Restaurants remember a ‘big cheese’ of Irish food

Cork food outlets celebrate Veronica Steele, founder of the original Irish farmhouse cheese

The late Veronica Steele, founder of Milleen's Cheese and one of the pioneers of the Irish farmhouse cheese movement

The late Veronica Steele, founder of Milleen's Cheese and one of the pioneers of the Irish farmhouse cheese movement

 

Milleens, one of the original Irish farmhouse cheeses, is being celebrated on menus across Cork city and county this week in a tribute to its creator, Veronica Steele. Steele, who died in January, is regarded as a pioneer in the field of Irish cheesemaking, and the washed rind cheese she began making on the Beara peninsula in 1976 is now made by her son Quinlan, who took over production in 2003.

Urru culinary store owner and Fáilte Ireland food champion Ruth Healy
Urru culinary store owner and Fáilte Ireland food champion Ruth Healy

A decade after she started making her unique cheese, after a series of experiments with Cheddar, Emmenthal, Port Salut and gorgonzola, Steele wrote: “Milleens is no longer lonely as a cloud but forms a nucleus for the whole new industry in both farmhouse and, dare I say it, factory. A generation of new cheeses has developed in its wake. A dream is being realised.”

Her dream was that “Ireland would have a genuine regional cheese industry to be proud of” and now it does, thanks in no small measure to her foresight and hard work.

Food champion

This week’s Milleens promotion across 18 cafes, restaurants and market stalls is part of the Cork Character Café Series, an initiative led by Ruth Healy, a Fáilte Ireland food champion and owner of Urru Culinary Store in Bandon. It aims to promote Cork food producers through building consumer awareness.

“Cork excels at food production and casual eating. We are growing a community of cafes that personify Cork’s food and hospitality personality. We tell the Cork food story collectively as well as individually on a daily basis. Our aim is to create more visitor awareness of and ease of access to distinctive Cork regional, casual food experiences,” Healy says.

From today until next Sunday, April 30th, the participating cafes will share their stories and fond memories of Veronica Steele and Milleens cheese, and showcase the cheese in their menus.

Healy’s cafe and delicatessen is offering an open sandwich with Milleens, spiced nuts, wild fruit cheese with piccalilli and spring greens. At the English market in Cork city, the sandwich stall is also selling a sandwich created around the cheese, while the Toonsbridge cafe in Macroom is using it as the centrepiece of a salad.

Kalbos Café in Skibbereen will be putting a different Milleens dish on the menu every day of the promotion, and at the Stuffed Olive in Bantry it will pop up in cheese and apple scones; Milleens, beetroot and pea tart, and in a smoked salmon and Milleens sandwich.

The cafe at the Stephen Pearce pottery in Shanagarry has Milleens bruschetta with roasted pear and caramelised walnuts on its menu this week, and it will also have pride of place on cheeseboards at Nash 19 in Cork city (where it will be in good company alongside Gubbeen and Ardsallagh), Diva Boutique Café in Ballinspittle and Mannings Emporium in Bantry.

To learn more about Veronica Steele, you can read her obituary here.

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