deep-fried curly parsley, to serve

Melt the the butter in a saucepan over a medium heat, add the flour and mix like Fatboy Slim in the zone for a couple of minutes, keeping the mixture moving around the base of the pan. Whisk in the milk slowly and carry on whisking for 3 minutes until smooth and thick. Add the cheeses and stir continuously until it has become a great heavy cheese sauce.
Remove the sauce from the heat and allow to cool slightly. Stir in the egg yolks, one at a time, and then add the white pepper, nutmeg and cayenne pepper. Taste before adding some salt, because, as we have observed before, cheese can be a salty beast.
Line a 23cm square cake tin with clingfilm and pour in the mixture, spreading it evenly. Refrigerate overnight to set.
Next day, cut out sausage-sized rectangles of the mixture and roll into cylinders. Lightly beat the egg whites until frothy in one bowl. Put the flour in another bowl and the breadcrumbs in another.
Heat the oil in a pan or deep-fat fryer to around 200C.
Dip the cylinders in the flour, then dip into the egg whites. Shake off the excess. Dredge in the breadcrumbs and deep-fry in batches for about 2-3 minutes till golden brown and crisp. Keep the croquettes warm in the oven while you do the rest.
Serve the croquettes on a bed of lettuce leaves with a heap of deep-fried curly parsley. (To deep fry the parsley, plunge it into the oil for 1-2 minutes, remove and drain on a piece of kitchen paper to absorb the excess oil. It will be dark green, crispy and sort of delicious – it’s a Belgian thing!)



Foolproof Food

Cheese Sauce

1 pint (600ml) milk with a dash of cream

a slice of onion
3-4 slices of carrot
6 peppercorns
thyme or parsley
roux 
salt and freshly ground pepper
4 ozs (110g) grated cheese, eg. Cheddar or a mixture of Gruyere, Parmesan and Cheddar
½ teasp. English or Dijon mustard
salt and freshly ground pepper

To make the cheese sauce. Put the cold milk into a saucepan with a slice of onion, 3-4 slices of carrot, 6 peppercorns and a sprig of thyme or parsley. Bring to the boil, simmer for 3-4 minutes, remove from the heat and leave to infuse for 10 minutes. Strain out the vegetables, bring the milk back to the boil and thicken with roux to a light coating consistency. Add 4 ozs (110g) grated cheese and a little mustard. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper, taste and correct the seasoning if necessary 

Roux 

4ozs (110 g) butter
4 ozs (110g) flour

Melt the butter and cook the flour in it for 2 minutes on a low heat, stirring occasionally. Use as required. Roux can be stored in a cool place and used as required or it can be made up on the spot if preferred. It will keep at least a fortnight in a refrigerator.

Hot Tips

Glebe Brethan Cheese is available at The Pigs Back in Cork English Market, URRU in Bandon and Mallow, in Dublin at Cavistons of Glathule, Listons of Camden St., Fallon & Byrne in Exchequer St., Fothergills in Rathmines, Thomas Murphys in Foxrock, Olive in Skerries – at Farmleigh Market, Sonairte in Laytown, Castlewellan in Co Down – other outlets listed on www.glebebrethan.com 

Leitrim Organic Farmers Cooperative Society Ltd – Mobile Organic Butcher, now at Donnybrook Farmers’ Market, St Mary’s Church, Anglesea Road, Dublin 4
Every Thursday 10-4 selling full range of Irish Organic Meat – lamb, beef, poultry, organic pork to order – advance orders 071-9640868 www.leitrimorganic.com 

Greatfood.ie 
For great barbecue recipes and other foodie news info@greatfood.ie

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Darina Allen
By Darina Allen

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