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Toonsbridge Irish Buffalo Products - Special Irish Foods & The People Who Make Them

Toby SimmondsGeorgina Campbell

Toby Simmonds is a legend of alternative thinking in the Irish food world - in 1993 he started a venture that many said would never work, The Real Olive Company, at a stall in Cork’s English Market. It was a huge success.

Roll forward a couple of decades or so and he was doing it again, this time joining forces with neighbouring farmer Johnny Lynch, with the aim of establishing Ireland’s first water buffalo herd and producing raw milk buffalo cheese.

Now this newer venture at Toonsbridge Dairy, making Ireland’s only buffalo products - notably mozzarella, ricotta and a feta style cheese, along with numerous works in progress, including a stunning blue cheese - is a sensation. There’s a shop and weekend café (new pizza oven for summer 2014), and buffalo meat is also available.

The road from idea (classically born, over a pint) to production took them through many loops and turns but, eventually, the 31 young buffalo sourced from the Prince of Lombardia were happily installed on Johnny’s farm.

Toby Simmonds & Johnny LynchToby and Johnny spent time in Italy learning the traditional methods of mozzarella making, but their early attempts were not very successful. So local cheesemaker Sean Ferry (former producer of the famous thermophilic cheeses Desmond and Gabriel with Bill Hogan, now retired) was enlisted to help and an Italian mozzarella maker was invited over to Ireland, resulting in much better cheeses.

In 2013 they upped the game again with the arrival of Franco Picciuolo, who had been working in the caseificio (cheese farm) where Toby and Johnny trained; the small changes that he initiated have resulted in some stunning cheeses, which are attracting much praise including a prestigious Eirgrid Euro-Toques Food Award (euro-toques.ie/tag/food-awards/) in 2014, citing “… the amazing quality of their mozzarella and for their innovative approach to bringing a foreign tradition into Ireland and making it their own. This effectively means that our kitchens can avail of the freshest grass-fed Irish mozzarella, which is precisely as mozzarella should be served.”

Toonsbridge Mozzarella SaladTRY the amazing fresh Toonsbridge Mozzarella Salad with rocket, little gem lettuce, strawberries, cucumber, tomatoes, basil leaves, and cracked black pepper with a drizzle of Donegal Rapeseed Oil and Llewellyn`s Irish Balsamic Cider Vinegar - a classic, why change it? See it served here in a very stylish Bunbury bowl (www.bunburyboards.com) from Lisnavagh, Co Carlow.

OR WHY NOT rustle up a hot supper of Chicken Breast Stuffed With Smoked Toonsbridge Mozarella and a Smear of Pesto, Wrapped In Parma Ham - delicious served on a bed of ratatouille with a Dalkey Mustard kick.
 

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