The whole artisan beer scene is going into orbit in Ireland. At present there are 14 or 15 craft brewers and the public, bored with the usual offerings, canâ€™t get enough of it. These beers are incredibly diverse, some with citrus notes, others with a distinct hint of chocolate or bitter caramel. Just like the farmhouse cheeses, I always imagine that they reflect the personality of the brewers, eclectic feisty hand made beers with real character and flavour.
With an alcohol content of between 4 and 6 percent many are best drunk with food or enjoyed leisurely as you read the daily newspapers.
At one time in Ireland we had a vibrant regional beer industry with each town or country proud to drink their own beer. Our local brew, Perrys Ale was made in Rathdowney in Co Laois. Strangmanâ€™s Brewery in Waterford made a light beer with was enjoyed by the pupils at Newtown School in Waterford until it became quite the wrong thing for Quakers to have anything to do with beer! The tradition died out in the 20th Century as the larger brewers grew at expense of the independent brewers.
This week as part of the 12 week Certificate Course students school tour we visited the 8 Degree Brewery in Mitchelstown. There we found â€˜two cocky foreign guysâ€™ as Cameron Wallace from Australia and Scott Baigent from New Zealand describe themselves, having lots of fun making beer and jolly good it is too.
They were both lured to Ireland by their Irish wives. Scott, an ex-engineer is married to a past Ballymaloe Cookery School student and well known blogger, Caroline Hennessy â€“ see www.Bibliocook.com
Cameron Wallace is an ex accountant, both were perplexed at the lack of choice on the beer scene in Ireland. As they travelled they did lots of research and eventually decided that brewing appealed to both of them, lots of piping and some paperwork â€“ perfect!
They made a plan, did lots of home brewing, headed off to Germany to The Brewing Institute in Berlin, found a great warehouse outside Mitchelstown and started to brew. They managed to buy some great kit from the well established Carlow Brewery who was up scaling. All they needed was good malting barley, some hop pellets and a spirit of adventure and fun which they have in spades.
Last Easter they launched at the Franciscan Brewery in Cork and have already developed a cult following and are now available in 65 outlets.
So far there are three – Howling Gale, Knockmealdown Porter and Sunburnt Irish Red created for the Red Head Festival at Cronins in Crosshaven.
At a recent Slow Food feast in Oâ€™Briens Chop House in Lismore, 8 Degree beer was served side by side with Dungarvan beers made by Cormac Oâ€™Dwyer and Tom Dalton with their partners Jen and Claire. We drank little shots of their Blackrock Stout with chef Robbie Krawczykâ€™s Native oysters and Smoked Blackwater Salmon, a delicious combination.
We also enjoyed crispy pigs tails with sauce Gribiche. And breast of wild wood pigeon on smoked potato purÃ©e. Beef ribs from local butcher Michael McGrath were also fantastic and there was bone marrow and tongue fritters for the adventurous â€“ all delicious.
Dan Hegarty who makes that really good cloth bound Hegartyâ€™s cheddar on the family farm in Whitechurch was also with us, to share and regale us with stories of his cheese-making adventure.
Cheese and the artisan beer was a terrific pairing and those who still had a little space tucked into large helpings of Justinâ€™s sloe gin trifle, itâ€™s a wonder we went home at all!
Scampi or Deep-Fried Prawns with Tartare Sauce
Scampi was the ‘must have’ starter of the 60’s and 70’s, utterly delicious when made with fresh prawns, sadly nowadays it is more often a travesty made with inferior soggy frozen prawns.
very fresh Dublin Bay prawns, peeled
beer batter, see below
tartare sauce (see recipe)
Preheat the oil to 180Â°C/350Â°F in a deep fry.
I sometimes dispense with the water and just use beer.
Produces a crisp coating for fish
250g (9 oz/) self raising flour
good pinch of salt
4 fl ozs (110ml) beer Howling Gale or Helvick Gold Blonde Ale
6 – 8 fl ozs (175 â€“ 225ml) cold water
First make the batter; sieve the flour and salt into a bowl. Make a well in the centre and gradually whisk in the beer and water.
Just before serving dip the very fresh prawns individually in the batter and deep fry in hot oil until crisp and golden. Drain on kitchen paper. Serve immediately with a little bowl of tartare sauce and a segment of lemon.
This classic is great with deep-fried fish, shellfish or fish cakes. Tartare sauce will keep for 5â€“6 days in a fridge, but omit the parsley and chives if you want to keep it for more than a day or two. A quick tartare sauce can be made by adding the extra ingredients into a homemade mayonnaise at the end.
2 organic egg yolks, hardboiled
2 organic egg yolks, raw
1â„4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
225ml (8fl oz) extra virgin olive oil and 125ml (4fl oz) sunflower oil, mixed together
1 teaspoon capers, chopped
1 teaspoon gherkins, chopped
2 teaspoons chives, chopped
1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
salt and freshly ground pepper
lemon juice, optional
Take the hardboiled eggs and remove the yolks from the whites. Sieve the hardboiled egg yolks into a bowl and add the raw egg yolks, Dijon mustard and vinegar. Mix well and whisk in the oil drop by drop, increasing the volume as the mixture thickens. When all the oil has been absorbed, add the capers, gherkins, chives and parsley. Roughly chop the hardboiled egg white and fold it gently into the base with salt, freshly ground pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice if necessary.
Irish Beef and Dungarvan Blackrock Stout Stew
This kind of recipe belongs to the newer tradition of Irish cooking, using some of our best ingredients. It makes a wonderful gutsy stew which tastes even better a day or two later.
900g (2 lbs (900g) lean Irish stewing beef
3 tablespoons oil
2 tablespoons flour
salt and freshly ground pepper and a pinch of cayenne.
2 large onions (10oz/285g) approx.
1 large clove garlic, crushed optional
2 tablespoons tomato puree dissolved in 4 tablespoons water
1 bottle Dungarvan Blackrock Stout (300ml)
lb (225g) carrots cut into chunks
Trim the meat of any fat or gristle, cut into 2 inch (5cm) cubes, toss in a bowl with 1 tablespoon oil. Season the flour with salt freshly ground pepper and a pinch or two of cayenne, toss the meat in this mixture.
Heat the remaining oil in a wide frying pan over a high heat; brown the meat on all sides. Add the coarsely chopped onion, crushed garlic and tomato puree to the pan, cover and cook for about 5 minutes. Transfer the contents of the pan to a casserole, deglaze the frying pan with some of the stout, bring to the boil and stir to dissolve the caramelised meat juices on the pan, add to the meat with the remaining stout, add the carrots cut into chunks. Stir, taste and add a little more salt if necessary. Cover with the lid of the casserole, simmer very gently until the meat is tender – 2-3 hours.
The stew may be cooked on top of the stove or in a low oven 150C/300F/regulo 2. Taste and correct the seasoning. This stew can of course be eaten the moment it is cooked but tastes even better if cooked a day or two ahead. Scatter with lots of chopped parsley and serve with Champ, Colcannon or plain boiled potatoes.
Oyster and Stout Beef Pie
Oysters have an affinity with many Irish ingredients, of which Irish beef is one.
12 oysters, shells removed, juices strained and reserved
2 tablespoons plain flour
salt, freshly ground black pepper
700g/1Â½lb stewing beef, in 1in cubes
2 tablespoons sunflower oil
1-2 onions, finely chopped
225g/8oz mushrooms, sliced
425ml/15fl.oz Stout â€“ Dungarvan Blackrock or Knockmealdown Porter
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
200g/7oz puff pastry
First open the oysters and shake off the excess. Season the flour with salt and pepper. Toss the beef in the flour. Heat the oil in a large, heavy frying pan. Once the oil is hot, add the beef to the pan a little at a time and seal. (Be careful not to overcrowd the pan as this will only create a stewing process.) Remove the beef from the pan.
Fry the onions and mushrooms until soft and then return the meat to the pan. Add the Dungarvan Blackrock Stout or Knockmealdown Porter, Worcestershire sauce and the oyster juices. Season with salt and pepper. Mix gently, cover and simmer until the meat is tender (about 1Â½ hours). Remove from the heat, add the oysters, stir gently and allow to cool completely. Preheat the oven to 230ÂºC/400ÂºF/gas mark 6.
Grease a deep pie dish. Pour the cold mixture into the pie dish. Cover with the pastry lid, leave a slight overhang around the edge of the dish. Crimp the edges and cut an air vent in the centre of the pastry and decorate with pastry leaves.
Bake in the pre-heated oven for 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to 180ÂºC/350ÂºF/gas mark 4. Bake for a further 30 minutes until the meat is heated through and pastry cooked.
Serve with a green salad.
Knockmealdown Porter Cake
The porter, be it Guinness or Murphy, plumps up the fruit and gives it a very distinctive taste. If you can manage to hide it away, this cake keeps really well. Serves about 20
225g (8oz) butter
225g (8oz) golden caster sugar
300ml (1â„2 pint) Knockmealdown Porter
zest of 1 orange
225g (8oz) sultanas
225g (8oz) raisins
110g (4oz) mixed peel
450g (1lb) white flour
1 level teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
2 teaspoons mixed spice
110g (4oz) cherries, halved
3 organic eggs
23cm (9in) round tin, lined with silicone paper
Preheat the oven to 180Â°C/350Â°F/ gas mark 4.
Melt the butter, caster sugar and stout in a saucepan. Add the orange zest and the fruit and peel (except the cherries). Bring the mixture to the boil for 3â€“4 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from the heat and leave to cool until it is lukewarm.
Sieve the flour, bicarbonate of soda and mixed spice into a mixing bowl. Add the fruit mixture to the flour and add the cherries. Whisk the eggs; add them gradually, mixing evenly through the mixture.
Bake in the oven for about 1 hour and 10 minutes. If you wish, when the cake is cooked, you can pour 4 tablespoons of stout over it. Keep for 2â€“3 days before cutting.
Slow Food East Cork event – Spectacular Cakes for Christmas
with Pamela Black at Ballymaloe Cookery School on Wednesday November 16th at 7.00pm. Lots of special techniques and decorating tips. Slow Food Membersã€€â‚¬35.00 – Non Slow Food Members â‚¬40.00 Proceeds to the East Cork Slow Food Educational Project. Booking Essential onã€€021 4646785ã€€or firstname.lastname@example.org
The Ballymaloe International Poetry Prize
in conjunction with the Moth Magazine – entries close on 31st December 2011 so stir up those creative juices to pen a winning poem â€“ the first prize is â‚¬2,000.00â€¦
The competition is open to everyone, and will be judged by Matthew Sweeney, whose most recent collection was shortlisted for The Irish Times/Poetry Now Awardã€€and the T. S. Eliot Prize. Go to
www.themothmagazine.com for details on how to enter.
Farmhouse Cheeses of Ireland â€“ A Celebration by Glynn Anderson and John McLaughlin
â€“ Ireland Farmhouse Cheeses win top prizes in cheese shows all over the world yet many of us are hard pressed to name more than 4 or 5. There are over 60 to choose from – cow, goat, sheep and buffalo milk cheeses from all four corners of the island â€“ at last a book to catalogue and celebrate the achievement of Farmhouse Cheese- makers who have helped to change and enhance the image of Irish Food both at home and abroad. Published by The Collins Press