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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October Cheese, Please! Challenge: Etorki, leek and Hazelnut Tart

Etorki, Leek and Hazelnut Tart

I adore cheese (for me it’s even better than chocolate) and I’m always looking for any excuse to consume more or try something new.  After watching from the sidelines previously, this month I decided I wanted to have a go at the Cheese, Please! Challenge (rules here) run by FromageHomage.


Fromage Homage

This month’s challenge is hard sheep’s cheese and for me the obvious choice to use was Etorki, a sheep’s cheese from the Basque region that I love.  Etorki (it means “origin” in Basque) is made from the milk of black- or red-faced Manech ewes in South West France.  It’s a very pale colour and has a fairly “bendy” texture.  It’s not as punchy as a mature manchego, but has a subtle nutty/earthy flavour instead.

Etorki

Etorki

Etorki Cheese

Etorki Cheese

I’ve never cooked with Etorki before, I normally just eat it on bread with membrillo (or just straight from the pack), and so I was intrigued by the idea of finding or coming up with a proper recipe using it.

How I normally eat Etorki

How I normally eat Etorki

I did not succeed in locating any recipes that called directly for Etorki but after much racking of my brains I remembered a recipe from the BBC that I cooked some time ago for a leek tart with a hazelnut crumb on top that had used Caerphilly cheese (which was originally made with sheep’s milk many years ago but now uses cow’s milk).  I figured that, given its own nutty flavours, the Etorki would work quite well in this dish as well.

It wasn’t all plain sailing but I was fairly pleased with the end result.  The final recipe I used is here.

A slice of Etorki Leek and Hazelnut Tart

A slice of Etorki Leek and Hazelnut Tart

My original plan involved using a hazelnut shortcrust pastry to further enhance the nuttiness, however it turned out that I only had 20g of ground hazelnuts left in my cupboard (this was a Sunday evening so there were no shops open to get more).  I did incorporate what little I had left into the pastry I made, but I don’t think it did any more than giving it a slight grainy appearance, I certainly couldn’t taste it in the finished dish!

Blind baking without beans because I had lent them to a friend

Blind baking without beans because I had lent them to a friend

Having never cooked with Etorki before I wasn’t sure how it would react.  The cheese inside the filling worked fine, it just oozed into the egg and tasted delicious.   However, while the cheese in the topping still tasted great, it didn’t look terrible appetizing.  As you can see it puffed up, rather than melted and so ended up looking more like toasted sweetcorn that pieces of cheese.  The texture worked well though, just a shame about the appearance!

Etorki, Leek and Hazelnut Tart

Interesting Cheese Lumps!

So that’s my first ever entry to the challenge.  Thinking of a recipe using Hard Sheep’s Cheese was a tricky task and I don’t think fully mastered cooking with Etorki yet, at least from a visual point of view!   I enjoyed my tart though, it was very tasty and it also tastes just as nice cold (I have been eating the left overs as lunches in work).