Georgina Campbell's Cookery Feature - Why not Meet the Cheesemakers this Summer?

Farmhouse Baguette with Blue Cheese & BaconGeorgina Campbell

Bord Bia has been very supportive of cheesemakers, and of small producers generally, and through the EU-funded Discover Farmhouse Cheese programme, they are currently encouraging us to make handmade cheeses part of our everyday shopping, both for raw or ‘cheeseboard’ use, and to use in cooking.

Best of all for cheese lovers, the Discover Farmhouse Cheese campaign offers free farm visits to famous producers like Cashel Blue in Co Tipperary and Burren Gold (which is made at Aillwee Cave in Co Clare) throughout the summer and early autumn. All you have to do is to book your place online.

Mere mention of cheese in Ireland can send the mind spinning back to a time when homemade bread was somehow inferior to a sliced pan, and the cheese in the sandwich was most likely to sold in plastic packs of square processed slices. Then the early stirrings of a changing food scene began in the 1960s and 70s when a number of apparently unconnected events added up to a seismic shift.

Most famously, Myrtle and Ivan Allen opened their restaurant at Ballymaloe House and, equally significantly although less well known, they and a number of likeminded country house owners then banded together to establish the Irish Country Houses & Restaurants Association, now The Blue Book.

One of them was Cashel House Hotel in Connemara, where Kay and the late Dermot McEvilly famously hosted President de Gaulle and his wife in 1969, for a fortnight of the Irish holiday that first put this country on the map for food-loving continental tourists.

Then the ‘70s brought other dramatic developments that were to have far reaching effects. When Veronica Steele started making the iconic Milleens cheese from the milk of a one-horned cow called Brisket on a West Cork farm, in 1978, little could she have known that she was kick starting a farmhouse cheese making revolution that would eventually see small producers all over Ireland making a huge variety of highly individual cheeses on their farms - and that this would provide the foundation for the host of other small food production success stories that are now the cornerstone of our national recovery.

It’s extraordinary to think that that such small, everyday activities - beginning with people just getting on with it and finding ways to get by - can have such a profound influence for change.

Today there are more than 50 artisan cheese makers producing over 150 kinds of cheese on their farms. And summer with its lush green grass is peak production time, so this is not only the ideal time to seek out some of the cheeses that are best enjoyed young and fresh, but also a great time to visit producers to see the cheese making process, hear the stories, taste the cheeses and buy them at source.

Farmhouse cheese is one of the most versatile cooking ingredients imaginable, especially when you consider the range of styles and variety of flavours available. Made from the milk of cows (and buffalo!), sheep and goats to produce everything from a soft and mildly flavoured white goats cheese to a piquant blue, or hard and nutty mature cheeses, there is a farmhouse cheese to please every taste and suit every kind of meal and occasion from soups, salads and baking to tarts, pizza and simply good old bread and cheese.

What could be more delicious than a chunk of well made farmhouse cheese with freshly baked brown soda bread and a dollop of homemade chutney…? And don’t forget that other simple pleasure, grated cheese sprinkled over hot vegetables.

Even though they’re having a fashion moment in high-end restaurants, vegetables are still the Cinderella of foods and it’s time to see them for the stars of health and deliciousness that they really are. They are beginning to come into their own, but they deserve to be appreciated much more - which includes paying a realistic price for our veg in the shops.

Most of us are never going to lose our appetite for meat, but eating more vegetables is good for all and some people and organisations are doing a great job to encourage us, including GIY of course, and The Organic Centre ( in Co Leitrim, which is another fantastic place to visit with all kinds of things going on, including cookery demos. If you’re nearby on July 12th, Neven Maguire will be featuring his favourite vegetable recipe 'Roasted vegetables on rice' (courgettes, peppers, aubergines, tomatoes and onions…) at their Garden Party cooking demonstration. There’s lots else on offer at various times, and the website is always well worth checking out.


Chargrilled Vegetable Salad with Mature Farmhouse GoudaChargrilled Vegetable Salad with Mature Farmhouse Gouda

You don’t have to be a vegetarian to enjoy this delicious barbecue salad. You could up the ante with more local ingredients, eg by using your favourite Irish rapeseed oil instead of olive oil, and replacing traditional imported balsamic with Llewellyn's excellent Irish balsamic cider vinegar

1 red pepper, deseeded and quartered
1 yellow pepper, deseeded and quartered
10-15 asparagus spears
1 courgette, sliced diagonally into 1cm thick discs
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp good quality oil, extra virgin olive or Irish rapeseed
15g rocket or flat leaf parsley, leaves chopped
10g fresh basil, leaves
Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
50g mature farmhouse Gouda shavings e.g. Coolea
½ tsp balsamic vinegar, eg Irish balsamic cider vinegar

Heat the barbecue until it is very hot.

Grill the peppers, skin side down until the outer skin is blackened and blistered. Place in a bowl, cover immediately with cling film and leave for 20 minutes (the cling film will trap the steam and loosen the skins). Peel the peppers, discarding the skin and slice lengthways into 3-4 long strips (the strips will be deliciously soft and sweet).

Snap off the hard woody ends from each asparagus spear (if necessary).

Brush the asparagus and courgettes with oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill for approximately 5-10 minutes, turning halfway through cooking until slightly charred on the outside. Cut the asparagus spears in half.

Combine all the warm vegetables in a bowl and toss in the oil and balsamic.

To serve, combine the chargrilled vegetables with the rocket, basil and shavings of mature farmhouse Gouda.


Scones with Sage & Farmhouse Blue CheeseScones with Sage & Farmhouse Blue Cheese

You could vary the herb flavour in these moreish savoury scones, by using rosemary, marjoram or mixed Mediterranean herbs instead of sage, for example

Serves 6

450g / 1lb plain flour
2 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp bread soda
1 tsp salt
A little freshly ground black pepper
A few sage leaves chopped
Pinch of cayenne pepper
225g / 8oz farmhouse blue cheese e.g. a firm Cashel Blue
1 egg
300ml / ½ pint natural yoghurt or buttermilk
1 egg whisked with a dash of milk for glaze
Mixed sesame seeds for sprinkling on top of scones

Preheat the oven to 210ºC / 425ºF / Gas Mark 7.

Mix the flour, cream of tartar, bread soda, salt and pepper, sage, and cayenne pepper in a bowl. Crumble or cut the cheese into small pieces and add to the dry ingredients with the egg and yoghurt or buttermilk. Mix to a soft dough.

Turn out onto a floured surface. Pat or roll out to about 2.5cm / 1 inch think and cut into scones with a floured 6cm / 2 ½ inch scone cutter. Place on a greased baking tray. Brush with whisked egg mixture and sprinkle with mixed sesame seeds.

Place in oven at 210ºC / 425ºF / Gas Mark 7 for 10 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 180ºC / 350ºF / Gas Mark 4 for 5-10 minutes. Cool on a wire rack. Serve with soup or simply as a snack topped with homemade chutney.


Butternut Squash & Goats Cheese Pizza with Prosciutto & Aged BalsamicButternut Squash & Goats Cheese Pizza with Prosciutto & Aged Balsamic

Serves 2

Pizza dough, as below
Flesh of half a small butternut squash
1 tbsp quality olive or Irish rapeseed oil, plus more for drizzling
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 small garlic clove, minced
½ small onion, thinly sliced
6 slices prosciutto or Irish equivalent, torn into 1-inch/2.5cm pieces
2 tsp freshly chopped sage or thyme, or to taste
¼ cup sliced or torn mozzarella, eg Toonsbridge
50g/2 oz goats cheese, crumbled, eg St Tola
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar for drizzling, eg Llewellyn’s Irish balsamic cider vinegar

Place a pizza stone in the lower third of your oven and preheat oven to Gas Mark 6, 200oC (400oF). Allow the pizza stone to preheat for at least 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare pizza dough, as below, and prepare the squash.

Cube the squash, toss in oil, season with salt and pepper and bake in the heating oven, for 15 minutes or until tender.

Once the pizza stone is heated, turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and roll out thinly to make one large or two medium bases. A pizza peel is really useful. If unavailable, use a rimless or inverted baking sheet (so it slides off easily). Dust with corn meal or flour before placing the dough on so it doesn’t stick.

In a small bowl, combine 1 tbsp olive oil with minced garlic. Brush the base with the oil and garlic mixture and add the thinly sliced onion, prosciutto and chopped herbs.

Sprinkle the mozzarella, goats cheese and baked squash around. Bake in a very hot oven, approx 215ºC, on the pizza stone or upturned baking tray, for 10-12 minutes or until the pizza is crisp and nicely browned and the topping is cooked.

Drizzle lightly with the balsamic vinegar and serve.

Dough for the Pizza base:

300g strong bread flour
1 tsp quick action dried yeast
1 tsp salt
200 ml warm water
1 tbsp olive/rapeseed oil, plus extra for drizzling

In a large bowl, thoroughly mix the flour the yeast and salt.

Make a well in the centre, pour in the warm water and a tablespoon of oil and bring together with a wooden spoon to make a soft, fairly wet dough.

Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 5 minutes until smooth (or do this in a mixer with a dough hook attachment). Cover with a tea towel and set aside to rise if wished, but this is not essential for a thin crust.

Roll out thinly to make one large or two medium pizza bases, as required.


Farmhouse Baguette with Blue Cheese & BaconFarmhouse Baguette with Blue Cheese & Bacon

A quick and tasty snack for two

1 artisan baguette or sourdough loaf
2 tbsp mayonnaise
2 handfuls of watercress or mixed baby leaves
175g / 6oz mature blue cheese, eg Cashel Blue, cut in slices
6 slices of streaky bacon, grilled and roughly cut

Halve and split the baguette, or cut four slices from the sourdough loaf.

Layer each base with mayonnaise, leaves, farmhouse blue cheese and streaky bacon.

Add the top, press down well and enjoy with a glass of Irish apple juice, cider or craft beer.

For more summer recipes farmhouse with cheese, visit

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