Friday, 30 March 2012

How are your curtains ?

I always love to see Summer time start. Its so lovely to see the bright evenings and I often feel people are like tortoises. They start to emerge from their shells and stretch out. Even driving through town yesterday evening I was struck by all the people out sitting having the tipple of their fancy - everyone was in great form.  The Market is the same. There are more stall holders and we see the return of our fair weather customers and the sense of community builds once more.

But this has made me think about the long dreary winter months and how we get through them. Once the buzz of Christmas is over we sink into a lull of hardcore regulars! Quite often as a stall holder this is a difficult time. So how do we keep going? Sure its for the love of what we do and for many their livelihood depends on it but its also because of the camaraderie and friendships that have formed between customers and stallholders alike.

Our fish stall holder is what can only be described as a devil. What he gets away with saying to his customers is unreal. The amount of times I've heard him chatting up women of all ages is phenomenal and he does it with such charm and humour that he gets away with murder. And while he's no George Clooney what woman doesn't mind being told she's only gorgeous! Because of this an orderly queue forms at his stall every Saturday whatever the weather and the roars of laughter can be heard and keep the customers coming back.

Then there are the customers who sweep in every Saturday laughing no matter what ! One lady in particular arrives with her dog Guinness every Saturday. Guinness always looks suave in his reflector jacket !!! He trots up to me and sits looking up at me with the most beautiful chocolate eyes that say please give me a treat. He is particularly fond of Gubbeen and Manchego. His owner then follows him over and decrees that her dog has the best taste ever and knows a good cheese when he smells one !

Then she will have a story for you. One that is normally not for small ears if you know what I mean. My particular favourite was about a French man, Italian man and an Irish man. While I could not possibly tell you the rest of the story on this blog as I would most certainly be tracked down and arrested suffice to say to say there were curtains involved and hence Mary now greets me with the line - "How are your curtains?" and the laughter rises again.

This is what makes a Market, this is what makes my Saturday mornings sunny all year round and in honour of the sun here is a nice little week day supper that celebrates the start of Summer flavours.

Roast Mediterranean Vegetable Salad with 
Grilled Goats Cheese and Wild Garlic Oil.

Serves 4
Prep 30 mins plus cooling


1 Aubergine
1 Courgette
1 Red Onion
20 Cherry Tomatoes
100g Lardons
A mixture of salad leaves in season.
8 thin slices of Chevre Buche
Big bunch of Wild Garlic
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt & pepper

Chop up the onion, courgettes, aubergine place on a baking tray along with the cherry tomatoes. Drizzle with olive oil, season and roast in a preheated moderate oven (180 deg) for twenty mins. Then allow to cool.

In the meantime wash the wild garlic and dry.Then crush it with a pestle & mortar or whizz it in the processor and add enough oil to make it loose enough to drizzle. Fry the lardons until a they are a little bit crispy and allow to cool.

Place the slices of goats cheese on a baking tray. When the vegetables are cool place the goats cheese under the grill for two to three minutes. In the meantime arrange the salad leaves nicely. Arrange your vegetables and lardons on top. Finally place two slices of the grilled goats cheese on top and drizzle with the wild garlic oil. A lovely taste of Summer.

Monday, 26 March 2012

The Week Cheese!

One of my favourite things about our market is that there is a really lovely family atmosphere. Parents are accompanied by their children while they browse for their vegetables, fish , meat and cheese. Needless to mention the baking stalls and crepe stall are always a firm favourite for the kids. 

My stall is right next door to the crepe stall which does a mean minnie and mickey mouse american pancake! while they are being prepared there is often a foray over to my stall and you can tell a lot about the little darlings from their reaction to cheese!

First of all there is the UUuugggghhh that cheese smell type who you just know are not for changing and might be quite picky about their food and will do their level best to drag their mums and dads away from the offending whiffs! The mums are more likely to acquiesce but the dads -  they kinda ignore them and mumble yeah yeah hang on a minute while they browse the selection available inevitably buying a nice mature cheddar or a decent bit of blue!! Meanwhile their offspring at this stage are distracted by the nutella coated pancake that they are more than anxious to consume!

The next type is the Whats That???  This is the child who will stand and ask the questions whats that, whats that, whats that? All the while pointing to whatever it is that catches their eye while a queue of paying customers starts to form behind them. This is a difficult one because I never like to offend or to quench the curiosity and a little bit of patience can often pay off.

The next type is the Sticky Fingers type who just want to paw the cheese. Its like watching car crash TV in slow motion. The hands just land - SPLAT - on cheese and you just know they are going to the soft cheese - fresh piece of St Tola or Ryefield  and you just have to hope that their Mums or Dads aren't at the stage where they have been up  since the dawn  and their will to continue has been severly compromised by their little ones exuberance earlier on in the day.

Then there is the child who just wants to taste - I love this child - they are the ones with the quiet sense of adventure that you just know are brimming with confidence and will try anything once. These are the children who will get over it if they don't like it and will not be stopped from finding a cheese that they really like.
Don't mistake this confidence for being that nurtured by parents- sometimes this isn't the case - sometimes its a genuine curiousity about taste and experiences. These are the four and five year olds that like a bit of Stilton or that love olives.

And there is my favourite customer Matthew who comes to me with his family every week to buy the Week Cheese. Matthew is the child that does not eat cheese but is in charge of picking the weeks cheese and regardless of what he picks thats what that family are eating that week!! The ultimate decision maker.

So what do my little customers tend to like - Wicklow Baun, Wicklow Gold, Ryefield and Cooleeney are very popular. Manchego is a shinning star and Parmesan and Mozzarella are great loves for the top of their pasta and pizza respectively.

Here is a recipe for one of my childrens favourite cheesy desserts:

Raspberry & White Chocolate Cheesecake Pots

Prep: 20 mins
Chill:  1 hour
Serves: 4 generously!

150g Mascarpone
150g Soft Cheese ( Full or Low fat)
200ml Cream
50g Golden Caster Sugar
100g White Chocolate grated ( Butlers do a lovely one with berries in it!)
300g Raspberries (retain a few for decorating)
50g Butter
250g Biccies of your choice I use a chocolate chip


Melt the butter and crush the biscuits, mix together and put into the base of 4 pretty glasses.
Sprinkle a tablespoon of icing sugar over the raspberries and allow to macerate for 10/15 minutes
Put the cheese mascarpone, cream and caster sugar into a bowl together and whisk for a few minutes until quite thick. Stir in most of the grated chocolate again retain some for decoration. Then mush up the raspberries and stir into the mixture. If you are fussy sieve the raspberries to remove the seeds. Spoon the mixture into the four glasses and allow set in the fridge for a minimum of 1 hour. You could leave it overnight. Decorate, serve and enjoy!