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Georgina Campbell's Cookery Feature - Celebrating Cheese

 Irish Farmhouse Mac and Cheese

National Cheese Week took place earlier this month and, with it, came The National Dairy Council’s announcement of the six finalists in their Cheese up your Life recipe competition.

The competition attracted a large volume of entries across two categories - ‘Culinary Student’ and ‘Passionate Cooks and Foodies’ - and was judged by a trio of experts: Irish Chef and writer Clodagh McKenna; Former Irish Olympian and Fit Foodie Derval O’Rourke; and Vanessa Greenwood of Cooks Academy.

They were impressed by the high standard and diversity of entries, commenting: “It was really great to see amateur cooks creating delicious recipes using a wide range of Irish and European cheeses and really demonstrating the diverse versatility and great taste of cheese”.

First prize in the Culinary Student category went to Hanna Mathe, who is studying Culinary Arts at Waterford Institute of Technology, for her delicious Blue Cheese, Kale and Pecan Tart, whilst amateur chef Róisín Gallagher won first prize in the Passionate Cooks and Foodies category for her innovative take on a classic lasagne, the Cheesy Bean Lasagne.

Recipes from the other four finalists were also innovative. Donna Hennessey, a food writer and blogger from Cork, created a delicious snack of Haloumi Fries served with a spicy yoghurt dressing and fresh pomegranates, while Elke O’Mahony also from Cork created a delicious and unique Cauliflower Cheddar & Walnut Tart.

Using three different types of Irish farmhouse cheese, Co Louth food writer and cookbook editor Kristin Jensen’s delicious Irish Farmhouse Mac and Cheese packed a punch, while sisters Gráinne and Shauna Moggan from Dublin combined fish and cheese in their scrumptious Cheesy Fish Smokies.

RECIPES:

Blue Cheese, Kale and Pecan Tart

Blue Cheese, Kale & Pecan Tart

First prize in the Culinary Student category, created by Hanna Mathe, Waterford

“This is a delightful dish with an explosion of flavours with every bite. Not only is it aesthetically pleasing with vibrant colours but has a perfect balance of sweet, bitter, sour and savoury; the cheese, pecans and pear are a wonderful combination of opposites in flavour, completed by the crunchy texture of the kale and creaminess of the custard.”

Prep Time: 45 mins
Total Time: 180 mins
Servings: 8

Ingredients:

For the shortcrust pastry

200g plain flour
100g butter, chilled & cubed
35ml of cold water
pinch of sugar

For the custard

1 whole egg
1 egg yolk
150ml cream
1 tbsp caster sugar

For the filling

150g kale, roughly chopped and washed
75g pecans, roughly chopped
1 small pear, cubed
100g Cashel Blue cheese, cubed
1 tsp coconut oil
1 tsp butter
maple syrup to taste.

Method:

1. Put flour, pinch of sugar and cubed butter into a food processor and process until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.

2. Gradually add the cold water until the dough just about comes together.

3. Remove from food processor, wrap dough in cling film and chill in fridge for 15 minutes.

4. Make a cartouche of greaseproof paper, roughly 8-10 cm bigger than your tart tin.

5. Remove dough from fridge. On a floured surface, begin "ridging" the pastry disc; holding rolling pin in both hands, loosely tap over the entire surface of the pastry once or twice, turning it at a 90 degree angle and repeating the same process until it has at least doubled in size.

6. Once doubled in size, using short, sharp strokes of the rolling pin roll the pastry out to a thickness of 3mm, turning it while rolling(If pastry is cracking around the edges, stop rolling and seal the cracks with your fingertips). Ensure pastry isn't overworked.

7. Carefully wrap the pastry once or twice around the rolling pin and place it over the tart tin. Lift overhanging pastry up a little, encouraging the pastry inside to fit snugly.

8. Using a piece of overhanging pastry, push the pastry in the tin well into the corners. Using a rolling pin, cut through the pastry and remove overhanging bits from the tin.

9. Insert cartouche and baking beans and chill the pastry for at least 30 minutes in the refrigerator.

10. Preheat oven to 200°C / gas mark 6 and blind bake pastry for 20 minutes.

11. Reduce oven temperature to 180°C / gas mark 4, remove baking beans from pastry and bake for a further 10- 15 minutes (to create a protective layer between pastry and wet filling , brush with lightly beaten egg white). Remove from the oven and cool.

12. Make custard by whisking the egg, the yolk and 1 tbsp sugar together. Heat the cream by bringing to a simmer, remove from heat and, using an electric mixer add to the egg mixture.

13. Return custard to the stove and on low heat (should be between 75-85°C), using a wooden spoon stir continuously until it coats the back of the spoon and dragging your finger along the spoon the trail remains intact. Ensure low heat so custard doesn't curdle.

14. Sauté the kale in the teaspoon of butter and coconut oil and set aside to cool.

15. When all your ingredients have cooled, begin filling the tart case by starting with a layer of blue cheese on the bottom, followed by kale, pear and pecans and more cheese. Repeat process until all fillings are used up.

16. Pour custard over the tart evenly and drizzle with maple syrup to taste.

17. Bake in a 180°C / gas mark 4 oven for 45 minutes to an hour, or until the custard has set and the pecans have toasted (Cover tart with tinfoil 20-25 minutes into baking and return to oven).

18. Remove from oven and cool before slicing.

 

Cheesy Bean Lasagne

Cheesy Bean Lasagne

First prize in the Passionate Cooks and Foodies category, created by Róisín Gallagher, Dublin

This dish is extremely tasty, easy to make, nutritious and filling. It is a great midweek meal and any leftovers can be eaten for lunch the following day and almost taste better as the flavours really develop.

Prep Time: 30 mins
Total Time: 60 mins
Servings: 6-8

Ingredients:

For the tomato sauce

1 tbsp rapeseed oil
1 red onion, finely diced (peeled and chopped)
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 red pepper, deseeded and chopped
2 red chilli, finely chopped (including seeds)
3 tbsps fresh coriander including stalks, finely chopped
1 tbsp tomato puree
2 tins chopped tomatoes
1 tsp sugar
100g baby spinach
250ml water
freshly ground pepper

For the filling

1 400g tin red kidney beans, drained
1 400g haricot beans, drained
2 250g tins sweetcorn kernels, drained
200g mature Irish cheddar cheese, grated
50g feta cheese, crumbled
4½ soft tortilla wraps, cut into quarters

For tomato salsa

small punnet of cherry tomatoes, quartered
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tbsp olive oil
juice of ½ lime
2 tbsp fresh coriander
salt and pepper

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C / gas mark 6.
  2. To make the tomato sauce, heat the rapeseed oil in a large frying pan and fry the garlic cloves, red onion, pepper and chilli.
  3. Cook gently for 15 minutes until soft; then add the chopped coriander stalks and season with black pepper.
  4. Add the tinned tomatoes and baby spinach allow to simmer gently until the sauce thickens if the sauce becomes too dry loosen it out with some water.
  5. To make the filling, mix the drained beans and sweetcorn in a bowl. Add most of the grated cheese, reserving some to sprinkle on the top at the end, and mix together.
  6. Start to assemble the lasagne by spreading about a third of the tomato sauce at the bottom your ovenproof dish, then layer on 6 tortilla quarters so that they cover the sauce and overlap slightly.
  7. Add a third of the beans and cheese mixture. Repeat this step 3 times.
  8. To finish, add the last layer of beans and cheese, nearly all of the remaining tomato sauce and cover with the last 6 tortilla quarters. Spread the very last bit of salsa over the tortillas and sprinkle with the remaining cheese.
  9. Cook in the oven for 30 minutes, and let it rest for 10 minutes before serving.
  10. While, the lasagne is cooking, prepare your tomato salsa and guacamole by combining all of your ingredients.
  11. To serve, sprinkle over the crumbled feta cheese, sprinkle of pomegranate seeds and lots of fresh coriander.
  12. Optional Serving Suggestions: Tomato Salsa, Guacamole, Natural Yogurt, Corn on the Cob, Limes and toasted sunflower seeds.

 

 Irish Farmhouse Mac and Cheese

Irish Farmhouse Mac and Cheese

A recipe using different types of Irish farmhouse cheese, created by finalist Kristin Jensen, Louth.

“Mac and cheese is the ultimate comfort food and crowd pleaser. This one gets an Irish twist by using not one, not two, but three different farmhouse cheeses for a creamy, well-balanced dish that's packed full of flavour.”

Prep Time: 15 mins
Total Time: 35 mins
Servings: 6

Ingredients:

500g penne or macaroni
50g butter
4 tbsp plain flour
750ml milk
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
1 tsp Dijon mustard
freshly ground black pepper
225g 18-month-old Coolea cheese (Gruyère or Comté would also work well), grated
175g Derg, Hegarty’s or Mount Callan Cheddar cheese, grated
100g Cooleeney Brie-style cheese (mild version) or Bellingham Blue cheese, crumbled (for more robust flavour).

For the herb breadcrumb topping

25g butter
150g fresh white breadcrumbs
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C / gas mark 4.

2. Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water according to the packet instructions. Drain and set aside.

3. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large pot (one that’s big enough to take all the pasta later on), then add the flour. Whisk it together to form a paste and cook this roux for 2–3 minutes over a medium heat, until it’s golden brown. Add in a little milk and whisk to combine, then gradually pour in the rest of the milk, whisking constantly. Simmer until the white sauce is smooth and has thickened slightly, which should take about 5 minutes, stirring regularly to make sure it doesn’t catch on the bottom of the pot. Stir in the thyme, mustard and a generous grinding of black pepper (skip the salt here because the cheese has a lot), then add the cheeses. Stir until the cheese has all melted and the sauce is smooth again. Remove from the heat and add in the drained, cooked pasta, stirring until all the pasta is coated with the sauce. Transfer the pasta to one large baking dish, individual gratin dishes or large ramekins.

4. To make the herb breadcrumb topping, melt the butter in a frying pan set over a medium heat. Add the breadcrumbs and stir until they’re all coated with the butter, then add the thyme and season with salt and pepper. Fry for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the breadcrumbs are golden brown. Remove from the heat.

5. Place the dish(es) on a baking tray to make it easier to transfer everything to the oven and to catch any spills that might bubble over, then sprinkle the breadcrumbs on top. Bake in the oven for 15–20 minutes, until the pasta is piping hot and the breadcrumbs are crispy. Serve straightaway. This is best eaten on the day it’s made.

 

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