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Archive for the ‘Cheese’ Category

Croque Madame

This is a cheat’s version of the French classic and makes a great brunch/lunch.

Croque Madame – serves 2

  • 4 large slices of sourdough
  • Dijon mustard
  • 100g grated gruyère
  • 4 slices thick-cut ham
  • butter
  • 4 tbsp crème fraîche
  • 2 eggs

Spread the sourdough with a thin layer of mustard on one side, then fill the sandwiches with half the gruyère and the ham. Spread the outside of the sandwiches with butter.

Heat a non-stick frying pan and fry the sandwiches on both sides until golden.

Mix the crème fraîche with the rest of the gruyère and spread over the top of the sandwiches. Put under a hot grill until the cheese bubbles and starts to brown.

Serve with a fried or poached egg on the top.

(Original recipe by Janine Ratcliffe in Olive Magazine, May 2015)

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Spring Onion Quesadillas with Guacamole SaladWe really miss cooking for friends and family which is what we do almost every weekend (and some other nights too!). So instead of prepping for the evening we’ve been making more of an effort at lunch. Last week we had these unusual quesadillas outside in the sunshine, sure beats lunch at the desk!

Spring onion quesadillas with guacamole salsa – serves 2

  • 10 scallions, trimmed
  • 2 tbsp pumpkin seeds
  • 1 tbsp olive oil, plus 1 tsp
  • 2 soft flour tortillas
  • 10 slices of jalapeño chilli (from a jar)
  • 85g cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1 avocado, halved, and peeled
  • small pack of coriander, plus extra leaves to serve
  • ½ cucumber, peeled, halved lengthways and sliced on the diagonal
  • 2 Little Gem lettuces, cut into thin wedges (we used a bag of peppery salad leaves as that’s what we had)

Bring a pot of water to the boil and add the scallions. Cook for 2-3 minutes until just tender, then drain and run under cold water. Set aside to dry on kitchen paper.

Toast the pumpkin seeds in a hot dry pan until slightly golden, then tip into a bowl and leave to cool.

Heat a griddle pan over a high heat. Drizzle the scallions with a tsp of the olive oil and season. Griddle for a couple of minutes on each side until lightly charred.

We find it much easier to lay the ingredients over half of the tortilla then fold over the top and cook on either side but you can lay all the ingredients on one tortilla, then top with the other one, it will be trickier to turn though.

Lay the spring onions over each tortilla. Sprinkle over the jalapeños and the cheese, then fold the rest of the tortilla over and press together, brush the outside lightly with oil. Cook in the griddle pan for a minute or two on each side or until the cheese has melted and the outside is crisp.

Meanwhile, whizz 1 tbsp of oil, the avocado, lime juice, coriander and 1 tbsp of water together to make a dressing. Season, then toss with the cucumber and lettuce. Sprinkle with the pumpkin seeds and the rest of the coriander leaves.  Serve with the quesadillas.

(Original recipe from BBC Good Food)

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Fontina, Prosciutto & Sage French Toasts

One benefit from working at home is all the nice lunches we can make. Mostly using bits and bobs from the fridge. These French toast sambos are great and you can experiment with the filling, though we reckon cheese is a must.

Fontina, prosciutto and sage-stuffed French toast – serves 4

  • 8 slices of crusty bread
  • 300g fontina (we used Gruyere), sliced
  • 12 slices prosciutto
  • a few sage leaves
  • 2 eggs, beaten and seasoned
  • butter for frying

Put layers of the cheese, prosciutto and sage onto 4 slices of the bread. Cover with the rest of the bread to make sandwiches, then dip into the beaten egg, soaking on both sides.

Heat a knob of butter in a frying pan and fry the sandwiches. Press down on them as they cook until browned on both sides and the cheese has melted.

(Original recipe by Janine Ratcliffe in Olive Magazine, May 2014.)

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Cauliflower Cheese

I don’t remember not knowing how to make this, and therefore presume that everyone else does too. Here’s the recipe in case you don’t have it in your head. Sorry about the imperial measurements but that’s how my Mum taught me.

Jules’ Cauliflower Cheese – serves 4-6

  • 1 head of cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 2 oz butter
  • 2 oz flour
  • 1 pint of full cream milk
  • 3 large handfuls of grated mature cheddar cheese

Steam the cauliflower until tender when pierced with a sharp knife. Start checking after 5 minutes and be careful not to overcook.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a medium-sized saucepan. Add the flour and stir for a minute or two over a medium heat.

Start gradually adding the milk, just a splash at a time at first, and stir continuously. Add some more milk every time it has been absorbed. Careful not to rush this or the sauce can turn lumpy.

When all of the milk is in the sauce, it is important to continue to stir until the sauce has thickened and comes to the boil. Take the pan off the heat and stir in 2 large handfuls of grated cheese and some salt and freshly ground white pepper.

When the cauliflower is tender, drain it and return to the pan to steam dry, then tip into an ovenproof dish.

Pour the sauce over the cauliflower and top with the remaining cheddar cheese.

Put the dish under a hot grill for about 5 minutes or until bubbling and golden brown on the top.

 

 

 

 

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Creamy Quiche Lorraine

A quiche that wobbles, just set, is a wonderful thing and this almost oozes. It feels luxurious and decadent, despite having simple ingredients and we’d cook this in any season. We used a local flour mill, Dunany in Drogheda for a non-bleached plain flour which accounts for the colour in the crust. Serve with a green salad.

Wine Suggestion: our choice would be an Alsace Pinot Gris, or if you can find it a dry Muscat like Zind-Humbrecht’s Grand Cru Brand Muscat. Coming from the amazing Brand vineyard this is reliably dry and will redefine for you what Muscat is. Neither of us were fans of this grape, but as always, the right wine can change opinions.

If stuck open the latest vintage, but if you are able to wait a year, or two, or more this will reward you ten-fold. The musky spices, texture and flavours match the cream, cheese and pancetta in a way nothing else will quite achieve. Failing this a close second is a richer Pinot Gris, which may be easier to find.

Quiche Lorraine with butter pastry – serves 6

  • 200g cubetti di pancetta
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 250ml double cream
  • 200ml crème fraîche
  • 100g gruyère, coarsely grated

FOR THE PASTRY:

  • 225g plain flour
  • 150g chilled butter, cut into cubes
  • 1 egg yolk

Make the pastry first by putting the flour and butter in a food processor with a pinch of salt. Whizz until it looks like breadcrumbs then add the egg yolk and 2½ tbsp of iced water and whizz until it comes together. Wrap the pastry in cling film and chill in the fridge for 20 minutes. Roll the pastry out thinly and use to line a 20cm x 4cm deep, straight-sided, loose-bottomed tart tin. Leave the excess pastry hanging over the sides. Chill again for another 20 minutes.

Heat the oven to 190C/fan 170C/gas 5.

Fry the pancetta in a little olive oil until cooked then drain on kitchen paper. Beat the whole eggs, egg yolks, double cream and crème fraîche together and season.

Line the pastry tin with baking paper, fill with baking beans and bake blind for 15 minutes. Remove the paper and beans and return to the oven for another 5 minutes. Trim off the excess party with a sharp knife.

Turn the oven down to 160C/fan 140C/gas 3.

Scatter the bacon most of the grated cheese over the pastry base, add the egg mixture and top with the rest of the cheese. Bake for 40 minutes or until just set and lightly golden. Leave to cool for a bit before serving.

(Original recipe by Lulu Grimes in Olive Magazine, April 2014.)

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Red Onion, Mushroom & Blue Cheese Pizza

We’ve been experimenting with our new Ooni Pro pizza oven. This is the very first pizza we made and it turned out pretty good. The recipe is by Gill Meller (of River Cottage fame) and we’ve since seen that he’s working with Ooni – a match made in heaven!

Wine Suggestion:  a joyful red, preferably Italian to match the mood. Tonight the Rocca delle Macie Chianti Classico, but we’ve equally enjoyed wines from Abruzzo, Piedmont and Sicily to name a few with pizzas like these. Just make sure it isn’t too heavy or alcoholic though – light to medium bodied.

Gill’s Favourite Pizza – makes 3 large pizzas

FOR THE TOMATO SAUCE:

  • 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced
  • 1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes (good ones!)
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 bay leaf

FOR THE BASE:

  • 500g strong bread flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 10g salt
  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for greasing
  • 1 tsp instant dried yeast
  • 320ml lukewarm water

FOR THE TOPPING (PER PIZZA):

  • 3-4 tbsp tomato sauce
  • 1 ball of mozzarella, torn
  • 100g chestnut mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • ½ small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 75g blue cheese, crumbled
  • 2 or 3 thyme springs, leaves picked

To make the sauce, heat a medium pan over a moderate heat. Heat the olive oil in the pot, then add the garlic. Sizzle for about 30 seconds, then add the tomatoes,  half a tin of water and the bay leaf. Cook for 30-40 minutes, stirring now and then. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

To make the base, put the flour, salt and olive oil in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a dough hook. Combine the yeast and water in a jug and whisk to dissolve. Pour this over the flour and allow the machine to run for 4-5 minutes or until the dough is soft and smooth. You can also knead by hand but it will take a lot more effort and about 10 to 12 minutes.

Lightly grease a bowl with olive oil and place the dough inside. Cover with a damp tea towel and allow to prove for 3-4 hours at room temperature or overnight in the fridge.

Preheat the oven to 240C/475F/gas mark 9½ (or if you have a pizza oven you can get it going).

Heat a baking sheet or pizza stone inside the oven.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, knock it back, then left it rest for a few minutes. Dust the dough with more flour, then roll each ball out thinly. Remove the hot baking sheet or pizza stone from the oven and lay on the pizza dough. Top the pizza as quickly as you can. Gill suggests tomato sauce followed by mozzarella, mushrooms, onion, blue cheese and thyme. Trickle some olive oil over the top and season well. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until crispy and golden. Serve straight away and repeat with the remaining dough.

(Original recipe from Time: A Year & a Day in the Kitchen by Gill Meller, Quadrille, 2018.)

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Spaghetti Carbonara

We’re not in the least offended by a splash of cream in a carbonara but this is the traditional version made with nothing but eggs, pecorino and pancetta. The quality really matters when you’re using just a few ingredients so definitely go for the best you can find or afford.

Wine Suggestion: An Italian white like a Pecorino from the Marches springs to mind, but some of the fuller textured wines from Lugana or Friuli from the North, or a Greco from the South make a good alternative; a layered texture and freshness is what your looking for to match this dish.

Spaghetti all carbonara – serves 4

  • 400g spaghetti
  • 100g pancetta lardons or guanciale
  • butter
  • 1 clove of garlic, halved
  • 4 eggs
  • 100g pecorino (or Parmesan), grated

Cook the pasta, according to the timings on the pack, in plenty of salty water.

Meanwhile, put the pancetta into a cold frying pan and bring slowly up to a high heat. When the pancetta has started to release its fat, add a knob of butter and the garlic, then turn down to medium. Fry until the pancetta is browned but not too crispy or it will harden. Discard the garlic and keep the pan warm.

Beat the eggs with most of the cheese. When the pasta is done, drain it, and keep a few tablespoons of cooking water. Tip the pasta back into the hot pasta pan, but off the heat. Add the egg mixture and pancetta and toss everything together quickly. Season with plenty of black pepper and add a bit of water to loosen the sauce if needed. Serve sprinkled with the remaining cheese.

(Original recipe by Lulu Grimes in Olive Magazine, October 2011.)

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Friday Night Tartiflette

Reblochon season begins in May so it’s time to indulge in a Tartiflette. If you want to try a sophisticated version then we recommend the Chicken Tartiflette we posted this time last year but it does take a bit of time and effort. This one is much quicker and almost as tasty.

Wine Suggestion: We’d suggest an oaked Chardonnay that has a good balance between fruit and texture, but not too tropical or oily. We quite often go for the Rustenberg from Stellenbosch, or one of the Javillier Bourgogne Blancs as we have good access to these and they over-deliver in quality, but there are many other options you could choose.

Tartiflette – serves 4

  • 500g new potatoes, sliced into 1cm thick slices
  • 200g rindless streaky bacon, cut into 2 cm cubes
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 red onion, finely sliced
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed
  • 100g cheddar or gruyere, grated
  • a couple of sprigs of thyme, leaves removed and chopped
  • 200ml cream
  • 200g Reblochon cheese, sliced into thin wedges

Preheat the oven to 220C.

Cook the potato slices in boiling salted water until tender – start checking after 10 minutes, then drain.

Heat the olive oil in a frying pan and fry the bacon bits until light brown and crispy. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Cook the onion in the bacon fat for a few minutes until softened then add the garlic and cook for another minute.

Spread the cooked potatoes over the bottom of a baking dish. Scatter over the onion and garlic, then the cheddar cheese, thyme and bacon. Pour over the cream, season, and top with the slices of Reblochon.

Bake in the hot oven for 15-20 minute or until browned and bubbling.

Serve with a green salad.

 

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Turnip & Gruyere Gratin

Turnip (or swede as some of you call it) gets a lot of bad press but we absolutely love it and even more so when cooked with lots of cream and cheese. Jono has declared this his favourite turnip dish and has demanded we cook it again.

Gruyère and turnip gratin – serves 4

  • 700g turnip/swede (the large, orange-fleshed variety)
  • 300ml double cream
  • 1 tbsp dijon mustard
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed
  • 100g gruyère, grated

Heat the oven to 180C/fan 160C/gas4.

Peel and thinly slice the turnip – a mandolin or food processor works really well for this.

Bring a pan of salted water to the boil then add the turnip and cook for 4 minutes. Drain really well.

Whisk the cream, mustard and garlic together and season. Layer the turnip and mustardy cream alternately and sprinkle in half the cheese. Sprinkle the rest of the cheese over the top.

Bake for 40-50 minutes, or until very tender, browned and bubbling.

(Original recipe by Janine Ratcliffe, Olive Magazine, January 2017)

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Chicken parmigiana

This is an absolute crowd pleaser and should please most children and other fussy eaters. It is easy but there are  a few steps so leave yourself plenty of time. We liked this way more than we expected to! Good with garlic bread and a big salad.

Wine Suggestion: you mustn’t overwhelm this dish with a heavy, powerful wine. It can have character though and the youthful Rocca delle Macie Chianti Vernaiolo was a good match. Unoaked and fruit driven this is a lighter red and all freshness and vitality. Other alternatives that work are light Pinot Noir, Gamay or Barbera.

Chicken Parmigiana – serves 4 (generously)

  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chop 2 and peel the other
  • 100ml red wine
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
  • 4 chicken breasts (ask your butcher to butterfly if possible)
  • 100g plain flour
  • 2 eggs beaten
  • 75g Parmesan, grated
  • 75g breadcrumbs
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • pinch sugar (optional)
  • 2 balls mozzarella, sliced
  • handful fresh basil leaves

Start by making the sauce. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a saucepan and fry the onion until soft and translucent, then add the chopped garlic. Cook for another couple of minutes, then add the red wine. Allow to bubble until the wine is reduced by about half, then add the oregano and tomatoes and season well with salt and black pepper. Bring to the boil, then cover with a lid and simmer gently for 10 minutes. Taste the sauce at this point and season with a pinch of sugar if necessary, then continue to simmer for a further 10 minutes, without the lid, until the sauce is well reduced – you want it to be fairly thick.

Preheat the oven to 200C Fan/180C/Gas 6.

Butterfly the chicken then put between two sheets of cling film and flatten slightly with a rolling pin. Season the chicken with salt and black pepper. Mix the Parmesan with the breadcrumbs, oregano and a few finely chopped basil leaves. Put half the flour onto a plate and season. Beat one of the eggs in a bowl and spread half the Parmesan mixture on another plate.

Dip each chicken breast in the flour and dust off any excess, then dip into the egg. Coat the eggy chicken in the breadcrumb & Parmesan mixture – pressing it firmly onto the chicken. Repeat this again with the next chicken breast. Now you may need to start the process again with the rest of the ingredients on fresh plates. Arrange the coated chicken on a baking tray and drizzle with a little olive oil, then bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until just cooked through. Remove from the oven but leave the oven on.

To finish the dish you will need a large shallow oven dish that can take all 4 chicken breasts in a single layer. Cut the remaining garlic clove in half and rub the dish all over with it. Spread the tomato sauce over the base of the dish, place the chicken on top and arrange the mozzarella over the chicken so it’s mostly covered. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until the mozzarella is melted and browned. Scatter some basil leaves over the top before serving.

(Original recipe from The Hairy Bikers Chicken & Egg by Si King & Dave Myers, Orion Publishing Co., 2017.)

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Broccoli, walnut & blue cheese penne

We almost always have a bit of leftover blue cheese in the fridge and much as we love a cheese board, we don’t tend to have them on weeknights. So here’s a simple weeknight pasta – broccoli, walnuts & blue cheese – yum!

Broccoli Walnut & Blue Cheese Pasta – serves 2

  • 200g penne pasta
  • 250g broccoli florets
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • a handful of chopped walnuts
  • 100g blue cheese e.g. dolcelatte, cubed
  • 1 lemon

Cook the pasta in a large pan of salty water and add the broccoli 4 minutes before the end of the cooking time. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a small pan and gently fry the walnuts for a minute.

Scoop 4tbsp of the pasta cooking water out and add to the walnuts before draining. Return the pasta to the pan and add the walnuts and blue cheese. Stir gently until the cheese melts. Squeeze over some lemon juice before serving.

(Original recipe from BBC Good Food)

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Marsala honey pears with Gorgonzola & walnuts

A dessert and a cheese course all at once, solving the problem of which goes first. This is really delicious Autumn dish. Make sure you serve the creamy gorgonzola at room temperature. Marsala is a dessert wine from Sicily which is relatively easy to find, it also works well with figs – see Roast Figs with Marsala.

Wine Suggestion: naturally the Marsala from the recipe is a great match, look out for Florio or Pellegrino amongst others. Alternately a really good Sauternes emphasises the honey or a white Maury brings out the pears and all will work well with the Gorgonzola.

Marsala Honey Pears with Gorgonzola – serves 6-8

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 pears, about 500g in total, cored and cut into eighths
  • 3 tbsp Marsala
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 50g walnut halves
  • 500g ripe Gorgonzola – keep in a cool place but avoid putting it in the fridge if at all possible

Heat the oil in a large frying pan, then fry the pears for 3 minutes per side.

Mix the Marsala and honey together,  add to the pears and allow the mixture to bubble furiously, then transfer to a plate.

Add the walnut halves to the juices left in the pan and stir-fry for about a minute or until browned and sticky. Remove from the pan and scatter over the pears. Serve with the creamy slab of Gorgonzola on the side.

(Original recipe from Nigella Express by Nigella Lawson, Chatto & Windus, 2007.)

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Chicken, date & lentil pilaf with saffron butter

This tasted luxurious and refreshing with the saffron butter and orange, top notch treatment for your leftover roast chicken!

Wine Suggestion: This called for an Alsace Pinot Gris, well more specifically the Bott-Geyl Pinot d’Alsace “Metiss” which is actually a blend of all the Pinot’s you can think of plus Pinot Noir to form a layered and textured wine with lovely freshness and hints of spice that brought out the saffron and orange flavours. Bott-Geyl are a brilliant, biodynamic producer and I think each vintage they build upon the past and deliver even more. This bottle we had lying in our cellar, so they age nicely for a few years, if you can resist, but don’t worry, they taste just as good fresh and young.

Chicken, date & lentil brown rice pilaf with saffron butter – serves 6

  • 15g unsalted butter, plus an additional 30g for the saffron butter
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 300g brown basmati rice, washed until the water runs clear
  • 700ml chicken stock
  • 12 dates, pitted and sliced thinly, lengthways
  • finely grated zest of 1 orange and juice of ½
  • 200g Puy lentils, rinsed
  • good squeeze of lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 350g cooked chicken, torn in to pieces
  • 25g chopped, unsalted pistachios or toasted flaked almonds
  • 4 tbsp roughly chopped coriander leaves
  • generous pinch of saffron strands
  • 300g Greek yoghurt

Heat the 15g of butter in a heavy-based saucepan and sauté the onion until soft and lightly coloured. Add the garlic and continue to cook for another couple of minutes. Add the rice and stir until well coated with the butter and starting to toast. Add the chicken stock, dates, and orange zest and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat, cover and cook for about 30 minutes by which time the stock will have become absorbed. If it starts to look dry add a little boiling water.

Meanwhile, cook the lentils in lots of boiling water until tender. They can take between 15-30 minutes so keep checking to ensure they don’t turn to mush. When cooked, drain and rinse in hot water and add to the rice. Fork through, season with salt and pepper and a good squeeze of lemon juice.

Heat the olive oil in a frying pan and quickly reheat the cooked chicken, then season. Gently fork through the rice and lentils along with the nuts, coriander and orange juice. Taste again for seasoning.

Quickly make the saffron butter by melting the 30g butter in a pan, add the saffron and stir so the butter takes on the colour.

Put the rice on a serving platter, spoon on some yoghurt,  pour on the saffron butter and serve.

(Original recipe from A Bird in the Hand by Diana Henry, Mitchell Beazley, 2015.)

 

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Chicken, Ham & Leek Pie

We love a chicken pie, particularly with sweet leeks and a rich creamy sauce.

Wine Suggestion: the classic suggestion, and our first thought, was to drink a lighter chardonnay with this, but we found a great alternative in the Salwey Weissburgunder “RS” which is a Pinot Blanc from Baden in Germany. An amazing wine with lovely fruit and a texture that holds it all together giving it a long finish and makes a good match with the creamy sauce and pastry. Every time we taste this wine we are impressed and think it is one to put Pinot Blanc back on the wine drinkers lists.

Chicken, Ham & Leek Pie – serves 4

For the filling: 

  • 450ml chicken stock
  • 3 chicken breasts fillets
  • 75g butter
  • 2 leeks, cut into 1cm slices
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 50g plain flour
  • 200ml milk
  • 2-3 tbsp white wine
  • 150ml double cream
  • 150g piece thickly carved ham, cut into 2cm chunks

For the pastry: 

  • 350g plain flour
  • 200g butter
  • 1 egg beaten with 1 tbsp cold water, plus an additional egg, beaten, to glaze

Heat the chicken stock in a saucepan. Add the chicken breasts and bring a gentle simmer. Cover with a lid and cook for 10 minutes. Remove the chicken breasts and set aside, then pour the stock into a jug.

Melt 25g of the butter in a large heavy-based saucepan over a low heat. Stir in the chopped leeks and fry gently for a couple of minutes, stirring now and then, until softened. Add the garlic and continue to cook for another minute, then set aside. Add the rest of the butter and stir in the flour as soon as it has melted. Cook for 30 seconds, stirring constantly.

Slowly add the milk to the pan, stirring well between each addition. Then gradually add 250ml of the reserved stock and the wine until the sauce is smooth and slightly thickened. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook for 3 minutes.

Season the sauce, remove from the heat and stir in the cream. Pour into a large bowl and cover with cling film to stop a skin forming on the top. Set aside until cool.

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6 and put a baking tray into heat.

To make the pastry, put the flour and butter into a food processor and pulse until the mixture looks like fine breadcrumbs. Keep the motor running while you add the beaten egg with water and blend until the mixture comes together in a ball. Carefully remove from the processor and set aside about 250g of the pastry to make your lid.

Roll the remaining pastry out on a lightly floured surface, turning frequently until about 5mm thick and larger than your pie dish. Lift the pastry over your rolling pin and gently place into the pie dish. Press firmly up the sides of the dish and make sure no air bubbles remain. Leave the excess pastry hanging over the sides.

Cut the cooked chicken into 3cm pieces. Stir the chicken, ham & leeks into the cooled sauce, then pour into the pie dish. Brush the rim of the dish with beaten egg and roll out the reserved pastry to make a lid.

Cover the pie with the pastry lid and press the edges together firmly to seal. Trim off any excess pastry.

Make a small hole in the centre of the pie with the tip of a knife. Glaze the top with beaten egg. Bake on the hot baking tray in the centre of the oven for 35-40 minutes or until golden brown and piping hot.

(Original recipe from The Hairy Bikers’ Best of British).

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Spanakopita

The classic spinach & feta combination never gets tired. These savoury Greek pastries are delicious and very easy to make. We worked out a production line (thanks Tricia & Orla) and had them assembled in no time! Great as a starter or snack with drinks. Perfect entertaining food.

Wine Suggestion: If you can find an Assyrtiko,  a crisp and delicious Greek white, then you’ve got a great match. Unfortunately it can be hard to find good Greek wines so stick to the Mediterranean and search for a Fiano or Greco di Tufo from Italy. Failing this we’ve had crisp Touraine Sauvignon Blancs with this as well to great effect.

Spanakopita (Spinch, mint & feta pastries) – makes 18-20

  • 500g spinach
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 scallions, trimmed and finely chopped
  • 100g Greek feta cheese
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tbsp finely grated Greek kefalotiri cheese or Parmesan
  • a pinch of finely grated nutmeg
  • 2 tbsp chopped mint
  • 250-275g pack of filo pastry (about 6 sheets)
  • 100g butter, melted

Wash and dry the spinach (remove the stalks if they look tough). Finely shred the leaves.

Heat the oil in a large pan, add the onion and cook gently until soft but not browned. Gradually add the spinach, a handful at a time, until it has all wilted. Tip into a colander and drain, pressing out the liquid with a wooden spoon, then return to the pan with the scallions and cook for 1 minute. Leave to cool.

Crumble the feta into a large bowl and roughly mash with a fork – you can leave it a bit chunky. Mix in the eggs, Parmesan, the spinach mixture, nutmeg, mint and season with salt and pepper.

Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas Mark 4.

Unroll the sheets of filo and cut the stack lengthways into strips about 7.5cm wide. Brush the top layer with melted butter. Put a heaped teaspoonful of the filling in the centre of one strip, at the end closest to you, and fold one bottom corner of the pastry diagonally over the filling, so that the corner touches the opposite side to make a triangle. Then fold over the filled triangular corner, and keep folding it along the whole strip in a triangular parcel. Repeat to make all the spanakopita.

Brush the undersides of each parcel with more butter and place on a lightly buttered baking tray. Brush the tops with butter and bake for 25 minutes or until crisp and golden brown.

These are best served straight from the oven while the pastry is still crispy but they are also good at room temperature.

(Original recipe from Rick Stein’s Mediterranean Escapes, BBC Books, 2007.)

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Crispy potato skins

These super tasty bacon & blue cheese stuffed potato skins work well as a starter or a side dish. Probably best not to count the calories!

Cheesy Baked Potato Skins – serves 4

  • 4 baking potatoes
  • olive oil
  • 8 rashers of thick-cut pancetta
  • 2 cos lettuces, leaves separated and roughly chopped
  • 4 celery sticks, thinly sliced
  • 2 tbsp chopped celery leaves
  • 2 tbsp chopped chives
  • smoked paprika for dusting (optional)

FOR THE CHEESY DRESSING:

  • 250g crème fraîche
  • 200g Roquefort cheese, crumbled
  • 100g mayonnaise
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • few splashes of Tabasco sauce

Preheat the oven to 180ºC/Gas Mark 4.

Put the potatoes on a baking sheet and bake for around 1 hour 15 minutes or until soft in the middle and nice and crispy on the outside.

When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, cut them in half lengthways and scoop out the flesh but be careful not to break the skins. Keep the scooped out potato to make something else with.

Put the potato skins back onto the baking tray, drizzle with oil and put back in the oven for another 15-20 minutes or until really crisp and brown.

Meanwhile, gently fold the crème fraîche, Roquefort and mayonnaise together for the dressing. Stir in the mustard and Tabasco and season.

Cook the pancetta slices under a hot grill until crispy.

Mix the lettuce and celery together in a large bowl then add the cheesy dressing. Put the bacon rashers into the baked potato skins and spoon the cheesy stuffing over the top. Garnish each one with some of the chopped celery leaves and chives and dust with paprika.

(Original recipe from Tom Kerridge’s Best Ever Dishes, Absolute Press, 2014.)

 

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Leek Gratin

 

A true comfort food if there ever was one, and a versatile side for simply barbecued meats, roast chicken and a whole host of mains. It’s fairly rich so a little goes a long way.

Baked Creamy Leeks – serves 6 as a side dish

  • 800g leeks, roughly chopped and rinsed well in a sieve
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely sliced
  • 2 knobs of butter
  • olive oil
  • 6 sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves picked
  • 100g Cheddar cheese, grated
  • 200ml single cream

Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°C/gas 6.

Warm a large frying pan over a medium heat and add the butter with a splash of olive oil and the garlic.

As soon as the garlic starts to colour, add the leeks and thyme leaves and stir. Turn up the heat and continue to cook for about 10 minutes or until the leeks have softened.

Remove from the heat and season with salt and pepper. Add the cream and half the cheese. Mix well in a suitably sized baking dish (you want a layer about 2.5cm thick). Sprinkle over the remaining cheese and bake for about 20 minutes or until brown and bubbling.

(Original recipe from Jamie’s Ministry of Food, Penguin, 2008.)

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If you have some ready-rolled puff pastry in the freezer and a few leftovers in the fridge you can make an easy and delicious tart for supper. My friends might have been more impressed if they hadn’t seen me assemble it in 3 minutes flat before turfing it into the oven! Try this with anything you fancy on the top, though a bit of cheese is a must.

Onion & Taleggio Tart – to serve 4

  • 6 smallish onions
  • 50g butter
  • a sheet of ready-rolled puff pastry (about 200g)
  • 120g Taleggio
  • thyme

Peel the onions and cut into wedges. Put them into a shallow pan with the butter and cook over a fairly low heat until they are soft, golden and sticky. This will probably take about 40 minutes or so.

Heat the oven to 220ºC/Gas 7. Unroll the pastry onto a lightly floured baking tray. Score a border about 2cm from each edge and prick all over with a fork.

Tip the onions on to the pastry, pushing them almost to the border. Brush the rim with some melted butter or some of the onion butter if there is some left in the pan. Slice the cheese thinly, then break it into small pieces, and distribute these through the onions. Scatter over some picked thyme leaves. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the pastry is puffed and golden.

Serve with a green salad.

Wine Suggestion: this calls for a white wine from the mountains: try an oaked Chardonnay from the Jura or if you want something amazing look out for the “Vigna della Oche” Riserva from Fattoria San Lorenzo in the Marche, Italy; a fantastic and truly amazing Verdicchio – a white wine that lasts a decade or two and just becomes more and more complex and complete.

(Original recipe from Nigel Slater’s Appetite, Fourth Estate, 2001.)

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Some industrious fellow has imported real live Water Buffalos and is making proper Irish Buffalo mozzarella in Macroom. Well done him! This stuff is truly delicious and deserves to be the star of the show so we suggest serving it generously with some complementary bits (instead of putting it on a pizza!). Here’s what we tried first and we’ll defo be back for more. If you’re in Dublin you can pick some up in Fallon & Byrne on Exchequer Street or at any Real Olive Company stall at your local market.

Real Live Irish Buffalo Mozzarella Salad (with beetroot, capers & tomatoes) – to serve 4

  • 4 balls of fresh buffalo mozzarella (don’t substitute the cheaper cows milk stuff for this recipe)
  • 4 medium-sized beetroot
  • 4 ripe plum tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp salted capers, rinsed and drained
  • 1tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp top-quality extra virgin olive oil
  • handful of torn basil leaves
Cook the beetroot in boiling water for about an hour or until tender (the cooking time will vary slightly with different beetroot sizes so best to cook them earlier in the day and leave to cool). Peel and cut into chunky slices. Slice the tomatoes into chunky slices too.
Make a dressing with the vinegar and olive oil and pour into a bowl. Add the beetroot, tomatoes and capers, season well and toss gently.
Serve the salad with the mozzarella and scatter over the basil leaves.
Drink with: a northern Italian red. Try Dolcetto for freshness, Barbera for a bit of earthiness or Teroldego for freshness and gentle pepper spices.

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Poor Jono had to go into hospital to have his hand reset after breaking it on Monday and after a general anesthetic some comfort food was required!  This recipe has bags of flavour as well as the comfort factor required.

Macaroni cheese – to serve 6

  • 75g butter
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 75g plain flour
  • 900ml boiling milk
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 225g cheese (we used a mixture of Gruyère and double Gloucester or you can just use Cheddar)
  • 300g macaroni pasta

Melt the butter in a saucepan, add the onion and cook gently until soft. Stir in the flour and cook for a minute, then gradually add the milk, keep stirring all the time, and the mustard. Stir in 3/4s of the cheese and let it melt, then season.

Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling water with a tsp of salt, until just soft (a minute or two less than it says on the pack). Drain, then mix into the cheese sauce and transfer to a ovenproof dish. Scatter the rest of the cheese over the top and put under a hot grill until brown on top.

(Original recipe from Rachel’s Favourite Food at Home by Rachel Allen, Collins, 2006.)

Wine Suggestion: This would be great with a full-bodied, structured white. Structure usually comes from oak – a Pouilly-Fuisse would be fantastic!

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