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Knockdrinna Meadow sheeps cheese, rarebit with port & pear purée and candied pecans

Knockdrinna Meadow Sheeps Cheese rarebit with port & pear puree© Recipe created by Derry Clarke, L'Ecrivain, for the 2010 Irish Food Writers Guild Food Awards

Serves 20

450g (1lb) Knockdrinna Meadow sheeps cheese

FOR THE POACHED PEARS:

2 firm, slightly under-ripe pears
100g (4oz) caster sugar

FOR THE RAREBIT:

350g (12oz) Knockdrinna Meadow sheeps cheese, rind removed and grated
75ml (3fl oz) milk
25g (1oz) plain flour
25g (1oz) fresh white breadcrumbs
good pinch English mustard powder
a few shakes of Worcestershire sauce
1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
5 slices of white bread
Maldon sea salt and freshly ground white pepper
candied pecans and port & pear purée, to serve (see separate recipes, below)
micro cress, to garnish


TO POACH THE PEARS:


Peel the pears and take a thin slice off the bottom of each so that you can stand it upright

Place in a small high-sided saucepan that will hold them tightly; it should not be deep enough for them to float

Add the sugar to the pears and pour in enough water to reach just below the pear stalks

Bring to the boil, cover with a lid and reduce the heat to a simmer.

Poach for 30-45 minutes or until the pears are tender

How long this takes will depend on their variety and ripeness

Leave to cool, then carefully remove and cut into slices

Use as required


TO MAKE THE RAREBIT:

Place the cheese and milk into a pan and slowly melt together

Add the flour, breadcrumbs and mustard and cook for a few minutes until the mixture leaves the sides of the pan

Add the Worcestershire sauce and season to taste, then leave to cool

Once cold, scrape the mix into a food processor. With the machine running, slowly add the egg and the egg yolk. Transfer to a rigid plastic container and chill for at least 1 hour before using, or divide into smaller quantities and freeze


TO COOK THE RAREBITS:

Preheat the grill to high

Toast both sides of the bread until lightly golden, then stamp into 2.5cm (1in) rounds.

Mould the rarebit mixture to fit the shape of the toasted bread rounds

Rest it on top and slide back under the grill for a few minutes until glazed and golden brown

When almost ready to serve, remove the cheese from the fridge and carefully cut off the rind, then cut into 20 even-sized slices and arrange on plates. Set aside to allow the cheese to come up to room temperature. Cut the poached pears into slices and arrange a slice on each piece of cheese. Arrange the candied pecans with a small spoonful of the port & pear purée on each plate and garnish with the micro cress to serve.


CANDIED PECANS

Serves 6

75g (3oz) caster sugar
25g (1oz) pecan nuts

TO MAKE THE CANDIED PECANS:

Place five tablespoons of water and the sugar in a pan and boil steadily for 5 minutes, bringing the syrup to the soft boil stage (121°C/250°F)
Add the pecans and cook for 1 minute before carefully removing them with a perforated spoon
Transfer to a sheet of non-stick parchment paper and leave to cool completely


PORT & PEAR PURÉE:

4 ripe pears, peeled, cored and chopped
250ml (9fl oz) red wine
2-4 tbsp fine ruby port

Place the pears in a pan with the red wine.

Bring to the boil and then simmer for 4-5 minutes.

Remove from heat and leave to cool.

Blend to a purée with a hand blender or in a food processor and stir in enough of the port to make a thick purée.

Transfer to a plastic rigid container and chill until needed.

Use as required.

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