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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Cooking with Wild Garlic

Wild Garlic grows throughout the Spring in damp woodland areas (very often you will find it close to a stream) and will quite often fill the area it’s growing in with a delicious garlic aroma. It’s a fairly easy plant to forage for as that garlic smell is fairly distinctive, especially if you run the leaves between your fingers, but sometimes people do occasionally confuse it for lily of the valley which is poisonous so some care is needed.
If you don’t fancy trying to pick wild garlic yourself you don’t necessarily have to miss out as apparently it’s becoming increasingly common to see it for sale at farmers markets. Wherever you get it from I would recommend giving it a good wash before you use it just in case. You never know what has been roaming in the woodlands!

Wild Garlic Growing

Wild Garlic Growing

Unlike traditional garlic, people don’t tend to use the bulbs for cooking (although these and the flowers are both edible). Instead they cook with the beautiful smooth green leaves. When raw these can taste ferociously strongly of both garlic and onion, but when cooked, they have a delicate garlic flavour instead and a slightly bitter aftertaste.

Wild Garlic Leaves

Wild Garlic Leaves

Over the last few weeks the wild garlic has started to appear around my area and on the weekend I managed to get out and pick some to cook with. In the end I had enough to make two different recipes.
The first was a wild garlic and walnut pesto. For this I combined wild garlic leaves with walnuts, parmesan, lemon juice and olive oil. The pesto was really quick and simple to make, I just chopped everything up together in my food processor until I had a smooth paste which I then used on some pasta.

Wild Garlic and Walnut Pesto - Ready to whizz

Wild Garlic and Walnut Pesto – Ready to whizz

As I mentioned above, the raw leaves pack quite a punch and so this pesto is not for the faint hearted (or anyone off on a date). Combining it with hot pasta which warms it through does take the edge it a little, but this is still a seriously strong pesto. While the garlic flavour is delicious (provided you like garlic) and not at all overwhelming or unpleasant to eat, it will linger on your breath for quite some time. I recommend some mints for dessert after this one!

Wild Garlic and Walnut Pesto

Wild Garlic and Walnut Pesto

The second dish I prepared – wild garlic, mushroom and blue cheese tarts – involves cooking the leaves and so provides a much more breath friendly option.

Wild Garlic, Mushroom and Blue Cheese Tarts - Ready for the oven

Wild Garlic, Mushroom and Blue Cheese Tarts – Ready for the oven

For the filling of these tarts I cooked strips of wild garlic leaves together with some small pieces of mushroom. I then topped this with blue cheese and filled the gaps with an egg and milk mix before baking.

Wild Garlic, Mushroom and Blue Cheese Tarts

Wild Garlic, Mushroom and Blue Cheese Tarts

I was hoping to get hold of some wild mushrooms to keep in with the woodland/foraged theme, but I think it may be a little too late in the season as there were none to be found. The plain old closed cup mushrooms I did locate were fine though.
The little tarts had a much more subtle, but still noticeable, garlic flavour, which worked well with the mushrooms and the salty blue cheese. I absolutely loved these tarts, I don’t mean to blow my own trumpet, but they were gorgeous. I ate them with potatoes as a main course, but I think they would also work well as a tasty little starter.