Happy St. Patrick’s Day to anyone who celebrates it. Over the last couple of weeks, courtesy of the Pong Cheese Irish Selection Box, I’ve learned a great deal about the history and diversity of Irish cheese. Today’s cheese sums up the island’s cheese renaissance, blending fresh milk from green pastures with inspiration from further afield – in this case, France. As you can see, though, Humming Bark is not a cheese for amateurs. It’s not just flexing its muscles; it’s actually burst through its shirt, Hulk-style.
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If there’s one Irish cheese that seems to deserve an automatic place on any St Patrick’s Day platter, it may well be this one. Second out of the Pong Cheese Irish Selection Box I was sent to review is Cashel Blue, which is named after the ‘Rock of Cashel’, the medieval castle where St Patrick is said to have started converting the pagan Irish to Christianity, using the three-leafed shamrock as a metaphor for the Holy Trinity.
To continue this week’s exploration of all cheeses Irish thanks to Pong Cheese, this recipe pairs St Tola Ash Log with wild tri-cornered leeks. It’s once again the season for wild garlic but, living in London, tracking it down is a lifetime’s work. Tri-cornered leeks, on the other hand, pop up frequently in patches of woodland or people’s gardens. If you are lucky enough to find it, wild garlic would work equally well in this recipe.
Writer G. K. Chesterton once wrote that ‘poets have been mysteriously quiet on the subject of cheese.’ It could also be said that, in comparison to Welsh, Scottish and English, this blog has also been somewhat tight-lipped on the particular subject of Irish cheese. Not entirely – Brewer’s Gold and Coolea have both featured – but still, some work to be done to redress the balance. So, with St Patrick’s Day just around the corner, when online cheese specialists Pong Cheese asked me if I’d like to review their Irish Selection Box, it seemed positively serendipitous.
English muffins, that is. Not your blueberry-stuffed American monsters. We’re talking bread not cupcake. This was the first time I had attempted to make an English muffin and I was nervous, especially considering the time you need to fry them for. But, aside from the time needed to prove them, they turned out to be no bother at all. In this recipe, Sparkenhoe and black pepper come together to pep up a classic.
Dorset Blue Vinny was the first cheese I ever wrote about on this blog. At that point, I was planning to find out about cheeses from all over the world but, as I researched the Vinny, I realised that, cheese-wise, there was enough history and variety on the British Isles to keep me going for some time. Nearly four years later and there’s still about 500 cheeses I have yet to track down!
Apparently yesterday was Blue Monday, supposedly the most miserable day of the year. Based on a not-very-scientific-looking formula that takes into account weather, debt, breaking New Year’s resolutions and the fact that next Christmas is aaaages away, we were all supposed to sink into a pit of existential doom. Admittedly, it was a bit cold and rainy outside and the remains of the Quality Street were impinging somewhat on my healthier eating plans but all in all, it wasn’t so bad.
The end of the year. A sudden drop in temperature restores more seasonal climes and, with that, a craving for stodgier, heartier, fattier foods. As luck would have it, my in-laws recently bought me this cheese, Doublet, that they’d bought at their local market. And boy, does it ever fit the bill.
Some things are born from the embers of disaster. This recipe is one of them. If you read food blogs, you would think that nothing ever goes wrong and that all dishes arrive from the oven aromatic and done to a turn, just waiting to be single-lit photographed with attractive rustic props. Not so my membrillo this year. No matter how long I cooked it for in a low oven, it retained the consistency of sloppy jam. It’s still delicious but there will be no cute little stiff diamonds of it on my cheese this year; more of a smear. The upside is that it’s spreadable so perfect to lather over some pastry.