I can think of far better ways of acknowledging St Patrick’s day than dressing up as a leprechaun or downing pints of Irish beer in an Irish-style pub. There’s a wealth of fine food across the Irish Sea and I was sent some samples to review by Bord Bia (The Irish Food Board) and Paxton & Whitfield.
Paxton & Whitfield are a cheese monger with a very long history, and have shops in London, Bath, Stratford-upon-Avon and Bourton on the Water. At each shop, their staff can not only help you choose cheeses that will suit your needs, but also help you learn more about the many cheeses they stock.
Their Taste of Ireland selection (£32) includes generous hunks of Cashel Blue, Gubeen and Mossfield Organic, and whole Cooleeney and Gortnamona. All five of these cheeses are made using vegetarian rennet and all are pasteurised except for the Cooleeney. (You can buy the selection in their stores, or via the website).
Cashel Blue is a medium-strength cow’s milk blue cheese; creamy and salty with a pleasant mellow flavour, not as complex as some blues, but one we enjoy regularly.
Cooleeney is a soft cheese with bloomy white rind, in the style of Camembert. Although the inside was soft and ripe, though rather bland, the rind was dusty, brittle, hard and chalky. We usually love the rind on this kind of cheese, but just couldn’t stomach this one. We cut and threw away the rest of the rind and used the inside for cooking.
Gortnamona is another soft cheese with bloomy rind and just like the Cooleeney, the rind was brittle, chalky, papery, cardboard-like. Very unpleasant. Unfortunately, this time the interior didn’t seem at all ripe either, and was similarly chalky and papery in texture. Sadly, this cheese was thrown away as it just wasn’t palatable.
Gubeen is one of Ireland’s famous cheeses and for good reason. It has a firm but flexible texture and a fantastically rich, almost meaty flavour, with hints of nut and caramel. We found this cheese very satisfying, and we’ll be looking to buy it more regularly.
Mossfield Organic is a hard cheese, with a great full flavour that comes from age. It’s much like a great aged Comte – rich, nutty, sweet, oily with a deep flavour that’s utterly delicious. This was our favourite from the selection, and we definitely want more of this cheese in our bellies!
This Irish Organic Smoked Salmon is produced by Ummera Smoked Products in County Cork.
Thickly sliced, the salmon had a rich, soft, buttery texture, a kick of smoke without the atringency you can sometimes find in cheap smoked salmon products, a rich salmon flavour. Fantastic!
From Pandora Bell, a chocolatier based in West of Ireland, we received a cute praline chocolate egg and a bar of chocolate-coated honey nougat.
It was the praline chocolate egg that we loved, presented as it was in a real egg shell that we tapped onto a plate to break and peeled just like a hard-boiled egg. Inside was the most delicious chocolate praline, smooth and rich and gone far too quickly. More please!
Although I thought the packaging absolutely beautiful, the honey nougat was just too sweet for me. This coming from someone with a very sweet tooth. I don’t want to waste it, so am currently considering whether I can chop it into tiny pieces and incorporate it into an ice cream for an upcoming bloggers scream for ice cream challenge.
Black and White Pudding
I’ve long been a fan of black pudding, though came more recently to white pudding, when we visited County Cork a few years ago. So I was very happy to receive one each of the famous Clonakilty black and white puddings.
The black pudding had a good flavour, a lovely texture with a slighy chewiness from the oats, that I liked very much. The white pudding was excellent, with great flavour from both pork and pork fat.
We enjoyed these as part of a Sunday brunch fry up. They set us up for the day!
Sarah’s Scrummy Honey with Sour Cherries is produced by Mileeven Fine Foods, based in Kilkenny County. A label on the jar explains that the family have been producing honey for many generations, and are now keen to share.
Preserving the sour cherries in honey seems to have taken away their usual astringency, so those looking for a combination of sweet and sour may be disappointed. But I have a sweet tooth, and enjoyed the product, using it where I’d normally use jam or plain honey, in a toasted brie sandwich.
It would also be nice served with vanilla ice cream, or might work mixed into a cake.
Pop over to Pete Drinks for reviews of Irish beers and whiskeys.
With thanks to Bord Bia and Paxton & Whitfield for review samples.