April’s Cheese, Please! – Beef, Beer and Blue Cheese Pie

For the first half of April the weather in my corner of France was spectacular. The skies were blue and the temperature was nudging 20+°C. Spring had definitely sprung and summer looked just around the corner. Unfortunately that has all now changed. Instead the skies are grey, the weather is wet and windy and I’m back in my thick warm jumpers.

Luckily I had finally got around to deciding what I wanted to cook for April’s Cheese, Please! Challenge and had decided on a pie! Perfect to warm, and cheer, me up in this dreadful weather. The theme for this month’s challenge was blue cheese and so the pie I was making was filled with beef, beer and blue cheese.

Beef, Beer and Blue Cheese Pie

Beef, Beer and Blue Cheese Pie

Beef and blue cheese is a classic combination, but one more usually seen in the form of cheese on a burger or a Roquefort sauce with steak. However adding blue cheese to the gravy of a beef pie is another great way to enjoy the pairing. The blue cheese adds a rich salty savouriness to the sauce and really gives it a bit of oomph and depth.

Beef, Beer and Blue Cheese Pie - Adding the blue cheese to the sauce

Beef, Beer and Blue Cheese Pie – Adding the blue cheese to the sauce

After a recent trip back to the UK for Easter I am in possession of two different British blue cheeses: some Stilton and some Blue Shropshire (I also have some Danish blue from IKEA floating around in the fridge but given Fromage Homage’s passion for British cheese I thought I’d better not use that one ;-)).

After a fair bit of umming and ahhing I decided to use the pungent salty Stilton in my pie instead of the slightly creamier Shropshire Blue to make sure I got as much blue cheese flavour in the final dish as possible. If I’m going to add cheese to a dish I want to be able to taste it and enjoy it and I thought the Stilton had the best chance of standing up to the beef and the beer.

Beef, Beer and Blue Cheese Pie - A nice hunk of Stilton

Beef, Beer and Blue Cheese Pie – A nice hunk of Stilton

When this was cooking you could certainly smell the Stilton as well as the meat and beer. My kitchen was awash with cheesy and beefy aromas and my stomach was rumbling.

By the time the pie was ready I was starving and unfortunately, in my hurry to consume my creation, I dropped the pie onto the plate and split it open! While I had originally planned to take a photo showing the sauce and the inside of the pie, I had been hoping for a rather more elegant shot!

Beef, Beer and Blue Cheese Pie - Dropped onto the plate!

Beef, Beer and Blue Cheese Pie – “Served” – or rather dropped onto the plate!

Nevermind, you have to break it to eat it and it tasted wonderful! You could definitely taste all the lovely Stilton but at the same time it wasn’t overpowering – you can also taste and enjoy the beef.

For the pastry I made some thyme flavoured shortcrust for a bit of extra flavour and colour, but plain shortcrust (or plain shortcrust and a puff top if you’re fancy) would also be fine. My recipe can be found here.

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Turkish Food and Tulips

Every year the town of Morges holds a tulip festival for which over 120,000 tulip bulbs are planted in the Parc de L’Independence. The festival runs from April when the tulips start flowering through to the middle of May when the bulbs are dug up and sold off. During the festival there are various weekends with different themes such as a sports weekend and a music weekend.

However the weekend that caught my eye was Istanbul weekend. For the past 5 years Istanbul has donated 10,000 bulbs to Morges for the festival and in return Morges dedicates one weekend of the festival to Turkish food and music. I have no idea how this partnership came about, but it sounded interesting so I popped along to see the tulips and sample the food.

Turkish Flags and Tulips

Turkish Flags and Tulips

The first thing that I tried was a minced beef Gözleme. These were being prepared to order by two women. One would roll out the dough to a thin circle, rolling it onto and off of a rolling pin to stretch it out. When it was the desired thinness and size she would then fill it and fold it in half. The other lady would then cook it in a large flat pan, brushing the outside with oil to prevent it sticking and turning the Gözleme frequently until the dough was cooked and had puffed up.

Rolling the dough for Gözleme

Rolling the dough for Gözleme

Cooking the Gözleme

Cooking the Gözleme

The result was a moist, fried, half-moon shaped, filled flat bread which was then cut in half to serve. It was a little greasy with both the oil on the outside and the fat from the beef inside, but the bread was wonderfully soft and the filling tasty. I really enjoyed this, if there hadn’t been other dishes I wanted to try I would have given the spinach and the cheese options a go as well!

Beef mince Gözleme

Beef mince Gözleme

The next dish I sampled was a small köfte wrap. This consisted of two large patties made of beef, onions and a lot of parsley accompanied by some salad, more parsley and a generous sprinkling of sumac and dried chilli and all enclosed by some flat bread.

Beef kötfe and salad

Beef kötfe and salad

The patties of beef had been cooked on a BBQ and were tender and ever so slightly pink in the middle which I loved – I’m a big fan of burgers etc which are still pink in the middle. The parsley salad was fresh and the sumac gave everything a zing. This was a really tasty kebab and despite having no sauce added it wasn’t at all dry.

My final destination was the sweets stall. Here are large array of different Turkish desserts were available. I decided to try a selection of different desserts and opted for several different baklava pieces, some Tulumba (a small straight donut in syrup), a rose shaped Şekerpare (pastry in syrup) and another rose shaped pastry dessert which was filled with cooked apple whose name I have forgotten.

Bakalva and tulumba

Bakalva and tulumba

I’d not tried Turkish bakalva before and so I have no idea if these examples were indicative of the general style or not, but I found the pieces all to be a little soft. They had been soaked in so much syrup that there was no crispness left in the filo and even the nuts seemed to provide very little crunch. They weren’t particularly unpleasant, just a little soggy and a bit overly sweet to me. The same goes for the tulumba which was very soft and exceedingly sugary!

Rose shaped Şekerpare and another Turkish dessert

Rose shaped Şekerpare and another Turkish dessert

For me, the two rose shaped desserts were the best. For all its soaking in lemon sugar syrup the Şekerpare was actually not too sweet at all. Towards the center where the syrup hadn’t quite penetrated it was a little dry, but other than that I really enjoyed it. But the dessert whose name I have forgotten was easily the best, the pastry filled with a delicious sticky apple mixture which was both sweet and tart. I wish I knew what it was so I could look it up!

Overall I really enjoyed the food I ate, particularly the two savoury dishes. It was great to not only try some authentic Turkish cuisine but to also be able to watch it being prepared. As for the tulips, they were stunning. There were so many beautiful varieties on display and it was lovely to stroll around the park enjoying them.