Friday, 5 October 2012

Other Food On The Menu

For the food fans - some of these pics are from a while back (like about 5 months!) but I thought I'd include them as they're of mouth-watering food which I thought you'd enjoy.

Out for dinner at Ballymaloe Restaurant, main course

Dessert time - making me happy!

Load up your plate with sweets - raspberry fool, stewed rhubarb, homemade ice-cream and more

Breakfast in Galway at a funky cafe

Out for dinner in at Ard Bia in Galway, very cool restaurant, starter

Main course

Menu from the restaurant, sorry folks couldn't rotate it!

We returned the following morning to the restaurant, which became a cafe, and served a lovely breakfast and had sweets on display to tempt us

Tea time at Ballymaloe House

One of the best ways to cook a pig

Home made brioche - if you ever get the chance to make this you should!

Pizza from Antonios - a local pizzeria

Quite refreshing

Delicious sponge cake!

British Cheese Awards in Cardiff

A weekend away from the farm, an interesting time talking to other cheese-makers, a short stay in Cardiff.

The trip started with a road-trip with the farm manager Andrew all the way to Dublin where i stayed at a bnb and then flew to Cardiff Friday morning.
It was straight to work upon arrival in Cardiff, to the "Cheese tent" within the Castle walls.

Day one (Friday) was the Trade day - to talk to prospective buyers, or those people representing restaurants, deli's, supermarkets etc.  It was a relatively quiet day for me unfortunately with few reps tasting or asking questions, but I was told that the Trade day was always quiet.

Day One: Marion from Killeen (cutting her Award-winning goats cheese) talking to reps
Friday night was the Annual Award Dinner where we all gathered to eat and to have the awards presented to the winners of each category.  Ireland did well, taking prizes for Best Modern British, Best Goats Cheese, Best Flavoured Cheese and a few others!

Menu for the night

Me and Siobhan from Ardsallagh Goats Cheese

Veronica (Milleens Cheese), Tom the cheddar maker and Dick who makes Coolea cheese
Day two (Saturday) was open to the public and was much busier! There were crowds of people thronging through the tent sampling and talking and enjoying the general ambiance.

It did seem to me to be somewhat of a cheese-buffet for those going through, as you can see in the above picture.  Our cheese did sell quite well on that day, and the people there loved hearing all the stories behind the cheeses.  The rest of the crowd would just wander through with a drink in hand and enjoyed all the cheese samples on offer.

I really did enjoy meeting other cheese-makers, all hard-working, smart and most of them have a wonderful sense of humour.

Sunday morning I flew back to Dublin and spent the day wandering around the main streets of the city, enjoying the sights, doing a spot of shopping, while waiting for my ride back to the farm.

Friday, 27 July 2012

Cheese Diary - part one


Dear Cheese Diary

Today I made a cheese of my very own using 7 litres of pasteurised cows milk. 

I brought this milk up to 32 degrees centigrade and added 1 heaped teaspoon of 404 Culture.

After stirring in the culture I waited 1hour and 5mins and added approximately 2 dessert spoons of rennet (which had been diluted in double the amount of water) and stirred again.
I left the milk to set or coagulate for 30 minutes and then cut the curd.

Once I'd cut the curd a few times (ensuring enough moisture had escaped the little curd pieces) I turned up the heat gently to about 45 degrees, continually stirring. This is known as "washing the curd".

At this point I found that the curd was ready to be put into my mould.  It actually didn't make as big a cheese as I thought.  I was aiming for a fat "Large Gubbeen" size weighing in at about 1.7kilos.  Sadly it's only about 600g!!

My waxed cheese!
So I'm about to try it and will add some photos when I do - I hope it's a good one.
It did get smoked, which is why it's been waxed, but it didn't dry out properly the first time, so it could be that it doesn't taste quite right... we'll see!!!

1st Sept
Back again Cheese Diary

I know it's been longer than expected, but I've finally tasted my cheese and it tastes great - smooth and creamy and lightly smoked - not overdone.  I'm very pleased with the outcome.

I'm attempting to add some photos below...

The moment of truth... will it be good or won't it???

smells good to me!

sweet satisfaction

A cheesy grin!

Monday, 4 June 2012

The place where I live

When people go travelling and they write about where they've been, I always love to see photos of these places so that it seems real.  Well I'm sure you're all wondering at least about the accommodation on the farm so I'm going to show you.

As far as I know there are 2 flats separate to the house where Tom and Giana live.  I'm in the smaller of the two (which is where I stayed when I first arrived) and I prefer as there's only one of me and I don't need much space.

The kitchen, and behind that shelf is the tiny lounge (with one armchair and a tv :-)

This small flat is basically 2 rooms.  The first is separated by a shelf and has the kitchen and lounge.  The second is the bedroom with a hung partition for the ensuite.
Perfect size for one person, or I guess a very close couple if needs be.

These next are of the larger flat, and there is the bathroom past the bedroom.  All the rooms run after each other, like on a train.  Cute huh?  I love the wall of books in this flat and it gets more light.

On the table is my new wool for a scarf I'm going to knit!!

I will take some photos of the actual farm soon and post them here... xoxoxo

Sunday, 20 May 2012

I go to Gubbeen

As some of you know, I have been staying at Gubbeen farmhouse where I've been working and learning about cheese.  This estate in Schull is owned by Tom and Giana Ferguson who were extremely kind in taking me on (without knowing or meeting me!) for the first 2 weeks of experience and now having me back to work for 2 months.  It's one of those magical places where there's always something going on - or someone visiting, or an event coming up... Everyone here is very friendly and has many interests and skills and if I pay attention I may pick up a few more tricks.  Tom and Giana have 3 children - Fingle, Clovisse and Rosie.  Fingle runs the Smokehouse nextdoor and butchers the pigs and makes sausages, salamis, chorizos etc and Clovisse runs the vegie/herb gardens (amazing salads available here!!!) and Rosie runs the packing and distribution of the cheeses and helps out on the farm if needs be.  This is an amazing family.

Getting back to me :-)
My days are made up of:
cleaning cheese moulds, and helping arrange them ready for filling
lifting the curd out of the vat to fill the smaller moulds
turning the cheeses in their moulds
putting them into their brine baths
taking them out
lipping the cheese
cleaning up afterwards
waxing the cheese and sometimes even packing it

The lipping is simply scraping off the 'lip' which forms on some of the cheeses from the moulds - like an edge sticking up when it shouldn't, so we scrape it off.
Waxing is simply waxing the smoked cheeses to keep in that flavour.

I've been following Rose around - Rose is the cheese-maker here and is responsible for actually making sure the cheese is made correctly (ie. the right culture is added and right measure of rennet and the curd is removed to the moulds at the correct time).

Vat 1 filled with milk, culture and rennet and is setting

Cheese in their salty brine baths

This is used to scoop out the curds from the vats and fill the moulds

Rose checking up on the temperature of the milk

The moulds are set up for efficient filling
 Each day's work is slightly different and I've found that Monday and Tuesday are the busiest cheese-making days.  My first few days here were exhausting and I found it very hard to pull myself out of bed!  My head spun from the information overload, I wasn't used to a physical job and then suddenly bam! there I was faced with making over 400 moulds of cheese!  I found that things started to make a lot more sense in my second week - for instance why they counted the moulds and set them up on the tables as they do, why Rose keeps checking the temperature of the cheese and why it was necessary to rinse the curd with hot water (temperature control is a very important aspect of cheese-making as a type of fermentation is used here and with all fermentation temperature is a big factor).

There is also a very scientific side to cheese-making which I have yet to read up on - sorry if you were hoping for a cheese recipe here, maybe next time as Giana's just offered to do an afternoon of cheese-making including ricotta and yoghurt!

If you'd like to check out their website it's and it has more information about the farm-side of things as well as a bit about the history of Gubbeen.

Ps. I've been out to drinks once in the local pub when there was a local jazz festival - heaps of fun and very busy!  This week there's a film festival in Schull so we'll be heading down to check it out, and a few birthdays so it will be busy.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Road Trip up the West Coast of Ireland

Ever been on a road trip with a campervan?  This was my first time on such an adventure and I found it quite interesting that you can do so much in such a small space.  The Campervan slept 4 so we packed a tent in too in case there were no Bed and Breakfasts nearby.
We started off heading towards Cork and then out to Limerick and on to Ennis where we stopped for dinner at a pub, and then on too Carragholt where Nic and Mike found a BnB and the rest of us slept in the van.  After breakfast (pictured) we drove on to Loophead lighthouse and went for a walk, the sun was out and it was very pleasant despite the wind.

Next was a drive through the Burren - a sort of vast rocky land that seems a little desolate because there aren't any trees growing around, and then on to find some amazing cliffs where we could see out to the Aran Islands...
Loophead lighthouse

The view out to the Aran Islands only seen on a clear day

Gorgeous walk along the Cliffs of Moher
Onward then to Ballyvaughn Bay where we had a lovely salad for dinner and set up the tent for me as Nic, Mike, Robyn and Darren all slept in the campervan.  It was a great arrangement and although I was warm enough I hardly slept due to strange and unfamiliar noises on the bay and the feeling that I was about to be ambushed by a crazy old man living in the abandoned house nearby!!

I was not attacked that night however, and woke to a beautiful sunny morning and a cooked breakfast.  After making it to Galway in time for Mass we walked a little through the city streets of Galway and found a BnB nearby to sleep that night.

Campervan to the right, abandoned house to the left and my tent in the middle!

The spread at breakfast at a Galway cafe/restaurant, and yes we ate here!

Dinner that night was fantastic and we all enjoyed our own meals - a plus when we each ordered a different plate as I usually sit there and wish I'd ordered the plate of the person sitting next to me...  We returned to the restaurant in the morning as they did a good breakfast also and great coffee.

We returned home Monday evening and made the most of Nicky and Michael's last night in Ireland.