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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Greek Delights

To me, the Greek cuisine is very underrated.  While most people (in the UK at least) are familiar with the staples of Mousakka, Tzatziki, Feta and Halloumi the broader spectrum of Greek cooking doesn’t seem so widely known and it can be pretty hard to track down a good Greek restaurant in many cities.

I have visited a few Greek islands as part of holidays and always enjoyed trying all the different dishes on offer.  However it’s been quite a few years now since I was over there and while it’s fun to recreate things at home, it’s always great to enjoy the real deal.  As a result I was really excited that, in addition to all the food I on the boat, I would also be able to sample some authentic Greek cooking while on the Islands and in Athens.

My first Greek stop was the island of Santorini where I embarked a short boat trip round to Oia in order to take in the amazing view of the caldera.  Sanotrini is famous for its wine and I was keen to try some so after a while walking round in the (scorching) heat and taking pictures we popped into a little taverna for some refreshment.  Rather than opting for an expensive bottle we went for a carafe of the unnamed local white which was delicious and at €4 for 500mls an absolute bargain!

Santorini wine

Santorini wine

Refreshed, we then caught a bus round to Fira, the town above where the ship was moored.  After a bit of a look round we popped into another taverna for snacks before heading back on board.  Here we shared a Greek salad and some of the pies of the day, which turned out to be feta.  The portions for each were huge: five crisp and flaky individual pasties which were divine and a very generous portion of fresh salad topped with an enormous slab of feta.

Some of the Greek Salad

Some of the Greek Salad

the delicious feta pies

The delicious feta pies

Our next Greek destination was Mykonos where unfortunately I had already eaten before leaving the ship and so wasn’t able to try any of the amazing fresh fish and seafood that was on offer.  It wasn’t all bad news on the food front though as after some exploring to build up an appetite I was able to sample some delicious homemade baklava down on the waterfront.

A hunk of baklava

A hunk of baklava

Many times when I’ve had baklava both and home and abroad it’s has been made and served as bite size pieces but there was nothing dainty about the baklava at this restaurant.  We were given a colossal slab of filo, nuts and honey all of which tasted divine.

The final Greek destination was Athens where we stayed for one night and where I managed to indulge my craving for gyros.  Gyros is basically a traditional kebab, but bears no resemblance, either visually or in flavour, to the processed “meat” you get in most UK kebab shops.  Instead thin layers of spiced pork are built up on a skewer and interspersed with layers of fat and then rotated and cooked slowly resulting in the amazingly tender and moist pieces of meat which I can’t resist.

A plate of gyros

A plate of gyros

It’s usually served one of two ways: either on a plate with the accompaniments (fresh tomato, sliced red onion and garlicky tzatziki) and pitta on the side or as a quick takeaway snack with the meat et all in wrapped in the pitta bread.  Being greedy over the course of our stay I tried both as well as a slight variation of take away version with the gyros meat replaced with chicken souvlakia (an individual skewer of meat marinated in lemon garlic and oregano)! All were wonderful and I wish I had time (and the stomach space) to have eaten even more.

take away gyro and souvlaki

Take away gyros and souvlaki

For our one evening meal in Athens I reluctantly held back from consuming yet more gyro in order to sample some other dishes – fried cheese with figs and giouvetsi.  The fired cheese with figs was exactly as it sounds, rounds of crisp fried cheese topped with confit figs and a fig and honey dressing/sauce, a ridiculous rich and indulgent starter.   Giouvetsi is a classic Greek dish of soft slow cooked beef or lamb chunks (mine was actually veal) baked with orzo pasta in a cinnamon spiced tomato sauce.

fried cheese with figs

Fried cheese with figs

giouvetsi

Giouvetsi

Overall I can’t praise the Greek food and wine I consumed highly enough.  I didn’t have a single bad/meal or dish and I can’t wait till I can go back sometime and eat more.  In the meantime I’m going to have to see if I can find a good Greek restaurant in Geneva and I’ve brought back some authentic dessert filo to have a go at making my own baklava!