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Monthly Archives: January 2014

Cheesemaking at Barwheys Dairy

As a cheese lover, I was delighted to be invited to Barwheys Dairy in Ayrshire to learn how the  award winning Barwheys cheddar is made. Each week, owner and cheese maker, Tricia Bey along with her small team make no more than 45 truckles of the hard Ayrshire cheese, using milk from the Dairy’s own special herd of pedigree Ayrshire cows.  Occasionally,a smoked version  (smoked at a local smokery) is available, and in 2012  the first truckles of delightfully named ‘Barwheys Beastie’ a 24 month old matured cheddar, were released for sale. 

Tricia with her award winning Barwheys Cheddar

Tricia with her award winning Barwheys Cheddar

Tricia’s skills in cheesemaking were quickly recognised and within two years of production starting Barwheys Cheddar was an award winning cheese with Golds at the 2012 at the Royal Highland Show and the Prestigious British Cheese Awards. Success continued in 2013 with another Gold and the award for Best Speciality Cheese Made in Scotland at the Royal Highland Show.

Unlike many commercial brands of cheddar, Barwheys Cheddar is truly a handmade cheese and it was a fascinating experience to be a part of the cheese making process at every stage. Cheese making is a craft with many factors affecting the the process and throughout the day I was enthralled watching Tricia work. It was clear that  despite the scientific elements involved, such as temperatures and acidity, Tricia’s experienced hands and intuition played an enormous part in bringing the milk to the stage that would go on to make this high quality cheese.

Like all cheese making the process starts with milk and at Barwheys,  the milk is delivered directly into the dairy from Tricia’s herd of Ayrshire cows.  Milk from the Ayrshire cattle breed is known for it’s superior creamy rich quality, making it ideal for cheese making, resulting in the long complex flavour and creamy texture of Barwheys cheddar. Of course, there are natural fluctuations in the volume of milk available from the herd  and Summer milk differs in quality to Winter milk. During the Summer months the cows graze outside on the lush grass in the countryside around the dairy and in Winter that changes as they are housed and fed indoors.

From the Barwheys herd, straight to the dairy

From the Barwheys herd, straight to the dairy

Barwheys Cheddar is an unpasteurised cheese and with the milk delivered, Tricia got straight to work,  heating the milk and adding the starter culture, to start the production of lactic acid in the milk. The acid is needed to create the conditions required for the addition of the rennet  enzyme at the next stage.  Although I had a very basic understanding of cheesemaking I had little idea of how important the acidity would  prove to be in final cheese. 

 Rewinding from the start of the  cheesmaking process, my first task of the day was to help bandage the cheese that had been made two days earlier. These had been in the cheese press and it was time for the next stage, bandaging in traditional cotton cheesecloth. After a quick but informative lesson from No 2 Cheesemaker Alison, and under her watchful eye,I managed to successfully bandaged a few of the large truckles. From there, the cheeses are transferred to the store where they are looked after by colleague Angus during  the ripening process. The truckles mature on wooden shelves for between 12 and 18 months, before being sent out to hotelsrestaurants , specialist cheese shops and delicatessens throughout the country. 

Cheery Glasgow Cheesemonger, George Mewes, helps bandage the cheese.

Cheery Glasgow Cheesemonger, George Mewes, helps bandage the cheese.

With the starter process well underway, Tricia moved onto the next stage of adding the rennet to the warm milk. Even with my basic knowledge of cheese making, this is a fascinating stage of the process to watch as the rennet acts on the milk to form the curds. As well as being responsible for the coagulation of the curds during the early stages, the enzyme in the rennet also has a direct effect on the changes in the texture of the curd and the flavour, both during the manufacture and storage of the cheese. The change from milk to curds starts to happen quite quickly and it was during that stage of watching and listening to Tricia that her intuitive skills as a Cheesemaker were so apparent.

Despite the use of a thermometer and an acidity meter, I could instinctively see that I was watching a true craftswoman at work. Yes, the science was important but so was the experience of the Cheesemaker,  hands on, the touching and watching the milk and curds during the process. The rate and  action of the rennet is controlled by rate of the acidity and the temperatures achieved during these early stages. Acidity will also contribute to the flavour of the finished cheese. I could see that this was not a definitive process. The recipe was the same, the milk was from  the same herd, Tricia was making cheese in the way she always did, but the acidity levels were developing slowly that day.

There could have been numerous explanations for this,  possibly even the presence of a stranger in the room. I knew from my own breadmaking experience different environmental factors, even the weather, can have an  influence on the alchemy of  proving and making bread. Cheese making was proving that it could be just as tricky.

Regardless of how fast or slow the curds progress, the processes involved in making the cheese follows a set order. Once the curd had set, it was onto the next stage of ‘Cutting‘. The cutting at Barwheys Dairy is really the only mechanical part of the process and two very sharp cheese blades make short work of the task. The cutting separates the whey from the curds and this is followed by ‘Scalding and Stirring’. Every stage is important to the process and temperature and acidity levels are continually monitored as this will determine the final moisture content of the cheese. Scalding involves gently heating the curds and whey until the final temperature is reached and while this can affect the acid level, with the finished cheese in mind, it also allows the Cheesemaker to control the acid development.

No 2 cheesemaker Alison and colleague Angus prepare the milled curds for the next stage

No 2 cheesemaker Alison and colleague Angus prepare the milled curds for the next stage

Discussions between Tricia and Alison about the acidity levels, relentless checking of the curds, and their highly skilled experience of previous cheese making  sessions, led to the next stage, ‘Whey Off’, separating the curds and whey. The nutritious whey is not wasted.  It goes full circle and is returned to the farm  as feed for the cows.

The next stage, is known as ‘ Cheddaring’, the curd is piled into blocks on each side of the vat and cut into blocks. For the next few hours the the curd is turned and piled and this really was hands on and quite a strenuous task, but it made the term ‘handmade’ all the more real. It was interesting watching the changes in the curd texture as it changed to become more homogenous. This was alchemy at it’s very best, but I was in no doubt that Tricia’s expert hands had ensured the curds safe progression to this point.

The continual turning and piling of the curds continued and as the texture changed and the correct acidity level was finally achieved. The large mats of curd had reached a rubbery consistency, almost like dough and the next stage was in sight. I should add, that at that point, I pledged to never eat a piece of Barwheys Cheddar without saluting the incredible skill and effort of Tricia and her team as they produce this fantastic handmade cheese.

With the texture and the acidity level correct, the next stage of ‘Milling and Salting’ the cheddared curds began. The mats of curd were milled to the required size, salt was added and mixed through, again a task that is done by hand.  The final stage had arrived and the salted curd was packed into large lined moulds to be pressed and shaped.

Cheddaring and salting the milled curds before moulding and pressing

Cheddaring and salting the milled curds before moulding and pressing

We were back at where we started, although the compressed curds would remain in the press for a  day or so to form the cheese. Once removed, like the start of my day, the bandaging would take place and batch 129/13 will spend the next 12 months in the store maturing. The batch will be ready to go out for sale next Christmas, and I’m hoping it will be in a nearby cheesemongers. Please watch out for it and if you’re fortunate enough to taste my batch, please let me know what you think. Meanwhile, if you’re planning a cheeseboard, then I recommend a nice piece of  mature Barwheys Cheddar.

For further information and details on stockists of  Barwheys Cheddar see


Great Chieftain O’ the Pudding Race

Eat, drink and be merry. That certainly sums up all the Burns suppers I’ve enjoyed in the past. Celebrating the life of Robert Burns, it’s great traditional  Scottish entertainment with toasts, poetry, and  singing, and if you’re lucky a  few jolly jigs and reels.
Apart from the great man Rabbie, the centre piece of the celebration is the haggis, and do we Scots revere any other food like this?


Fair fa’ yer honest, sonsie face,
Great Chieftain o’ the puddin’ race!’

Gone are the days of a traditional, plain haggis neeps and tatties dinner. Food to celebrate Burns night has been elevated to new levels with even the much loved haggis, traditionally made from the cheapest of ingredients, being transformed into fine dining.

Having friends around for a burns supper was always a great night in our house although this year I’ll be celebrating the night at Chef Jacqueline O’Donnell’s ‘Sisters Jordanhill Restaurant’ in Glasgow. I know the food will be fantastic, good hearty Scottish food along with lots of great Scottish entertainment and the obligatory few wee drams. What else would you expect?

If you’re having a night at home to celebrate, Chef Jacqueline has come up with a couple of recipes that really give the haggis a makeover with a few extra Scottish flavours.

Dingwall Haggis Bon Bons with
Crisp Potato Fritter, Creamed Turnip
and Malt Whisky Grain Mustard Sauce.

Haggis Bon Bons

1 kg quality haggis
2 large potatoes
1 swede
50ml double cream
1 tbsp Arran wholegrain mustard
500 ml chicken stock
25ml malt whisky
1 egg beaten
100g fresh breadcrumbs
100g plain flour

Serves: 6
Preparation Method
Recommend using an electric fryer for potatoes and haggis.

Cut the haggis into small pieces and roll into balls. Once this has
been done roll them in a little flour, followed by the beaten egg
and then the breadcrumbs (this is best all done in advance).
Bake the potatoes until just about cooked through, allow to cool
then peel and cut into chunky rectangles.

Cook the swede in cold water, then bring to the boil until soft.
Place cooked swede in a food processor or blender with a splash
of double cream, and then season to taste.

To cook the potatoes, make the batter by whisking the flour and
water together until smooth. Dip the potatoes in to coat them
in the batter and then put them straight into an electric fryer
(Temp 170c). Cook until golden brown and crisp.
Bring chicken stock to the boil and reduce down by 2/
3 then add the mustard followed by the whisky. Allow to cool slightly.

Adjust electric fryer to 160°c, gently lower the Bon mix into the
fryer and cook for 3-4 minutes until a light golden brown.
To serve, spoon turnip purée onto plate, place potato fritter on
top and arrange three Haggis Bon Bons with the fritter.

Drizzle some Whisky Grain Mustard Sauce over the top, and
add a little extra on the side.

Vegetarian Haggis with Whisky Glazed
Turnip Pearls, Straw potatoes and
Chive and Malt Cream Sauce


vegetarian haggis

Individual vegetarian haggis x 6
1 whole swede
25ml blended whisky
25g soft brown sugar
25g butter
2 large potatoes
(peeled and cut into matchsticks
steep in cold water)
200ml double cream
25ml malt whisky
1 small handful of
chives chopped finely

Serves: 6
Preparation Method
Recommend using an electric fryer
Cut swede into quarters and bring to the boil until cooked.
Using a melon baller, press into the turnip and scoop out into
ball / pearl shapes.
Add the whisky, butter and sugar into a shallow pan and reduce
until syrupy then add the turnip pearls and cook for a few minutes
until pearls are nicely glazed and golden.
Poach individual haggis for 15 minutes in light simmering water.
Peel and cut the potatoes into matchsticks and rinse in cold
water. Drain and pat dry, then gently fry at 170°c until golden
(be careful as they cook quickly).
Bring the double cream and malt whisky to the boil and reduce
slightly. The mixture should be sticky enough to coat the back
of a spoon.
To serve, place a spoonful of the Straw potatoes onto plate and
place the haggis in the centre.
Place the turnip pearls around the haggis and drizzle the Chive
and Malt Cream Sauce over the dish.

More recipes and tips on how to celebrate Burns Night, can be found at

Jacqueline O’Donnell is Chef/Patron of The Sisters Restaurants in Glasgow. Both restaurants offer good hearty Scottish cuisine or as Jacqueline says, ‘dishes that your Gran might have put on the table’. See

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A words on Scotland’s Favourite Dish – The Haggis

Although I’m not cooking this Burn’s night, the haggis is in the fridge and it will be served as the traditional haggis, neeps & tatties. Once cooked, it will be blessed with a wee dram and a whisky sauce will be offered on the side. There’s a few excellent brands of haggis to chose from, but my favourite is Ramsay of Carluke. Produced to the Ramsay family’s secret and original recipe it has been the choice in our family for many years.

Ramsays Haggis

Thanks to Andrew Ramsay for Haggis photographs and for producing such a wonderful tasting haggis.

Recipe photographs courtesy of Smarts Scotland for recipe photographs.

Showcasing some great food products at Scotland’s Speciality Food Show

The 2014 Scotlands Speciality Food Show opens today and runs until Tuesday 21st January at the SECC, Glasgow. The show is Scotland’s largest and oldest trade fare and attracts food buyers from throughout the country.
130 specialist food companies, many of them small producers will be showcasing some of the very best fine food products.
If you’re a food business, delicatessen, farm shop or speciality food store looking to stock fine quality food products, the show is the place to find it.

Being a lover of fine food and great champion of small producers, in particular, Scottish produce, I’ve put together a snapshot of some of my favourites. These are all exceptional food products that I guarantee your customers will love. One of these producers, Mr C’s Handcrafted Pies won Best Product Award at last year’s show.


Mr C’s Hand-Crafted Pies
The award winning Scottish pie company, Mr C’s Handcrafted Pies has a range of 10 pies, all made to the same exacting standard with quality ingredients. Outdoor bred pork, Scottish wild venison along with outstanding handmade pastry,are just some of the ingredients used to make these delicous pies.
pie collage

Just this week, Mr C’s were awarded 4 awards at the 2014 Scotch Pie Awards. Diamond for Haggis, Neeps and Tattie, Gold for Scottish venison Pie, Silver for Apple Pie and Bronze for Pork and Chorizo with chilli.

Mr C’s Handcrafted Pies is on stand N45. Owner, Robert Corrigan will be on hand with a full range and delcious samples of the pies.

Summer Harvest Oils
Perthshire based Summer Harvest Oils, is one of Scotland’s top rapeseed oil producers. From their base at Fernyfold Farm, in the Perthshire countryside, Mark and Maggie Bush, produce a fantatsic range of oils, dressings, vinegars, and mayonnaise.
pic collage
New for the show is Summer harvest Chilli and Red Pepper Dressing. A rapeseed oil based product that is ideal for salads, chicken, fish and BBQs.

Earlier this year Summer harvest was named as an approved SRA (Sustainable Restaurant association) supplier, making them the only approved cold rapeseed oil supplier in the UK and only the second SRA food supplier in Scotland.
The Oil currently holds two Scotland Food and drink Excellence Awards and two Gold Star Great taste Awards.

Summer Harvest products are a must have in my kitchen and the full range will be showcase at the fare. You’ll find Mark and Maggie on stand N31.

Border Biscuits
There’s nothing quite like a nice quality biscuit when you sit down to a cup of tea or coffee and Border Biscuits is the one for me. I’ve reviewed their biscuits, tasted all the different varieties and they never fail to wow on flavour and quality.
There’s a wide range to choose from and Border really do have a biscuit to suit every taste.
The classic recipes include, Fruit Tea biscuits, Devillishly Dark Chocolate Cookies and Light Buttery Viennese.
In the Deliciously Different range, you’ll find, Strawberry and Cream Shortbread, Chocolate and Orange Shortbread and Toffee Apple Crumble.
There’s an Outrageously Tasty Range with Yoghurt, Cranberry and Pumpkin Seed Crumbles, Red Berry Rascals and Raspberry, White Chocloate and Pistachio Crumbles.
Border biscuits will be on stand K27.

Wee Fudge Company
If it’s a luxurious sweet treat you’re looking for then stop by and speak to Joyce Brady, owner of The Wee Fudge Company. The company’s delicous fudge is available in a range of indulgent flavours, including, Hebridean Sea Salt and Caramel, White Chocolate with Sicilian Lemon Extract, and Raspeberry & White Chocolate.


Unlike massed produced fudge found on sweet counters, every batch of ‘Wee Fudge’ is handmade by Joyce from a favourite and traditional Scottish recipe, using only the freshest ingredients.
Joyce tell me that she has has been developing some new exciting flavours of fudge and these will make an appearance at the show.
If you want to taste the new flavours or indeed all the varieties in the Wee Fudge range, then visit Joyce on stand LG46.

For further information on the 2014 Scottish Speciality Show see