The Daily Spud

...there's both eatin' and drinkin' in it

Killer Cheeses

There is at least one legend which holds that would-be assassins tried (but failed) to kill St. Patrick with poisoned cheese. There are a number of conclusions which we may draw from this, to wit:

– St. Patrick was fond of cheese.
– He knew a dodgy cheese when he tasted one.

Therefore, what better way to celebrate the feast day of our patron saint than to include a platter of Irish cheese as part of the Paddy’s Day Food Parade. And not just any cheese, but a selection of fine Irish raw milk cheeses, because I can guarantee, given that Louis Pasteur was far from born at the time, that St. Patrick’s cheese board would have been filled with nothing but cheeses made from raw milk.

Irish Raw Milk Cheeses

Selection of Irish raw milk cheeses

What you see above is the cheesy selection served at a recent Slow Food Ireland raw milk cheese tasting. It was a fascinating evening, presented by Kevin Sheridan of local cheese mecca, Sheridan’s Cheesemongers, and included expert guidance on smelling and savouring your cheese from Cristiano De Riccardis, an organoleptic taste expert with Slow Food Italy. Dr. Prannie Rhatigan, Slow Food Presidia Manager for Ireland, was on hand to explain the idea of presidia as a mechanism for nurturing, protecting and promoting traditionally produced foods. The raw milk cheese presidium is the only one active in Ireland at present.

So what is the deal with raw milk cheeses, anyway?

Not having been exposed to the heat treatment required for full pasteurisation, raw milk cheeses retain more of the natural flavours and nutrients present in the milk used to make them. Cristiano explained that raw cheeses, as a consequence, are generally more complex and have aromas that linger longer in the mouth. And yes, they are safe to eat (unless doctored by some assassin type). From what I can gather, a maker of raw milk cheese in this country can expect health and safety inspections aplenty, so have no worries about seeking these cheeses out:

  • Durrus made by Jeffa Gill in West Cork, a semi-soft cheese with a wonderful oniony smell that made me want to grab the nearest potatoes and put them together in a gratin.
  • Glebe Brethan, made at the Tiernan family farm in Dunleer, Co. Louth, from their own herd of Montbeliarde cows. A hard, dark yellow, gruyère-type cheese, similar to French comté and made only with summer milk. I swear you can taste the sweetness of summer meadows in there.
  • Cooleeney, a camembert-type cheese made on the Maher farm in the heart of Co. Tipperary. The sample we had was nicely ripe and fairly runny, with a buttery smell and savoury flavour.
  • Irish Raw Milk Cheeses

    Looks unsuspecting, but that Bellingham Blue packs a punch

  • Bellingham Blue – what a bruiser of a cheese. Made by Peter and Anita Thomas from Glyde Farm in Castlebellingham, Co. Louth. It’s a strong-tasting creamy blue stilton-like cheese that should appeal to stinky cheese afficionados everywhere.
  • Last, but by no means least, was my favourite of the night, St. Gall made by Frank and Gudrun Shinnick in Fermoy, Co. Cork. It reminded me of an emmental, with a full, sweet flavour and a very pleasing tang in the mouth. The cheese is named for Irish Benedictine monk St. Gall, who, legend has it, not only brought christianity to Switzerland but also taught the Swiss how to make cheese. So there.

Table Top Raclette Grill

Raclette à la St. Gall

In fact, inspired by the saintly Swiss-cheesy connection, I thought it appropriate to use St. Gall, which melts beautifully, for some Paddy’s Day raclette (and, yes, I was looking for any and all excuses to use my newly acquired straight-from-Switzerland raclette grill set). Grill some green vegetables on the hot stone above, melt some killer Irish cheese on spuds under the grilling element below and away you go.

Paddy’s Day Raclette with Irish Cheese & Green Veg

Raclette

Raclette – which is really just an excuse to eat liberal amounts of melted cheese – might just be the perfect thing to serve if you’re entertaining guests. There’s minimal preparation involved, just chopping mostly, and the invitees cook their own food. You just need to keep them supplied with cheese, chopped vegetables and other grillable tidbits, and, of course, plenty of wine.

Small, waxy potatoes are a very standard part of any raclette-style meal – there’s even a variety of potato called raclette – though any waxy potatoes will do nicely. For a Paddy’s day twist, just supply plenty of green vegetables, along with an Irish cheese, and let everyone else do the work.

The amounts here are up to you, depending on how many you want to feed, what they like to eat and how many different types of vegetable etc. that you want to serve. As you can see, this is pretty free-form as recipes go.

You’ll need:
  • waxy potatoes
  • a nice melty cheese – I used St. Gall
  • selection of green fruit and veg e.g. asparagus, courgette, romanesco cauliflower, broccoli, spring onions, green apple
  • olive oil
You’ll also need:
  • Ideally, a table-top raclette grill, which makes it easier for everyone to do their own grilling – though you could grill the vegetables separately using your grill/broiler and then top with the cheese and serve. More work for you, though.
The Steps:
  • Scrub the potatoes and boil them in salted water until fork-tender – this may take around 15 minutes for baby potatoes, longer if you’re using larger spuds. Drain, cover with a tea-towel and allow to dry off for 5 minutes or more.
  • Wash and pat dry any other vegetables you’re using. Chop broccoli or romanesco into bite-sized pieces. Slice courgette in pieces around 0.5 cm thick. Slice the spring onions. Chop the apple into small chunks. Leave asparagus spears whole.
  • Most of the vegetables for grilling can be placed directly on the heated grill stone. You can toss them in the barest amount of olive oil beforehand if you like.
  • Guest fill their little grill pans with their choice of potato, spring onions, apple and grilled vegetables, top it all with cheese, let it melt under the grill, then eat and repeat.
The Variations:
  • The variations on raclette are only limited by your imagination. If it goes well, grilled or otherwise, with cheese, then it’s a candidate for raclette.
The Results:
  • Raclette-style meal for as many people as you care to feed.

19 Comments

  1. Excellent cheese plate and the Raclette sounds amazing!

  2. The Paddy’s day raclette looks like so much fun! I love the charred little bits on the gorgeous green romanesco. Sheridan’s cheesemongers is amazing, we were lucky enough to visit when we were in Dublin last July. They let us sample several locally made cheeses and even it was closing time, they took the time to assemble a raw milk cheese course ‘to go’ for us (including the delicious St.Gall and Durrus!)

  3. Do you have a hidden camera in my kitchen? Seems you have gotten warm on my St Paddy’s Day Parade post…hmmm Sherlock and Watson are on their way over to check on you!

  4. We were fortunate to be hosted at a New Years Raclette party. We sat there and ate for HOURS! It was so fun. Thanks for the info on the raw cheeses. Our local cheesemonger just started carrying some and I was wondering what the deal was with them too.

  5. Daily Spud

    Saturday, March 13, 2010 at 1:50 am

    the wicked noodle: and they tasted fabulous too :)

    5 Star Foodie: the cheese plate was excellent – you will have to visit Sheridan’s if you end up over here this summer so that you can sample some of these yourself

    Phyllis: I love Sheridan’s, I always come away with way more cheese than I intended to buy when I go there!

    Chef E: No hidden cameras, honest! Though now that you mention it, I’m super curious as to what your Paddy’s Day post is all about… hmm…

    Joie de Vivre: eating raclette-style is a lot of fun and should go on for hours :)

  6. Oh my, you brought back strong odiferous memories of my visit. These cheeses look fantastic and I love raclette – I can almost taste how good that dish is, almost just so darn tantalizingly close. Sigh – need to find a worthy substitute. Thanks for sharing and have a wonderful time in Sligo – look forward to checking out the details.

  7. I recently chatted with three Minneapolis cheesemongers for a piece I wrote, and took home a sampler of their recommendations. I wasn’t quite as adventurous as you, though, as I passed on most of the more pungent varieties (hey, I’m working on by blue-ness!) One of my favorites was Coolea, made in the Gouda-style by Dutch-turned-Irish couple in Coolea Co. Now, I’d love to go on a cheese tour of Ireland!

    And I envy you your raclette!

  8. what a beautiful plate of stinky cheeses…heaven on a plate.

    sweetlife

  9. Mmmm, cheese! I have never tried any of these but they all sound so fantastic. I would be very interested in trying the Bellingham Blue. Sounds intriguing.

    Oh how I would love to go to a cheese tasting!

  10. You’ve put me in cheesy-licious mood. There’s so many to try, yet never enough time. I need to get out and try the ones i wouldn’t necessarily try.

  11. I read your blog a lot but up to now have not left a comment.
    It’s a great blog. Those cheeses look and sound amazing. I cannot find Irish cheeses easily and considering I live near Belfast that is a crime. I love the idea of a raclette. My invite to dinner is in the post…………right?
    Good luck with the Blog awards. I reckon you’ll win again this year.

  12. Raclette’s not just for the French. :)

  13. This post is FABULOUS!!!!!!! What a fantastic idea to have a St. Paddy’s Raclette, if only I had a grill! I think I’m gonna hunt me down some raw milk Irish cheese to celebrate!

  14. Hey Mr. Spud, this post is so brilliant I had to write a post about it myself. Please check it out!! http://stinkyfoods.blogspot.com

  15. Oooh, I love cheese tasting. Looks like a fabulous time!

  16. Daily Spud

    Monday, March 15, 2010 at 1:41 pm

    OysterCulture: thought you would enjoy this post – and I’m sure you will manage to find some worthy substitute over there in SF!

    Tangled Noodle: I’ll admit that blue cheese is definitely an acquired taste, especially the more potent varieties, but, hey, we can work on your blue-ness when you do your Irish cheese tour :)

    sweetlife: yep, very happy to be presented with a plate like that at any time!

    GrilledShane: I knew this would be right up your street! Not sure if you would be able to find any of these in the States – you might just have to come here to try them out :)

    jenn: There are so many to try – a bewildering amount really – and it’s good to try something different every now and then. You never know, you might find some new cheese to love.

    Rhyleysgranny: Thanks so much for taking the time to say hello and for your very kind comments. Of course your invite to dinner is, er, in the post – you mean to say you haven’t got it yet? :D

    Duo Dishes: raclette is for sharing with everyone!

    Allie: Thank you! I’m particularly flattered, coming, as your comment does, from the Cheese Goddess :)

    Molly: oh I did check it out, thank you so much (though I will hasten to point out that I’m actually Ms. Spud :D)

    gaga: I don’t think I could ever say no to a cheese tasting!

  17. I love dangerous cheese, the smellier the better. I hadn’t heard this legend before!

  18. Daily Spud

    Tuesday, March 23, 2010 at 12:20 am

    Hi Sarah – I have to say that the legend bit was relatively new to me too, but when I came across it, I knew I’d have to give it a mention!

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