Tag: blue cheese

Pear and Blue Cheese Tart from my cookbook and a picnic in Valletta

Pear and Blue Cheese Tart with Rosemary

The sky was refreshingly bright and October’s sun was still hot, it was a glorious Saturday morning when we met our friends at my Maltese mama’s house in Msida. The air was filled with the usual chatting and laughing before we hopped into our cars to drive up to Valletta. We brought along the obligatory guitar and our picnic baskets packed with sandwiches, fruits, and a buttery pear and stilton tart sprinkled with rosemary – a popular recipe from my Eat In My Kitchen book. And off we went to Malta’s capital.

We had planned this day trip weeks in advance: to have a picnic with our friends in Valletta, high up on the bastions opposite The Three Cities, to park Michelangelo’s beautiful Volkswagen beetle in the shade of one of the old olive trees, and set up a little table right next to this blue beauty on four wheels. It was a luscious brunch in the most stunning surroundings and to bake a savoury tart was the best choice for this occasion. You can prepare it in advance, it’s delicious even when it’s cold, and it fits perfectly to a sip of chilled sparkling wine. The topping is minimal, but the combination of baked pear, melted Stilton, and roasted rosemary is so good that it became one of my favourite recipes this year. The creation almost didn’t make it into my book. I had a different tart in mind, but I couldn’t find a certain vegetable on the day of the shoot and I decided that I could also just fill the pastry with fruit, cheese, and herbs. It was a wise choice that I don’t regret.

The choice of our setting was as spectacular as our nibbles. If you ever visit Valletta, you have to go to the St. Barbara Bastion and enjoy the breathtaking view overlooking the Grand Harbour and The Three Cities, Vittoriosa, Cospicua and Senglea. Then walk down to the Valletta Waterfront and take one of the little ferries to Cospicua. It only takes a few minutes and it allows you to enjoy two of the most stunning places in Malta, on land and from the sea: the golden beauty Valletta and the three fortified cities.

Thank you Matt, Michelle, Jessica, Michelangelo, Luke, and Jamie for making this day so special!

Pear and Blue Cheese Tart with Rosemary

 

Pear and Blue Cheese Tart with Rosemary

Pear and Blue Cheese Tart with Rosemary

From the Eat In My Kitchen book.

Serves 4 to 8

For the pastry

2 cups (260 g) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
½ cup plus 1 tablespoon (130 g) unsalted butter, cold
1 large egg

For the topping

2 large, firm pears, cut into thin wedges
3 ounces (85 g) aromatic blue cheese, such as Stilton, Roquefort, Fourme d’Ambert or Gorgonzola, crumbled
3 medium sprigs fresh rosemary, needles only
3 tablespoons olive oil
Flaky sea salt
A few black peppercorns, crushed with a mortar and pestle

For the pastry, combine the flour and salt in a large bowl. Add the butter and use a knife to cut it into the flour until there are just small pieces left. Quickly rub the butter into the flour with your fingers until combined. Add the egg and mix with the dough hooks of an electric mixer until crumbly. Form the dough into a thick disc, wrap it in plastic wrap, and freeze for 10 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C).

On a table or countertop, place the dough between 2 sheets of plastic wrap and use a rolling pin to roll out into a disc, large enough to line the bottom and sides of a 12-inch (30 cm) quiche dish. Fit the dough into the quiche dish, pushing it into the dish, especially along the edges. Let the dough hang over the rim a little or cut it off with a knife. Use a fork to prick the dough all over. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes or until golden. If the dough bubbles up, push it down with a fork. (If you blind bake the pastry under parchment paper and dried legumes, remove the paper and legumes after 15 minutes and bake uncovered for a few more minutes until golden.)

Arrange the pear wedges in overlapping circles on top of the warm, pre-baked pastry, sprinkle with the cheese and most of the rosemary, drizzle with the olive oil, and season to taste with flaky sea salt and crushed peppercorns. Bake for 15 minutes or until the cheese has melted and the pastry is crisp. Sprinkle with the remaining rosemary and enjoy warm or cold.

Pear and Blue Cheese Tart with Rosemary

 

Pear and Blue Cheese Tart with Rosemary

 

Pear and Blue Cheese Tart with Rosemary

 

Pear and Blue Cheese Tart with Rosemary

 

Pear and Blue Cheese Tart with Rosemary

 

Pear and Blue Cheese Tart with Rosemary

 

pearstiltontart10

 

Crisp Celery and Blue Cheese

Celery and Blue Cheese

Crisp celery, aromatic blue cheese, cream cheese and crushed black peppercorns, that’s all you need for this little antipasto snack!

I used Fourme d’Ambert, one of the oldest French cheeses from the Auvergne region. It has a strong taste and a creamy texture which blends perfectly into the creamy dip for the stuffing. Sometimes I replace it with Stilton, its rich aroma goes very well with this recipe. Although my chosen vegetable, crunchy fresh celery stalks also have a strong and unique taste, I didn’t want the cheese to be too overpowering so I mixed it with some mild and milky cream cheese. You could also use Gorgonzola but in that case I would mix it with mascarpone instead of cream cheese, it’s a great combination, also on bread! The roughly crushed pepper adds some spiciness which makes the snack complete.

For 8 stuffed celery stalks, I mixed 50g / 2 ounces of Fourme d’Ambert with 1o0g / 3.5 ounces of cream cheese (depending on the blue cheese you might need some more or less) and spread it into the thick parts of the vegetable. I ground some black peppercorns roughly in a mortar to finish it off!

Celery and Blue Cheese

 

Celery and Blue Cheese

 

Celery and Blue Cheese

Gnocchi with Blue Cheese Sauce

Gnocchi with Blue Cheese Sauce

As soon as the temperatures start to rise the Mediterranean influence on my cooking begins to increase accordingly. I feel like olives, fresh herbs, capers and garlic, lemons and seafood, and all the fresh vegetables which finally start to grow. The tomatoes and cucumbers start to taste strong again and yesterday I bought my first bottle of rosé wine of the year, another sign of the official start of the new season!

From now on, I could just live of pasta, vegetables, simple dishes which sparkle through the ripe flavours of their ingredients, basically Italian cooking which refines minimal dishes to perfection and celebrates each single element of a dish. A great example are gnocchi. After I ate my own, homemade gnocchi for the first time I couldn’t enjoy the store bought ones anymore. The dough is so easy to make, potato and nutmeg as the dominant flavours, flour, eggs, butter, salt and pepper mixed together and shaped into little gnocchi. Far less complicated than homemade pasta as long as one rule is obeyed, the potatoes must have cooled off before mixed with the flour. Apart from that it’s an unbelievably easy dinner and so delicious that some sage leaves fried in olive oil and some grated parmesan would be enough to make me happy. If only there wasn’t this amazing blue cheese sauce that I fell in love with a couple years ago. It’s smooth but aromatic, cooked with garlic, onions, parsley, juniper berries, cloves and bay leaf which are taken out before the blue cheese is mixed in. I use Fourme d’Ambert cheese from the Auvergne region in France which is creamy but very strong in taste, the gnocchi just need to be glazed with the sauce, enough to enjoy all the intense aromas.

In January I made my wintery gnocchi with pumpkin and potatoes and a walnut pesto. Sometimes I mix spinach into my gnocchi dough which I have to make again, soon, as there is nice and crunchy spinach at the moment!

Gnocchi with Blue Cheese Sauce

Gnocchi with a Fourme d’Ambert Blue Cheese Sauce

It’s best to use floury potatoes with a fluffy and dry texture for the gnocchi dough. Keep in mind that you don’t mix the flour with the cooked potatoes unless they are absolutely cold.

For 2-3 people you need

For the Blue Cheese Sauce

small onion, chopped, 1
garlic, cut in half, 1
butter 30g / 1 ounce
milk 125ml
heavy cream 125ml
white wine 150ml
parsley 3 sprigs
cloves 2
juniper berries 2
bay leaf 1
black peppercorns 4
blue cheese such as Fourme d’Ambert 45g / 2 ounces

In a sauce pan, fry the onions and garlic in butter until golden and soft, add the other ingredients except the blue cheese and bring to the boil. Let it simmer for 10 minutes on medium heat, pour through a sieve and add the cheese. When the cheese has melted, let the sauce simmer for 5-8 minutes on low heat until it starts to thicken slightly. Season with salt and pepper.

 

For the Gnocchi

potatoes, cut into cubes, 450g / 16 ounces
butter 30g / 1 ounce
organic egg yolks 2
plain flour 125g / 4.5 ounces
nutmeg, grated, to taste
salt 1 1/2 teaspoons
black pepper, grated, to taste

Cook the the potatoes in salted water until soft (around 15 minutes). Drain them when they are done. Press the drained potatoes through a potato ricer and mix immediately with the butter and egg yolks. Put in a cool place (in the fridge) until the mixture is completely cool.

In a large pot, bring plenty of salted water to the boil. Set the oven to 100°C / 210°F and put an ovenproof dish inside. You will need it to keep the gnocchi warm while you cook them in batches.

With a spoon (or your hands), mix the cold potato mixture with the flour, salt, nutmeg and pepper until combined. Dust your hands with flour and roll the dough – in batches – into sausage shapes on a well floured working surface and cut off 3x3cm / 1×1″gnocchi. If you like you can roll them on a fork for the typical gnocchi pattern. Put them onto a floured baking sheet.

Cook your gnocchi in batches in the boiling water so that they can float. After 3 minutes, when they start to come up and float on the surface take them out with a slotted ladle and drain them. Keep them in the warm dish in the oven until you are done with the last batch.

Arrange the gnocchi on plates and pour some of the blue cheese sauce over them.

Gnocchi with Blue Cheese Sauce

 

Gnocchi with Blue Cheese Sauce

 

Gnocchi with Blue Cheese Sauce

Pear and Stilton – the perfect Sandwich Combination

Stilton + Pear Sandwich

Ripe Stilton and crisp Abate pear are the perfect match for my sandwich. I layer thin slices of the juicy fruit and crumbs of the blue cheese on thick white bread and put it in under the grill, just until the cheese starts to bubble and the bread is slightly roasted. The spiciness of the creamy English cheese and the sweetness of the pear are a heavenly combination.

I once used this duo as a topping for my Quiche and everybody loved it but I must say, it’s just as good on my sandwich and quicker to prepare. All you need is a loaf of white bread (I use fresh spelt Ciabatta), a crisp pear like Abate and around 100g / 3.5 ounces of ripe, spicy Stilton (or any other blue cheese). Prepare your sandwich, finish under the grill and sprinkle with some walnuts and black pepper. You can treat 2-4 people to this wonderful snack, at lunch or as a starter at a dinner party and you can be sure you will make them very happy!

Stilton + Pear Sandwich

 

Stilton + Pear Sandwich