We’re super delighted to be back on board with the Cheese Your Way campaign throughout 2021, and even more excited that we’re playing a part in the greatest competition ever –– send in your ultimate comforting cheesy recipe to win one of three top prizes: a €2,000 Ireland’s Blue Book Voucher, a €500 Ballymaloe House voucher or a €200 Sheridan’s Cheesemonger hamper. Plus, we want to spotlight the winner and two runners-up by showcasing YOUR recipes right here on our site and sharing to the cheese-loving masses!
Joining forces with the National Dairy Council and the EU-funded Cheese Your Way campaign, we want to unearth what’s cooking, melting, bubbling and being served in homes across Ireland! What comforting, cheese-focused dishes have you been cooking throughout lockdown and beforehand? Have you a recipe that boasts a unique story or showcases a cutting-edge flavour combination? Then this recipe challenge, with its incredible prizes, is aimed at you!
In a recent EU funded survey 53% people stated they are curious to discover more cheeses but Ireland’s firm favourite cheese at 64% is cheddar. The fact that Ireland is open to exploring different cheeses is exciting as there are so many varieties to choose from locally and further afield. This competition is a celebration of Irish and European cow’s milk cheeses, of which the continent is responsible for 46% of all global output! Europe as a whole offers more than 1,000 varieties of cheese, so there’s a whole world to explore, each one a little bit different and individual than the next, from Danish Blue to French Brie de Meaux and the likes of West Cork’s washed rind cheeses Milleens, Durrus and Gubbeen here in Ireland.
The world of delicious Irish & European cheeses has consumed us too over the past year! We undertook our own cheese training via Academy of Cheese to up our culinary know-how, so we’re excited to offer some hints and tips to help you along the way and *you* could be a lucky winner! We adore cooking with cheese as it is so easy to use as well as being delicious. All it takes is a little bit of know how to transform a recipe from normal to phenomenal with the right cheese and flavour combinations, so here are some hints from us:
Cheddar + Pairings
In Ireland, our love for cheese means that we eat it a lot, and have a long history intertwined with the production and supply of dairy, of which cheesemaking is a huge part –– in fact, a survey from 2014 found we Irish consumed 11.5kgs of cheese per capita! It’s no surprise that cheddar is Ireland’s favourite cheese, but even delving within that world there’s serious diversity and difference, from creamy white cheddar or umami-tinged red cheddar to crumbly and sharp aged or ‘mature’ cheddar.
When thinking of recipes celebrating cheddar, the likes of ingredients that go perfectly with this style is fatty meats like ham or even cured meats like Chorizo. Cider, whiskey and beer are all equally great with cheddar, and its dominant flavour is amazing in different breads and pastries. So diverse, you’ll be surprised how well the likes of white cheddar pairs with tropical fruits, or how sharp red cheddar pairs effortlessly with delicate herbs like chive.
Dutch and Alpine-Style Cheeses + Pairings
You probably already know and love the classic French king of hard ‘cooked’ cheeses, Comté, and the likes of Gruyère and Emmental. Did you know Ireland also produces similar styles to this? Try Kylemore Farmhouse Cheese from Galway, and both Bó Rua and Templegall (Hegarty’s Cheese) from Cork. Likewise, Dutch Gouda is amazing and has similar varieties in Ireland, like Coolea in Cork and Killeen (cow’s) in Galway.
Alpine style cheeses love to be paired with nuts, especially roasted nuts, and work really well with fruit –– everything from crisp green apple to balsamic strawberries. Reflecting the nutty, earthy, umami notes often found in this style of cheese, think of flavours like soy, miso, mushroom, smoke, rye and even coffee! This style of cheese really offers itself up to so many techniques and delicious recipe interpretations.
Bloomy Rind Cheeses + Pairings
Love the vegetal, earthy, creaminess of bloomy rind cheeses like the archetypal French classics Brie and Camembert? You’ll love Cooleeney, Wicklow Bán, Wicklow Blue, Cavanbert and Ballylisk. These creamy numbers with edible rinds love sharp fruit to cut through them, so think of lightly acidic and sharp fruits like green apple, pear or blackcurrant whilst sweet wines like Calvados and Port also have a similar effect. Herbs love bloomy rind cheeses too, especially dried herbs or woodier herbs like sage, and they make a great match with both garlic and chilli.
This style of cheese really stands up to the likes of crusty focaccia and sourdough as well as creamier nuts like cashews and walnuts.
Blue Cheeses + Pairings
Finally, blue cheese –– of which Ireland produces some of the best in the world, and don’t be afraid of this; it runs the gamut from creamy and seriously mild to crumbly, salty and strong. We love the dairy richness of the likes of Denmark’s Castello Danablu but we think Cashel Blue from Co. Tipperary is truly sensational. Likewise, other, slightly more intense, blue cheeses from Ireland include Young Buck from Belfast/Ards and the lesser-spotted red wax-sealed Kerry Blue.
Blue cheese goes great with sharp, peppery and bitter leaves, so think mustard greens, cress, nasturtium, rocket and endive. Likewise herbs such as chervil and sorrel. Sharp and sweet vinegars work well with this style, as do rich meats like steak and even game. Dark berry fruits work surprisingly well with blue cheeses, as do concentrated fruits like fig, date and chutneys, pickles, preserves and jams.
Hint 1: Consider Combining Cheeses!
If you’ve ever savoured a fondue or delved into a quattro formaggi pizza you’ll know the wonders of combining cheeses into one neat mouthful and the complex flavours that you would presume fight against one another but in reality melt or mesh beautifully together. Cheese stands so well on its own, pairs so amazingly to additional ingredients, but cooking, baking or serving different types together can be magical. Don’t just be confined by sticking to one cheese if you feel it limits your options. Remember, this campaign is all about celebrating cow’s milk cheeses, so make sure those are the star –– but that’s not to say they can’t have some support acts… Three Cheese Chicken Kiev, anyone?
Hint 2: Think About Your Process…
Cheese is so versatile in that it can be treated in myriad delicious ways and is so adaptable to diverse cooking methods, so it’s worth exploring the vast array of ways you can celebrate cheese! What about baking cheese into bread? Deep-frying cheese as croquettes? Drizzling a cheese sauce over nachos? Rolling cheese in nuts and serving in a salad? Stuffing cheese inside meatballs? Crowned and sandwiched inside an unctuous toastie? Grated and oven-baked into cheese crisps? Bubbled into a cheesy fondue? Lavished over crusty bread atop soup? Stuffed into Jalapeño poppers? Blitzed into a cheesy dressing?
Hint 3: Let’s Talk About Texture
When developing recipes this is something we are always conscious of, and it’s something chef’s will tell you can make or break a dish: different textures. No one wants to labour over mouthfuls of a meal with the same texture, which is why soup so often is served with bread, or why mac and cheese is made even better with a pangrattato (crispy breadcrumb) topping.
Hint 4: Create Harmony and Balance
Salty, sweet, sour, bitter and umami. These are the five ‘tastes’ that the tongue reacts to, and one of the biggest pieces of advice we can give as recipe developers is to consider the balance in a dish. If you’re using a really intense, aged cheddar with a significant salty bite you might want to consider balancing it with something sweet.
Don’t be afraid of the likes of bitter and sour, which add depth and zing to dishes respectively. Umami is that rich, concentrated ‘savoury’ flavour like roasted tomatoes, pan-fried mushrooms, red meats, soy sauce. If your dish is too much of one of the five tastes it will throw everything off balance, but get the seasoning right and balance those ‘tastes’ and you’ll be onto a winner, trust us!