One of the best things for me here at Ballymaloe is the breadth of knowledge that is passed along to us from each and every member of the team. Last Wednesday morning at 7:30am, a motley crew of us gathered to have a whirlwind tour of the herbs, vegetables and salads that are grown in the organic gardens here and to obtain advice from the wonderful Eileen about planting ourselves.
Eileen talked us through salad and herb identification based on look and taste, making it all sound very straightforward! Not sure I will feel the same on exam day!
She walked is around the raised beds that were planted by students in the last course which were very pretty in the rising sun, and gave us tips on making raised beds, soil content and anything that may effect the growing of your plants. I may have grilled her slightly on what would be best to plant in pots on a balcony and she has given me lots of food for thought!
We had a walk around the greenhouse, discussing predators that can be a major help or hindrance, especially in organic gardening where no pesticides are used. Bees are often introduced into organic greenhouses, to keep the predators under control.
Last but not least, we visited the organic calves bred here on the farm. There were three breeds, a jersey, a Dexter and the third I cannot remember! Suffice to say they were adorable and it so reinforces the farm to table ethos to know they will provide milk, butter, yoghurt, cream and eventually, meat for the school here. This is the way good food should be produced.
Using organic milk, you can make so many wonderful products. This week, I made paneer which is a cheese used commonly in India and is similar to Halloumi. It is so straightforward and really worth trying, it’s a great flavour carries so is lovely in a curry. The recipe is below. I haven’t given you many savoury recipes yet so this one is really easy and means that everyone can make cheese in their kitchen! Something sweet next maybe?
Organic Milk Paneer
Paneer is a cheese much like Halloumi which is great sliced and fried in a pan or stirred into a curry.
Here we served it with a spicy tomato salsa and this makes a great starter!
- 1.8 litres milk
- 2-3 tablespoons lemon juice
- Place a sieve over a large bowl to catch the whey. Line the sieve with cheese cloth or muslin. This is available in most cook shops and baby goods shops and has so many uses.
- In a large high sided saucepan, bring the milk to a boil.
- When it looks like it might boil over, turn the heat off under the milk and stir in some of the lemon juice.
- It may curdle straight away but you might need a little more lemon.
- When the curds do seperate, pour the mixture into the lined sieve.
- Bring the curds together into a ball and squeeze gently. At this point you can either hang the cheese ball in the muslin to allow more whey to drain and it will stay in the ball shape, or you can buy little moulds with draining holes.
- Allow to drain for 1 hour and then either serve as is, with a chutney or salsa or fry like Halloumi.
Fresh Tomato Salsa:
- 4 medium tomatoes, very ripe
- 1 shallot, finely chopped
- 1/2 – 1 chilli, depending on heat preference
- 1 clove of garlic crushed
- 2 tablespoons fresh coriander
- Juice of half a lime
- Salt, sugar and pepper to taste
- Mix all ingredients together, taste and adjust seasoning.
- Keeps for a day or two in the fridge but best used fresh.