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Say cheese

Tasting

VERSATILE Cheese tarts are perfect light-but-filling summer meals, delicious eaten hot at the table or cold as part of a picnic

Food

Redmond Cabot

These warm and lazy summer days means the idea of cooking up hefty meals doesn’t appeal. At home we’ve been grazing on picnics and mezze-style meals – dips, salads, flatbreads, cheeseboards.
Penny and Louis, eight and three years old, sometimes make the flatbreads. Separate bowls, ingredients and work stations keep the peace! They mix together flour, warm water, oil and salt, patiently knead their dough for ten minutes, then shape it into rounds (or sometimes, tractors). We sear the bread on a lightly oiled pan for a few minutes ’till it’s golden with brown blisters. Magnificent. Yes, the kitchen is destroyed, but hey – happy children, full tummies!

Blessed are the cheese makers
There are fewer things in life more pleasing – or easier to make a meal with – than cheese. Cheese on toast for breakfast, or supper. What’s not to like?
At Westport Country Market, Marcel Veldman sells a delicious range of Irish and international cheeses. To make things even better, in a few months he’ll be bringing his own cheese to the market.
We are blessed. Mayo already has incredible, award-winning artisan cheesmakers. Helen Grady and Danilo Dozio of Dozio’s of Mayo in Carracastle produce a range of beautiful, flavoured soft cheeses under their Zing label – heavenly smeared on crusty bread. Their semi-hard Ella is a delight on your cheeseboard. Danilo uses his knowledge of Swiss-cheesmaking to make the most of the high-quality milk produced by grass-fed Mayo cows.
In Claremorris, Michael and Aisling Flanagan of Velvet Cloud produce silky yogurt and a range of rich, nutty cheeses made from sheeps’ milk. At a recent lunch with friends, everyone craving another helping nervously eyed the sheep’s cheese as it did the round of the table, not wanting it to end before it made it to their plate. There are very few notable restaurants in Ireland that don’t list Velvet Cloud on their menus.
Cheese, bread and salad – that’s all you need for a summer feast. Cheese tarts are good too, great for picnics, and they are flexible; you can tweak a recipe to use whatever cheese you have.

Cheese and onion tart
If you’re short of time, you can buy ready-made shortcrust pastry.

What you need
(Pastry)

  • 200g plain flour
  • 100g very cold butter
  • Pinch of salt
  • very cold water to mix

What you need
(Filling)

  • 2 white onions
  • 3 eggs (two for the mix, one for glazing)
  • 280ml double cream
  • 250g cheese (you can use a mix of hard and softer cheeses, whatever you fancy),
  • 1-2 tbsp of oil
  • The leaves of a few sprigs of thyme
  • Seasoning   

What you do
To make the pastry, chop the butter into small pieces, add to the flour and salt, and crumble with your fingers to get a breadcrumb effect. Add enough water to bind the dough.
Roll out the dough and place it on a lightly greased 23cm loose-bottomed pie tin. Cover with baking paper, weigh down with baking beans and bake at 200 degrees Celsius for 15 minutes.
While the pastry is cooking, chop the onions and cook in oil for at least ten minutes, until soft. Take the pastry case out of the oven, remove the beans and baking paper, glaze with a beaten egg and return to the oven for a few minutes until the glaze hardens. Turn the oven down to 160 degrees Celsius.
When the pastry is cool, scatter the cheese around the case – you can grate or crumble the harder cheese and break the softer cheese into small pieces. Next, spread the onions around the case. Beat the remaining two eggs and the cream together, add the thyme leaves, season with salt and pepper and pour into the case.
Bake for 30-40 minutes until the egg is set and golden. Enjoy with a peppery salad of rocket and cress leaves! Peppery salads are yet another joy of summer eating.

Red Cabot is interested in food, nature and small things. He sells his food at Westport Country Markets in St Anne’s Boxing Club, James’s Street car park, Westport, every Thursday, from 8am to 1pm.