Artisan Dairy Products


The artisan milk and handmade butter movement is really gathering momentum, it is still minute but boy is it causing a stir.

Many top restaurants are now featuring handmade butter proudly on their tables and at last a growing number of dairy farmers are putting milk back into glass bottles and selling organic milk and butter. I sense the same passion as in the artisan brewing movement and as with the brewers there’s a generosity of spirit and room for many more.

Tom and Sheila Butler have been making Cuinnéog Irish country butter and buttermilk In Shraheens, Balla, Co Mayo since 1990. They won a coveted Great Taste Award in 2011.

Alan and Valerie Kingston from Glenilen Farm in Drimoleague, West Cork are also trail blazers, adding value to their beautiful milk from their Friesian and Jersey cows in a myriad of ways, yoghurt, butter, traditional and clotted cream, strawberry smoothies, cheese cakes, lemon posset and of course freshly pasteurised milk in litre glass bottles.

At Mahon Point Farmers Market, devotees fill their bottles with chilled pasteurised milk or melt chocolate lollipops in hot milk – how fun and gorgeous is that! Using the milk from their herd of fifty five cows in 1997 started to make cheesecakes for the local country markets what started as a hobby continued to grow and has transformed their small farm into a hive of activity which now employs thirty four people.

Alan and Valerie Kingston truly know that it all starts with the quality of the milk so “we treat our cows kindly allowing them to roam, keeping them warm in Winter and never ever over milk them” – a simple but crucial factor in their success.

And like Cuinneog when Bord Bia wanted to give Queen Elizabeth a taste of our most delicious and best, Glenilen Farm milk, butter, cream and crème fraiche was on the menu.


Mark Kingston of Golden Bean uses Glenilen milk for his superb lattes and cappuccinos. The newest enterprise I’ve discovered is Ballymore Farm Organic Dairy near Ballymore in the foothills of the Wicklow Mountains in County Kildare.  Aidan Harney and his wife Mary Davis are the energy and inspiration behind this enterprise. From the milk of their Jersey, Ayrshire and Friesian cows they produce raw organic milk, handmade butter, buttermilk, yoghurt and cream. The graphics reminiscent of Zingermans in Ann Arbor in Michigan or fun and catchy and once again the demand for their products is skyrocketing. At the recent Bord Bia Food promotion in Selfridges in London they were one of many artisan producers who sold out well before the end of the promotion. Contact   for stockists. Organic Mossfield Farm near Birr in Co Offaly have been selling pasteurised organic milk since November last and Ralph Haslam tells me that sales are building all the time.

This growing interest in handmade artisan food products gives farmers the opportunity to add value to their raw material and create much needed local employment.  Linking food with tourism is an obvious growth opportunity for Ireland’s farmers, fishermen, and artisan food producers. Restaurants and food businesses that feature local foods on their menu already experience an increase in business and benefit from the goodwill it generates when they support their local producers.

This was clearly illustrated in the recent Grant Thornston report commissioned by Good Food Ireland on opportunities to link food to tourism.

Sheridans Cheesemongers have experienced a 800% increase in demand for unpasteurised milk since they started to stock it in November 2010.



Yoghurt and Cardamom Cream with Green Gooseberry and Elderflower Compote


Serves 8-10


425ml (15 fl ozs) natural yoghurt

225ml (8 fl ozs) milk

150g (5 ozs) castor sugar

200ml (7 fl ozs) cream

1/4 teaspoon cardamom seeds, freshly ground – you’ll need about 8-10 green cardamom pods depending on size

3 rounded teaspoons powdered gelatine


Green Gooseberry and Elderflower Compote (see recipe)


Put the milk, sugar and cream into a stainless steel saucepan with the ground cardamom, stir until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is warm to the touch. Remove from the heat and leave to sit to infuse while you dissolve the gelatine. Sponge the gelatine in a small bowl with 4 tablespoons of cold water. Put the bowl into a saucepan of simmering water until the gelatine has melted and is completely clear. Add a little of the infused milk mixture and stir well and then mix this into the rest. Beat the yoghurt lightly with a whisk until smooth and creamy, add into the cardamom mixture.


Pour into a well oiled ring mould or 8 individual moulds. Allow to set for several hours, preferably overnight.


To Serve

* To crush cardamom seeds, remove the seeds from 6 or 8 pods and crush the seeds in a pestle and mortar or between 2 sheets of silicone paper with the bottom of a saucepan.


Green Gooseberry and Elderflower Compote


When I’m driving through country lanes in late May or early June, suddenly I spy the elderflower coming into bloom.  Then I know its time to go and search on gooseberry bushes for the hard, green fruit, far too under-ripe at that stage to eat raw, but wonderful cooked in tarts or fools or in this delicious Compote.


Elderflowers have an extraordinary affinity with green gooseberries and by a happy arrangement of nature they are both in season at the same time.


Serves 6-8


2 lbs (900g) green gooseberries

2 or 3 elderflower heads

1 pint (600ml/2 1/2 cups) cold water

1 lb (450g/2 cups) sugar


First top and tail the gooseberries.   Tie 2 or 3 elderflower heads in a little square of muslin, put in a stainless steel or enamelled saucepan, add the sugar and cover with cold water.  Bring slowly to the boil and continue to boil for 2 minutes.   Add the gooseberries and simmer just until the fruit bursts.  Allow to get cold.  Serve in a pretty bowl and decorate with fresh elderflowers.  Serve with elderflower cream (see below).


N.B.  The tart green gooseberries must actually burst otherwise the compote of fruit will be too bitter.



Lemon Posset with Rose Scented Geranium


Serves 4


400ml (14fl oz) double cream

100g (3 1/2oz) caster sugar

5 leaves rose-scented geranium

2 fl oz (50 ml) lemon juice



tiny rose geranium leaves


Place the cream, sugar and rose geranium leaves in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Turn down the heat to low and cook, stirring often, for five minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, squeeze in the lemon juice, strain and allow to cool. Serve in small tall glasses each garnished with a tiny rose geranium leaf.


Bhapa Doi – Steamed Sweetened Yoghurt


So maybe this isn’t exactly a traditional recipe, but steamed puddings are certainly a forgotten skill and I ate the most sublime steamed yoghurt at Kempies restaurant in Calcutta. This isn’t exactly the same, but it is delicious also. I found it in The Calcutta Kitchen by Simon Parkes and Udit Sarkhel.


The sweetness of the condensed milk works wonderfully with the acidity of the plain yoghurt. This creamy, sliceable textured pudding is similar to a crème caramel – one of my favourites.

Serves 8


800g (1lb 12 oz) natural yoghurt

300g (10 1/2oz) sweetened condensed milk

seeds of 6 green cardamom pods

powdered in a mortar and pestle

8-10 saffron strands



Sliced pistachio nuts


Heat some water in a steamer. You could use a bamboo over a wok, but any multi-tiered steamer will work. If you do not have a steamer, upturn a small, metal, flat-bottomed bowl inside a larger pot with a fitting lid. Pour water into this and bring to a simmer. Put the item to be steamed into a suitable dish, cover with clingfilm, and place on the upturned bowl to steam.


Mix the natural yoghurt and other ingredients in a bowl and whisk to incorporate some air but don’t overdo it or the whey will separate. Pour it into 8 small serving bowls. Cover with clingfilm and put in the steamer or on to the upturned bowl. Cover with the lid and steam on a steady simmer for 35-40 minutes.


Carefully remove the bowls and leave to cool. Remove the clingfilm and chill.

Serve chilled, sprinkle with the sliced pistachio nuts.


Crème Caramel with Caramel Shards


Serves 6



8oz (225g/1 cup) sugar

5 fl ozs (150ml) water


Caramel Sauce

2 1/2 fl ozs (60ml) water



1 pint (600ml) milk

4 eggs, preferably free range

2 ozs (50g) castor sugar

vanilla pod or 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (optional)


Caramel Shards (see recipe)


1 x 5 inch (12.5) charlotte mould or 6 x 3 inch (7.5cm) soufflé dishes


First infuse the milk. Put the cold milk into a saucepan and add the vanilla pod if using.  Bring to just under boiling point, cool. Whisk the eggs, castor sugar and vanilla extract (if used) until thoroughly mixed but not too fluffy. Whether you are using a vanilla pod or vanilla extract, the milk must be brought to just under boiling point first.


Allow to cool and infuse for 6-10 minutes. Meanwhile, make the caramel.  Put the sugar and water into a heavy bottomed saucepan and stir over a gentle heat until the sugar is fully dissolved.  Bring to the boil, remove the spoon and cook until the caramel becomes golden brown or what we call a “chestnut” colour.  Do not stir and do not shake the pan.  If sugar crystals form around the side of the pan, brush them down with cold water.  When the caramel is ready for lining the moulds, it must be used immediately or it will become hard and cold.  Coat the bottom of the charlotte mould or soufflé dishes with the hot caramel. Dilute the remainder of the caramel with the 2 1/2 fl ozs (60ml/generous 1/4 cup) of the water, return to the heat to dissolve and keep aside to serve around the caramel custard.


Pour the slightly cooled milk onto the egg mixture, whisking gently as you pour.  Strain and pour into the prepared moulds, filling them to the top.


Place the moulds in a bain-marie of simmering water, cover with a paper lid and bake in a moderate oven 150C/300F/regulo 2, for 35 minutes approx., for individual dishes, 1 hour approx. for a charlotte mould.  Test the custard by putting a skewer in the centre, it will come out clean when the custard is fully cooked.


Cool and turn out onto a round, flat dish or individual plates, put the remaining caramel around.  Serve with a little softly whipped cream.  Decorate with caramel shards (see recipe).



** Please remember to allow the milk to cool before whisking onto the egg yolks otherwise the eggs will curdle.


Caramel Shards


Boil sugar and water to the caramel stage – “chestnut” colour, cool slighty, spoon onto an oiled baking sheet or onto silicone paper.  When cold and crisp, use to decorate the crème caramels.  Bigger pieces may be splintered into shards.


Alternatively, put 4-6 ozs (110-150g/1/2 – 3/4 cup) sugar either granulated or castor into a low sided stainless steel saucepan. Stir continuously over a medium heat until the sugar melts and caramelizes. When it has almost reached the “chestnut” stage, turn off the heat and allow to stand for a few minutes.


Then spoon into shapes as above.




Artisan Charcuterie – Robbie Krawczyk whose food is delighting guests at the Chop House Restaurant in Lismore has another string to his bow. He’s carrying on the Polish charcuterie tradition he learned from his father Frank – enjoy this at the Chop House – look out for his cured meats at the Schull and Skibbereen Farmers Markets. Email Frank for the details of his ‘Pig Out’ charcuterie courses –  – +353 (0)28 28579


Debbie Shaw returns this year with her Feel Good Food for Summer Part 2 one day cookery course at Ballymaloe Cookery School on Saturday 23rd June from 9:30am to 5:00pm “Feel Good Food” courses are designed for anyone who would like to feel more energetic, youthful, healthy and happy. With simple delicious recipes that can be easily introduced into any daily cooking routine – 021 4646785

What could be nicer than having a flourishing herb garden outside your kitchen door? Susan Turner is teaching a Garden Workshop – Designing a Herb Garden at Ballymaloe Cookery School on Monday 18th June 2012 from 9:00am to 2:00pm – the price of €95.00 includes lunch – phone 0214646785 to book

New Farmers Market at Killruddery House, Bray, Co Wicklow on the first Saturday of every month from 10am to 4pm until September. Exciting list of stall holders including Riverview Farm Fresh Meats, Eat East, Bray based company Garden Produce, Malone’s Fruit Farm, George’s Patisserie, Hamburger Marys, Croi Scripts, Moonwave Nursery, Little Delights…


About the author

Darina Allen
By Darina Allen


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