Chicory Gratin

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Chicory Gratin

Here is a little chicory recipe to illustrate my previous post/ story called Chicory Endeavour ; the pun is in the fact that chicory is also known as “endive”; ok, ok, a bit far fetched maybe? Anyhow, I decided to make this recipe with a cheese we mature at work, called “15 Fields”, a raw milk cheddar from co. Waterford that we age for 6 to 8 months. It works really well in cheesy sauces, or like in this case, a rich Béchamel sauce, perfect for this French classic called “Gratin d’Endives”. It sometimes includes ham, but this time, I decided to leave it out. In pictures, and step by step, this is pretty much how it went… First, you need to gather your key ingredients:

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Breton Cake with Apples

Choice 7
Apple Breton Cake with Espresso

My boss is sending me on a Special Mission; it happens once in a while, either dropped discreetly around a cup of coffee between a “well, how are you?” and “how would you feel about going on a road trip?”, or an email, extrapolated by my over active imagination which can clearly read: ”  Your mission, should you choose to accept it, involves extracting some of our newest staff from Dublin, bring them to West Cork to see some of the original producers and actors of the Irish cheese and food revival, bring them back with plenty of stories and dreams to share. This message will self-destruct in five seconds”. I swear, that is what I get, this is what I hear, this is what I read.

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Triskel Dommage

If you ever drive on the back roads of Brittany, it is only a matter of time before you’ll find yourself stuck behind an old Renault 4, you are on holidays so you don’t mind. Your mind will start to drift as there are so many cauliflowers and artichokes fields one can admire before focusing on silly things. In this case it will be a sticker, displayed proudly on the boot of the car strolling in front of you. It will probably remind you of the Isle of Man’s flag, with smoother forms, mesmerizing like a painting of M. C. Escher. This symbol is called a Triskel, it means a lot to us and, since I live near a Neolithic cairn site, it must mean a lot to the locals too!

Triskel
Triskel

But in recent years, the Triskel of fertility, the symbol of Earth, Fire and Water started to take another meaning, another powerful sensation… Taste. Ireland just witnessed the birth of a new cheese, from a small herd of goats in Co. Waterford. The name kept troubling me though, Triskel might be present on a lot of petroglyphs around the Island, from Newgrange to Sligo, but it is rarely mentioned. I got my answer when I met cheesemaker Anna Lévêque, a few years ago, during one of our Food Festivals. We quickly established the obvious as our French accents pretty swiftly gave away the undeniable fact that we were from “The Hexagon”. As small talk went on, we realized that not only we were from the same region (I’ll let you guess that one), the same “County” of Little Sea (Morbihan), the very same town of Vannes, and, funny enough, both of us arrived on Earth through the same portal, a small private clinic just off Roosevelt Avenue… Ten years or so apart, but still; many a time later, Anna was making cheese in the Crystal, I was selling it in the Royal…

Ash Dusting
Ash Dusting
Feeding time
Feeding time

The similarities and natural attraction from both Irish and Breton land doesn’t only stop at some old Celtic ideologies, but can be found rooted deep down in the fiber of our cultures, all the way down to cheese making even. Open a book about French cheese; go at the very end where the index of regions is and you’ll discover very quickly that Brittany is absent. We haven’t been invited to that party lads! The truth is that Brittany doesn’t have an A.O.C cheese; we have some other things, like the Cider of Fouesnant and the pink onions or Roscoff… none for cheese though. Whatever. A lot of cheese produced in Brittany, like in Ireland, is from small productions and a penchant for goat’s milk; old Celtic habits die hard I guess. Producers like Anna, are free spirits, independent, with a wonderful ability to understand their landscape, the land of honey and apples. Anna’s cheese is covered with ash; it is subtle, sweet and creamy, with hints of hay, slightly tangy but not too much, leaving the door open to a bit of sweetness, I love it for breakfast, with my controversial cucumber and kiwi salad or in a buckwheat crêpe with a drizzle of honey… For sure, I will miss you little Triskel…

Young Billy
Young Billy
Maturing
Maturing

That is sadly the downside of being an independent farmer and cheesemaker, a world of unnecessary pressures on top of necessary ones, life, family and common sense decisions sometimes bring one’s little ship to sail away on another course. But that is ok too. Who knows what wonderful gem this talented young artist will reward us with? Who knows if Triskel will, one day re-appear? The well fated choice of Triskel as a name, symbol of Earth, Fire and Water for some… Eternal rebirth for others.

Cheese Board
Cheese Board
Anna and Billy
Anna and Billy