Fresh Fig with toasted St Tola and Aronia coulis

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St Tola goat’s cheese with fresh ripe fig and aronia coulis.

Not a lot of people know this, but I grew up in a school until I was ten years old. My Mother was a teacher and we had moved a fair bit by the time I reached the age of five. Questembert first, after I was born in the Sacred Heart Clinic in Vannes, just off Roosevelt avenue, then Belz, not too far from Auray where a Guineafowl kept on chasing and terrorising me, where my child minder used to call me “Figure de poire”, “Pear Face”, a nice lady though… Then finally Vannes. By the time I was five, I had lived in three schools. In France at the time, a teacher didn’t earn a lot of money, but one of the perks of the job came with a descent amount of holidays, and a “logement de fonction” ( work accommodation) for the whole family, until you were senior enough and with a reasonably comfortable income to get your own…

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Blanquette of Cauliflower

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Blanquette of Cauliflower with red rice and saffron and sheep cheese rosette

I have started walking again, enjoying the countryside before heading to work, just half an hour or so, in order to kick start the auld metabolism. I have a choice of four routes to take and yesterday I went a bit further, on account of being Sunday and all, the temperatures were a bit cooler and the south west wind was keeping them little b*****ds flies away from my face. A mixed feeling of being really, really irritated and kind of defeating the purpose of a curative and relaxing walk, to right down humiliating having a cloud of buzzers following you for several kilometres…

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St Tola Raviole and the Chinese TV Crew

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St Tola Raviole and spinach broth

I can’t believe it has been three years already; I was sitting on the garden table, sipping on a nice coffee and honey, just the way I like it when the phone rang. ” 9 am!” I thought, “can’t a man enjoy a wee bit of peace before heading to work?”. It was a lady from Fáilte Ireland, the National Tourism Development Authority of Ireland if you prefer, “Fáilte” meaning “Welcome”; by the sounds of things it seemed to be important and it came from the top, well you know, top enough! A camera crew from China, CCTV to be precise were touring Ireland; they wished to stop at my work place and wanted me to speak about cheese…

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Potato and Boyne Valley Bán Gratin

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Potato and Boyne Valley Bán Gratin

Don’t you just love it? You are at work, you have a recipe in mind, you know that you have all the ingredients at home and in this case it was a head of broccoli, I needed to use for a simple but tasty gratin. I also wanted to use Michael Finnegan’s new cheese from Slane in County Meath called Boyne Valley Bán; a goat’s cheese tomme he has been experimenting for a while… I love it! Anyhow, I made it back home to the house at 6:30pm, only to realise that the broccoli in question had turned completely yellow, it was actually warm, the whole top shelf of the fridge had been bathed by the light bulb of the once cold appliance. I thought: ” Great! What now? A new fridge?”. The culprit was in fact one of my cats, “Shaky Leo”, a charming young black panther who suffers from “C.H” ( Cerebellar Hypoplasia) which causes him a lack of full control of his movements and some great “Free Styling” moves… In one of his “Parcour”, my little friend ended up opening the fridge slightly… All day… Good bye broccoli…

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Derg, a Cheddar Immersion

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Derg Cheddar maturing

I do often come across a bit of ignorance from our mainland European gourmands regarding Cheddar. A cheese named after a little village in Somerset, UK; a few miles from Wales. It also refers to a very particular type of cheese making.  Unlike camembert from Normandy, the name Cheddar is not really protected so it can be found well outside its original region of production and therefore, due to obvious historical reasons, is found in all shapes and forms in Ireland. Shape wise, it is mostly square, rectangular, white or red (due to a carotene type dye); not really exciting, I’ll give you that, but then again, neither are a lot of main brands of Camembert, chalky, dry versus “boing-boing” plastic. “Tomaytoes-tomatoes”, same difference my friends! The truth is, real cheddar is a bit like some famous French cheese, from Auvergne, like Salers, Cantal or Laguiole. They are not covered with cloth, but their texture and taste can be pretty similar. I even have a theory that they might be related through old French monks’ migrations to England, the same way Wensleydale is related to Roquefort… But that is a debate for another day.

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Aubergine, Chorizo, Goat’s Cheese

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Aubergine, Gubbeen Chorizo and St Tola Goat’s cheese

I love doing those quick dinners, while coming home after a hard cheesy day. In the summer, I find cooking a bit more challenging and since we are having a bit of a “heat wave” in Ireland ( 29c – 84f), I needed something quick when I came home from work yesterday, something I could serve with leaves or something. The idea of cleaning the barbecue at 6:30pm didn’t appeal to me… Somewhat… I am sure you understand. I opened the fridge and realised that – yet again- I had bought an aubergine (eggplant) on Saturday; whatever happens in this Hungry Breton’s head is quick thinking that I, sometimes, surprise myself. With only three ingredients, this is how it went:

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St Tola and Beetroot relish Quiche

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Out of the oven…

The sun is shining today on the isle or Ireland, gently flirting with a 19°c. The Willow Warblers, Chiffchaffs, Blackcaps and all the Hirundinidae (Swallows and Martins) are back from Africa. My blind cat “Wilson” decided to make friends with my neighbours cows and after two months, we finally have a Government that nobody really wants or democratically voted for. An Independent politician from Co. Kerry has joined the climate change deniers’ list with a fine statement that I expected to hear from a pub pillar after a couple of scoops, just not in the Daíl (National Assembly). As you can see, all is good in “Iwerzhon”, so good that I decided to turn off the radio, enjoy watching my cat making new friends and make a quiche… Just like that!

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