Tag Archives: cheese

Port Soaked Stilton

Port Soaked Stilton

Port Soaked Stilton

There are lots of foods and drinks I just can’t have Christmas without, and my Port Soaked Stilton is firmly on the list.  It hasn’t always been there, I mean it’s not, like so many of my Christmas food wishlist items, something from my childhood Christmas, in fact we didn’t eat cheese at Christmas and certainly not blue cheese – far too posh.  There was probably a bottle of port in the house though, just because you had to have port at Christmas, in case somebody came round who drank it, so you would have to have some in.  It’s a Scottish panic, people coming round and you don’t have their drink of choice available.

Anyway, my Port Soaked Stilton is not from way back then – it comes from the time I had my delicatessen in Amsterdam.  Every December, I would buy about 20 full Stilton cheeses and 3 or 4 Shorpshire blue (Stilton and cheddar mix) and I’d feed the Stilton with port and the Shropshire blue with whisky for weeks.  I can still see them now, lined up with a bottle up-ended in each one, all slurping away getting silently soused.

I’d have an order book especially for the cheeses and each client who placed an order trotted off excitedly to wait until the day I deemed the cheeses ready opened and portioned up – then they’d get a call to come in and pick up their treat.  It was great fun and every year I needed more Stilton to keep up with demand.  As well as my award winning cheese fondue mixes, I became known for Port Soaked Stilton and lots of other cheeses that I marinated in delicious matching booze especially for the festive season.

Port Soaked Stilton is really easy to make, and it’s so handy to have around at Christmas for all those after dinner moments or even as a gift.

Preparation Time: 10 to 15 minutes
Time Needed to Soak:  3 to 5 days
Serves: 20

Ingredients
2.2kg / 4.8 lb. Stilton Cheese.  This should be cut in a wheel shape from a whole stilton.
400ml /13.5 fl. oz. (A small bottle) of Ruby or Tawny Port

Port Soaked Stilton

Method

  1. Line a dish which is large enough to hold your Stilton liberally with cling film. Use a couple of layers and make sure you have enough to cover the cheese completely.  Use a dish (or as I do a pie dish) with a lip on it so the port doesn’t spill out.
  2. With a skewer (or even a knitting needle) poke lots of holes all over one side of the cheese. Press the skewer down through the Stilton so that it almost hits the bottom, but doesn’t go right through.  Wiggle the skewer a little in each hole to widen it.  The holes should be roughly about 1 cm / 0.5 in. apart.
  3. Place the cheese into your lined dish and pour about half the port over, slowly, allowing it to drain into the holes. Cover loosely with the cling,  and place in the fridge.
  4. The next day, pour over the remaining port and put back in the fridge. If the port has leaked out of the cling film from the previous day, pour it out into a bowl or jug and pour it over the cheese again.
  5. If you have more time, just keep pouring off the port every couple of days and pouring it over the cheese again.
  6. Whenever your last day of soaking the port is, pour off any port, slice the cheese into portions whilst it is sill in the dish, pour the port over it, cover with the cling and put back in the fridge until you are ready to eat it.

Tips and Variations

  • Serve after dinner with a glass of port on the side.
  • Try this with Shropshire blue cheese, instead of port use whisky – but be a bit careful with the quantity – whiskey is so much stronger than port after all.
  • I know, I know this is a rather large piece of cheese, but the reason I do it like this is because I normally only make it for Christmas and New Year. I use it for drinks parties, after dessert treat for all those festive meals and I often give pieces away too.  It’s handy to have around.  But of course you can do this for small pieces of cheese as well.

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Port Soaked Stilton

Chicory and Leek Pie

Chicory and Leek Pie
Chicory and Leek Pie

The Dutch have many food obsessions and chicory (‘witlof’ in Dutch) is one of them.  I’d never eaten it before I came here, but always seemed to be presented with it at the mother-in-law’s.  It’s her go to vegetable.  She smothers it in Dutch cheese and bakes it in the oven and it’s … well … it’s my mother-in-law’s cooking (you know what I mean).  I wasn’t sure what to make of it in the beginning, even drowned in Gouda it was bitter (or is that the burned bits? – sorry!), I didn’t mind it, but never seemed to get around to cooking with it myself.  Until recently.  I started using it in summer salads, not too much, just to give a background flavour and with some goat’s cheese and a walnut oil dressing, I liked it, so I’m venturing further.  As loathe as I am to say it (again you know what I mean), I am using my mother-in-laws basic chicory swimming in cheese idea and, well, dare I say improving it.

This is really easy to make and is a great side dish to chicken or fish, perfect for when your Dutch mother-in-law comes to dinner.

Preparation Time: Less than 10 minutes
Baking Time: 35 minutes

Serves 4 x 6
4 or 5 x sheets of filo pastry (I use 40cm / 16in. x 40cm / 16in.), if frozen, thaw them out first.
3 x tbsp of unsalted butter – melted
3 x leeks, chopped roughly
8 x chicory, chopped roughly
250gr / 9 oz. Fontina cheese
Fresh nutmeg for grating
Salt, black pepper and 1 x tbsp of olive oil

 Method
  1. Set your oven to heat to 200°C / 400°F.
  2. Place the chopped leeks and chicory in a roasting tray with some freshly ground black pepper and a little salt, drizzle over the oil and toss through. It will seem like a lot of vegetables, but the mass will shrink back considerably as it cooks.
  3. Roast the vegetables for about 20 minutes or until they brown and soften a little. Take them out after about 15 minutes, stir through so that you get a more even browning and place back in the oven.  When cooked, taste and check if you need more salt.
  4. Grate the fontina cheese from the fridge – if you allow it to come to room temperature it will be difficult to grate as it will get too soft. Sprinkle the cheese over the vegetables and grate about a quarter of the nutmeg evenly over the cheese.
  5. Scrunch and tear your filo pastry and place it loosely over the vegetables and cheese. All the scrunchy edges will give more surface area that will crisp up.
  6. Drizzle the melted butter over the pastry as evenly as you can and place the tray back in the oven for about 10 to 15 minutes, or until the pastry is golden brown and crispy.
 Tips and Variations
  • Remember not to leave your filo lying around as it will dry out very quickly and you won’t be able to use it. If you need time, lay it out and keep it covered with a damp tea towel.
  • Gruyere cheese works really well in this recipe too as does Taleggio.
  • I serve this with fish, chicken or lamb dishes.

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Chicory and Leek Pie

Manchego Cheese with Thyme and Honey


Manchego Cheese with Honey and Thyme

Manchego Cheese with Thyme and Honey:

I can’t really claim this to be a recipe, it’s more  an idea for something to serve with drinks or just to nibble on.  This is one of my go to snacks on hot summer days – days when turning the heat up in the kitchen can be a slightly unbearable thought, so, dinner ends up being a succession of nibbles and salads.  Nothing wrong with that, in fact, I love to eat this way, I love to spend summer evenings pottering about in a cool kitchen and presenting plate after plate of little delicious things that people think I’ve spent ages working on.

This works best with a salty cheese, I mostly use Manchego, but pecorino is a really good one too.  You can also try it with blue cheese, roquefort or calabres would be where I’d go with this.  I that a goats’ milk or ewes’ milk cheese offers an extra silty quality that contrasts best with the sweetness of the honey and the earthy thyme taste.   If you want to make a more decadent version, try pecorino flavoured with truffle.

Preparation Time:  5 minutes
Serves 4
12 to 16 slices of mature manchego cheese
2 x tsps of honey
1 x tbsp of fresh thyme chopped finely

Method

  1. Lay the slices of cheese on your serving dish, drizzle with honey and then sprinkle the thyme over your plate.

Tips and Variations

  • Serve with a crisp glass of white Rioja or Albariño
  • Works really well with pecorino cheese too.

 

White Asparagus Parmesan Crisps

White Asparagus Parmesan Crisps

White Asparagus Parmesan Crisps:

Huge confession, I’m not really into white asparagus.  Eek!  I know, that makes me almost an outcast in the Netherlands – the Dutch are obsessed with it, but well, I can take it or leave it.  But, I don’t hate it and I’m always up for a challenge so when the short season comes around I normally have a go preparing and cooking it in a different way.  One of this years successes has been these little crisps – it’s a really tasty combination, but make sure you get a bit of both ingredients in every bite for maximum effect.

They’re a really nice canapé idea for any gathering, especially if you are going the whole hog and preparing a celebratory white asparagus menu.  Serve with a nice glass of Pinot auxerrois, a little sweet with a little bubble from the Alsace.

Preparation Time:  10 minutes
Cooking Time: 7 minutes

Serves 4  to 6
6 x white asparagus, cleaned, peeled and the first 2.5cm/1in of the stalk removed (the woodiest part).
100gr /  3.5 oz. parmesan cheese, finely grated.
Some freshly ground black pepper.

Method

  1. Using the fine side of a box grater, grate the asparagus. Squeeze out excess liquid.  The best way to do this is to squeeze it through a clean tea towel.
  2. Heat your oven to 180°C/360°F.
  3. Combine the asparagus and the parmesan in a bowl – use a fork, with a spoon the mix will ball and clump.
  4. Line a large roasting tray or trays with baking paper.
  5. Place spoonfuls (about a tbsp) of the mix at about 2.5cm/1in apart on the tray.
  6. Give each little mound a sprinkle of pepper and place in the oven for about 7 minutes. Check after 5.  They are ready when the cheese is bubbling and melted and has taken a little colour.
  7. Remove from the oven and allow to cool before taking the crisps off the tray.

Tips and Variations

  • It is important to combine the asparagus and the cheese evenly so that each crisp tastes of both ingredients.
  • The crisps don’t keep very well, they will go soggy and so are best served within a couple of hours of being made.

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White Asparagus Parmesan Crisps

Spinach and Paneer Curry

Spinach and Paneer Curry

Spinach and Paneer Curry:

Ever since my south Indian travels I’ve been working on getting to grips with some of my favourite food from the trip.  This curry with spinach and paneer (Indian fresh cheese) is really fresh and light and, it uses a very (in my opinion) exotic spice –  asafoetida.  This spice has a sort of earthy onion type aroma and flavour and in its raw form is a root like ginger or turmeric.  In the South of India they use it in a lot of vegetarian curries.  I had heard of it, but I had absolutely no idea how to use it.  That’s the great thing about travelling to the places where your favourite food originates, you get to taste how it should taste and that makes it so much easier to understand how to use it.

Preparation Time: 25 minutes
Cooking Time: 10 minutes 

Serves 4
500gr / 1.1 lb. of paneer cut into cubes (you can also use tofu)
For the Curry
2 x tbsp of sunflower oil
2 x red onions, quartered
2 x large tomatoes, quartered
4 x large garlic cloves
2 x tsp of cumin
1 x tsp of turmeric
3 x tsp of coriander
3 x tsp of cardamom
1 x tsp f fenugreek
¼ tsp of asafetida (optional)
¼ tsp of salt

For the Spinach
500gr / 1.1 lb. of fresh spinach, cleaned and the most woody stems removed.
2 x green chili’s
2 x large cloves of garlic
75gr  / 2.5 oz. piece of peeled ginger

Method 

  1. Place the spinach leaves in a pan of boiling water for 2 minutes.  Remove them and plunge them into a bowl of iced water.  This keeps the vibrant green colour.
  2. Put all the curry ingredients (except for the oil) into a food processor and blitz until smooth.  Set aside.
  3. Drain the spinach and put  it in the food processor with the chili’s, garlic and ginger and blitz until smooth.
  4. Heat the oil in a non stick pan and cook the curry sauce for about 3 minutes.  Add the spinach mix and stir through, cooking on a medium heat for a further 5 minutes.
  5. Add the paneer, stir through and check for salt before serving.

Tips and Variations

  • This can be served as a main dish or without the paneer it makes a great side dish to a curry menu.

Spinach and Paneer Curry