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Archive for the ‘Cheese’ Category

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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