Sunday, October 21, 2012

Quickes Oak Smoked Cheddar

Tag--English cheddar aged between 12-15 months, smoked naturally over oak chips. 
Dark butter hue, with some crystallization from the age. Light brown edges, from the smoke.  No artificial flavors.
Rich, pleasant cheddar and natural smoke aromas.  Dry, relatively heavy texture, much like an aged Parmesan, but without the crystalline mouthfeel.  Dry, natural smoke and wood flavors along with mellow, slightly sweet cheddar flavors.  Overall, this is quite pleasant, but more mellow than I anticipated from the aromas.  Definitely has a bit different smoke character than the smoked cheeses I’m used to (typically cheaper smoked Goudas).  This tastes more natural, earthy, and woody than any others. 
Around $19.99 a lb. at World Harvest.  We love English Cheddar and smoke cheeses, and so we had to try this.  This is fantastic on its own, and would likely pair well with mild breads and malty sweet beers (perhaps a milder Strong Scotch Ale) as well. 
At the price, it’d have to be a small piece, but I’d definitely buy this again. 

Tintern Cheese

Tag—Creamy, Welsh cheddar cheese with shallots and chives.  From Monmouthshire in eastern Wales. 
Ivory colored, bright green wax, small green flecks throughout

Creamy texture, but surprisingly sharp.  I guess from the combination of a cheddar-style cheese and shallots, I was expecting something savory and a bit sweet.  However, the chives bring a sharp, herbal edge here which, to me, just slightly overpowers the rich creaminess of the cheese. Don’t really get much of the shallots, and the actual chive flavor is fairly mild.   
Around $18.99 a lb. at World Harvest.  Was looking to try an herbed cheese, and decided to try this over the more familiar (and one of our favorites) Cotswold.  It’s (for me) a bit much on its own, but with a nice porter and some (just slightly sweet) rustic beer bread, it’s still pretty nice. 
Likely wouldn’t buy again.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Personal-Size English Meat Pies (seriously awesome)

     Jess and I made this a few weeks ago when her grandparents were here to visit, but I haven't had time to post until now.  Suffice it to say, this is one of our favorite things we've made in a long time.  It seems like I'm always longing to be back in North Yorkshire and Northumberland and nothing takes you back faster than a) a good English ale or b) good English pub food.  This recipe is an example of the latter, though it pairs wonderfully with the former!

     To begin, make up a recipe of the Cornish Pasty crust used here (though remember to note the changes to the ingredients listed in my directions).  Instead of making pasties, we rolled the dough out into small circles a bit larger than the diameter of the widest part of a large (i.e. 6 to a tray) muffin/cupcake pan.  Gently but firmly press the dough down the sides of the muffin tin and smooth out, so that an equal amount of pastry remains around the edge on all sides.
     Next, it's time to make the filling.  For six of these (really, with sides, you can serve one of these per person and be about right; they're pretty rich), you need:
     -8 oz. steak, chopped into small, equal-sized pieces (easier to do this if steak is partially frozen)
     -1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
     -1 tsp crushed garlic
     -1 tbsp olive oil (extra-virgin or regular)
     -6 to 8 oz. of Red Leicester or English Cheddar, chopped into same size pieces as the beef 
     -1 tsp dried thyme
     -1/2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
     -1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
Begin by gently sauteing the onion, crushed garlic, and thyme in the olive oil until soft and lightly golden.  remove from the heat, add your balsamic vinegar and Worcestershire sauce, and stir well to combine.  Add these ingredients to the steak and cheese, stiring well to combine.  Pile about 3/4 of a cup (so it just comes above the rim of the cup) into each muffin cup, and crimp the tops together lightly with a bit of water to help them stick. 
Oven times will vary a bit, but bake for about 20 minutes at 400 degrees, before lowering the heat to 350 and baking another 40 minutes.  You want the crust to be lightly golden to golden brown and, most importantly, the beef inside to be fully cooked.  Let sit for a few minutes before serving.  The result?
Serve with just a touch of horseradish cream and some balsamic glazed green beans with onion and bacon, and you've got a kockout meal.  Pair this with a slightly sweet, nutty, or caramelly English Real Ale for the perfect paring. 
Perhaps the biggest surprise of all is that these hold over very well until the next day.  Simply fully cook them and let them cool for a bit before placing them in an airtight container in the fridge overnight.  The next day, heat them (lower heat, slowly) in the oven until warm through, and serve!
This is definitely something we'll come back to for special occasions!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Chocolate Zucchini Cake--Low Sugar (if high fat) Recipe

     Sure, it sounds gross...chocolate...zucchini...cake, but it's delicious, I promise.  This is something my mom made every summer when I was growing up, with fresh zucchini from my dad's garden.  It's sweet, but not overly sweet, and has a slightly rougher texture that gives it a certain rustic charm.  We made this cake this weekend for a church gathering, and decided to swap out the sugar for Splenda, since Jerry is a diabetic, and can't ever eat any of the desserts people bring.  I also decided to make it in loaf pans (1 regular and 2 small) instead of the usual angel food cake pan, so that I would have a couple of small loaves to take to school with me this week.  At any rate, here's the recipe. 
     -4 eggs
     -3 c. sugar (we subbed Splenda)
     -1.5 c. vegetable oil
     -3 oz. Chocobake unsweetened pre-melted chocolate
     -1.5 tsp. vanilla extract
     -0.5 tsp. almond extract
     -3 c. all-purpouse flour
     -1.25 tsp. baking soda
     -1.25 tsp. baking powder
     -1 tsp. salt
     -.25 tsp. cinnamon
     -3 c. finely shredded zuchinni
     -0.5 c. chopped dates
     -0.5 c. chopped pecans
     -0.5 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips
     To begin, beat the eggs until foamy and very light in color.  Gradually add the sugar until well blended, and then add the oil and mix well to combine.  Next, stir in the chocolate and the extracts.  Then, add the dry ingredients.  Note, the dough here will be very dense and friggin difficult to stir with a spoon.  I recommend using the dough-hook on your Kitchenaid-style mixer if you have one; it worked pretty well for me.  Add the remaining ingredients and mix well.  Pour into ungreased pan of your choice (10" angel food cake pan or large loaf pan works well) and bake at 350 for around 75 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  These can be tricky to get out of the pan without them sticking, and I'd recommend running a knife or spatual around the outside to help get them out easily.  Cool completely, then slice.  *Note: this is awesome frozen or chilled*
         -While the Splenda version was good and cut way back on calories, I don't think the flavor was
           quite as robust as with regular sugar; next time I might use half sugar, half Splenda.
         -There is a ton of fat in this recipe; I'm going to play with it and see if I can't swap some of the
           vegetable oil out for applesauce or other ingredients (a nice rich stout, perhaps?)
         -I'm thinking this same basic cake, but with less oil, a rich, strong imperial stout (I'm thinking
          maybe Goose Island's Bourbon County?) and some holiday spices might. be. delicious.  I'll
          have to try that at some point!
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