Davide brings a passion for cheeses to local award winner

Italian-born cheesemaker Davide Thani has taken over the production of one of Northern Ireland’s leading artisan cheeses.

By Sam Butler
Saturday, 30th July 2022, 7:00 am

Davide, who hails from Sardinia, has pledged to respect the heritage and recipe of the multi-award winning Kearney Blue, one of the first and most successful blue cheeses here.

Davide, now based in Belfast, also runs Velocheese, his own small business which launched the first Italian mozzarella made here. He is working, furthermore, with local deli entrepreneur and cheese devotee Johnny McDowell of Indie Fude food shops in Belfast and Comber on cheeses especially for pizza makers.

They formed Indie Fude X Velocheese, which is based at Belfast, together and are creating a range of small batch Italian cheeses such as Mozzarella, Burrata, Ricotta and Scamorza.

The multi-award winning Kearney Blue artisan cheese

Cheese expert Davide was approached to help with production of the award-winning Kearney Blue by founder Paul McClean on his retirement last year. The cheese is produced at Farmview Dairies, Castlereagh in a purpose-built creamery and distributed by the company throughout the island of Ireland.

Davide explains: “I am following the exact recipe developed by Paul and crafting the cheese lovingly by hand. We made some batches of the cheese together at the creamery for a while before Paul decided to step back. The cheese is made from pasteurised milk from cows grazing the rich pasture of the Lisnabredy hills around the creamery. This means the fresh milk doesn’t travel much for processing into the successful cheese. Everything is based on Paul’s approach in association with the experienced Farmview team.

“The cheese is always hand crafted from fresh milk taken from cows grazing on a select group of local farms,” continues Davide. “Sourcing the milk from within a close radius to the creamery allows the cheese to be made from only the freshest morning milk for quality, rich texture and outstanding taste.”

Kearney Blue was originally inspired by the beautiful local landscape and the stone farm walls near Paul McClean’s home on the Ards Peninsula.

Cheese expert Davide Thani is helping to ensure the continuing growth of Kearney Blue, one of Northern Ireland’s most successful artisan blue cheeses

Paul, a businessman and cheese enthusiast, launched Kearney Blue in 2010.

Influenced by his European travels and passion for good blue cheese, he began experimenting in his home kitchen at Portaferry before moving to the College of Food, Agriculture and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE) at Loughry, near Cookstown, where dairy experts helped him perfect and prepare the new cheese for the commercial success it continues to enjoy.

Paul subsequently moved production to Farmview in a deal with the successful family owned dairy business which continues to market the cheese extensively in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. The blue cheese has also won international awards and acclaim from experts in Britain.

Kearney Blue has since become one of Northern Ireland’s most popular artisan cheeses and a model for other local producers in what is now one of the most dynamic local food sectors. As a result, there’s been a growth in artisan cheeses including varieties with raw cows’ and goat’s milk. There’s also soon to be a new sheep’s milk cheese from a Ballymoney farm that’s also working with CAFRE on the product.

The multi-award winning Kearney Blue artisan cheese

Paul was delighted when Davide agreed to look after production of the distinctive blue cheese because of his “passion for artisan cheese and wealth of knowledge and experience from his Italian background”.

“Davide knows everything about artisan cheese and has produced several successful varieties here already. I knew, therefore, that I was leaving Kearney Blue in very capable hands that will ensure its continuing growth,” Paul adds.

A graduate in electronic engineering, Divide grew up in Sardinia making food including cheese.

“I milked cows, picked olives for our own oil and tomatoes for the yearly batch of pasta. I pressed grapes in welly boots and milked cows for fresh milk and cheese including Sardinia’s famous pecorino cheese,” he remembers.

Divide’s decision to start making his own Italian cheese followed his move to Belfast with wife Sarah, who is from the city, in 2015.

“I started making my own fresh Italian cheeses because I was unable to source them here,” he explains. He was also impressed by the quality of raw ingredients here, especially cow’s milk, and was excited to be involved in the evolving artisan food sector here.

“It’s very dynamic and exciting,” he adds.

Davide had studied fresh cheese production with experts at Puglia in southern Italy and is steadily realising an ambition to bring this experience and knowledge to cheese lovers here through his own small enterprise, the burgeoning business relationship with Indie Fude and his role in the development of the established Kearney Blue.