Wednesday, 3 November 2010

From Fermoy to Fenugreek

Autumn had set in this morning, the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness started without the mists but a distinct feel to the air and autumnal colours breaking out.

The school was quiet this morning, Wednesdays mean lectures so no early morning rush to get Mise en Place sorted or do the many early morning duties. A leisurely cup of coffee and a rehashing of the exam results filled the time till 9 when the day began. We always start with the Biscuit of the Week - this week Millionaires Shortbread - then onto the Cheese Lecture.

This week Frank Shinnick who makes cheese in Fermoy with his wife Gudrun came in to demonstrate his cheeses and answer a wide range of questions.

They produce a range of cheeses all from Raw milk:

St. Gall is a hard cheese, wheel shaped and weighs approximately 5kg. It is a natural rind cheese. Young St. Gall is springy in texture with a mild milky flavour, but as the cheese ages up to eight months and beyond it develops a yeasty bite that gently stings the palate. It is a good cooking cheese as it keeps its flavour well when melted.

St. Brigid is a loaf shaped, semi hard cheese and weighs approximately 3kg. Its mild creamy flavour has made it a hit with young and old alike. It is also a natural rind cheese. It looks well on a cheeseboard for discerning dinner guests and goes down a treat in school lunch boxes.

Cais Dubh is a hard cheese wheel with a black rind. It weighs approximately 5kg. It obtained a silver medal at the recent World Cheese Awards. It is also available with Fenugreek. Cais Dubh with Fenugreek won the gold medal award for flavoured cheese at the World Cheese Awards.

Cais Rua is a soft smear ripened cheese with a red/orange rind. It weighs approximately 2.5kg.

Hibernia is an extra mature one year old cheese. It weighs approximately 12kg. Cheese connoisseurs enjoy the mature flavours this cheese offers. Unfortunately it availability is limited.

Frank spent a good hour with us, passing round several cheeses and leaving even more for a later tasting.

Previously Timmy had popped in to give us an update on the Sourdough Starter which had been started last week. Now named Freddie the starter was ready to be sponged prior to baking and, with a small amount retained Freddie was destined for eternal life, some American sourdoughs are 140 years old. Once risen the loaf will be cooked and shared as an incentive to us all to make our own starters and eat sourdough bread for the rest of our lives.

The rest of the morning was taken up with lectures on preserving and freezing, making herb oils and vinegars and also on potential career choices after Ballymaloe, not just confined to cooking. Food writing was a possibility said Darina and she knew that some of us were blogging which was a great start to such a career!!

Lunch did feature Lamb again but there was a range of salads and vegetable dishes as alternatives as well as Shrimp. I was pleased to enjoy a soup and main course making this the biggest meal that I have eaten at lunch for some time.

Lunch over we returned for a lecture on Spices. This was delivered by Arun Kapil a Ballymaloe graduate who now runs Green Saffron importing spices direct from India. Not only does he have a stall in Midleton and other Farmers Markets but he also makes bespoke spice mixes for the likes of Richard Corrigan and other top chefs. On a recent visit to the market with Janet we bought a selection of spices for our son Dafyd who is well into his curries- the USP of Green Saffron being that they give recipes to support the spice mixes that they sell.

It was a real pleasure to handle spices that have been in India less than eight weeks ago, unlike most in the UK which have been warehoused in Bristol for up to three years. Vanilla in particular was a revelation, the pods long and fat, soft and absolutely aromatic. I think that in future If I can't get Arun's vanilla - luckily he does mail order- I shall use organic vanilla extract rather than the wizened dry sticks that until today I thought the height of culinary luxury.

Anil certainly changed my mind on spice use and his gingerbread which he passed round tasted better than any I have ever eaten with his wide range of spices, stem ginger and four types of sugar each of which added their own recognisable characteristics.
Finally Darina spoke on Menu planning which is, you will recall, the major driver for any food related enterprise. Oh yes and just as we got over the exams we were handed the content of the three written exams and the practical. Focusing your mind or what?


  1. Does Anil do mail order via internet?

    I knew I would work out how to post one day.....jane

  2. Yes on their website but it is down at the moment. Also do newsletters etc so visit Green Saffron and enjoy

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