Sunday, June 17, 2018

World Cup 2018: Spain vs Portugal

The team from Portugal made drawing against Spain look easy, or rather Ronaldo made it look easy. I had hoped for a win from Spain but on the day that looked rather doubtful. Spain had sacked their manager just before the tournament started and although they may have felt this was the only option, I hope they asked the players before they did it, but some how I doubt it.

So the chosen cocktail for this match, 'Adios Amigos', which was chosen in hope of Spain beating Portugal, turned out to have a different meaning.

To make this martini style drink you will need:

1 shot Bacardi light rum
1/2 shot Martell cognac
1/2 shot dry gin
1/2 shot dry vermouth
1/4 shot freshly squeezed lime juice
1/4 shot sugar syrup
1/2 shot chilled water

Shake all of the ingredients over ice and strain into a chilled martini glass.

This is rather punchy on the alcohol. I sipped mine slowly but was still feeling rather sleepy by the time I reached the bottom of my glass.

The dish for this match was a Russian salmon pie or 'Kulebiaka'. Perhaps more traditionally made with a yeasted dough, I have only ever made this with puff pastry (bought pastry at that). The pie is made up of layers of cooked rice or buckwheat, fried onion and mushroom, dill and parsley, salmon fillets and hard boiled egg, all moistened by little sour cream. It is a rather splendid thing to both look at and to eat.

It may be a rather British thing but pies and football seem to go well together.

World Cup 2018 - Russia

I will be cooking my way through the 2018 Football World Cup as usual, and for this tournament I am going to be exploring the cuisine of the host nation Russia and its neighbours. Many of the cookbooks that I own on the cuisine of Russia also include many of the neighbouring regions such as the Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Estonia and other near neeighbours where there are common food cultures.

So for each game I am going to try and prepare a dish from either Russia or a near by country, and I will also be making a cocktail that will have a link to one of the teams playing. In many cases my cocktails will have very tenuous links but I have recently bought a huge book on cocktails written by Simon Difford and I want to try out as many as I can while I have the excuse, and there are 3,000 in there to have a go at.

So for the opening game of Russian vs Saudi Arabia we had a smoked trout open sandwich on black bread with egg, dill and horseradish cream and a Sputnik #2 cocktail.

The hot smoked trout is from a Blakewells a local trout farm that also has a nice cafe.We often stop off to buy some of their smoked  trout when we are visiting the near by Broomhill sculpture gardens which are just outside Barnstaple, North Devon and well worth a visit. Broomhill also has a good restaurant.

I have been trying to grow a lot of dill in preparation for this adventure into Russian cuisine but the rather fine weather we have had in the last month has resulted in the plants peaking too soon. Much of the dill I planted is shooting up and producing flowers rather than more leaf.

I realised this too late, so the rapidly sown second batch of seed will no doubt be ready to pick just as the world cup is finishing.

To make a Sputnik # 2:

Shake the following over ice and strain into an ice filled 'Old-Fashioned' glass

1 shot Bacardi light rum
1 shot Martell cognac
2 shots freshly squeezed orange juice
1/2 shot sugar syrup

Russia had a fairly easy first game against Saudi Arabia though it was far from dull as had been predicted in the press. No surprise though that the second days match of Spain vs Portugal was rather more entertaining.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Cheese & Football Feast the Final: Portugal

I cannot hide my disappointment, I wanted France, the Euro 2016 football tournament hosts, to win last night against Portugal, but it was not to be.
It seemed a struggle for both teams, even with Ronaldo taken off early following a knee injury France did not seem to gain any edge. Goal less at full time, the extra time was looking nearly over when Portugal scored. France appeared to liven up for the last few minutes but to no avail.

So although I was disappointed with the football outcome, the Cheese Feast has been a lot of fun and I have discovered many new dishes and beers along the way. My dish for the final match, Cheese Stuffed Pork Tenderloin, was one published by the Washington Post and is an adaptation of one by David Leite for his book The New Portuguese Table. The meat is marinaded in a hot pepper paste which they give a recipe for, but you can also buy suitable pepper pastes from Portuguese or Turkish delis, which is the route I took. I stuffed the tenderloin with Portuguese Jorge cheese which is quite a full flavoured one. The cheese did ooze out a little while it was cooking and even more when it came to carving the tenderloin to serve, but some stayed inside!
It was served with home grown new potatoes and sugar peas. The meat stayed very succulent which does not often happen when I cook pork tenderloin. The stuffed tenderloin is browned in a pan and then finished in the oven. With all the pepper paste it is impossible to see if the meat juice is pink so I used a thermometer to check the temperature. I think spinach would have been a good vegetable to serve with this but I had freshly picked peas in the fridge so we had those.

I found a similar style of recipe for a cheese and ham stuffed pork loin served with a port and onion sauce on TiaMaria's Portuguese food blog . Her dish is lighter on the paprika/red pepper flavouring which whilst I love smokey pepper flavours, they are not to everyone's taste.

So that is the end of Cheese and Beer/Booze Feast (although I still have a few beers and remnants of cheese to finish up). I hope you have seen one or two dishes you might like to try, or perhaps have been reminded of an old classic you have not made for a while.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Cheese & Football Feast day 22: Germany

The second semi-final in the Euro 2016 football championship was a hard fought game between Germany and France. Germany started in good form, but not for so long, and after an early controversial penalty in which France scored  they seemed to lose their confidence. England supporters are used to seeing their team fluff it on the night, but I think Germany's performance in this game came as more of a surprise to us all.
My cheese feast for the night was Käsespätzle, or Swabian cheese noodles, served with a Franziskaner wheat beer. This cheese noodle dish is very filling food, so I served it as a side dish rather than a main course on its own. The chicken breasts were roast in a mustard and lemon marinade and went well with the noodles but I doubt there is any tradition of serving the cheese noodles with a roast meat in the Swabian area of Germany where Käsespätzle originates.

You can buy the ready made dried egg noodles, and that is a lot easier than making your own, but they are not quite the same. The noodles can be made by spreading the dough onto a small board and scraping it into a pan of boiling water using a knife or by pushing the dough through a special spätzle press, or colander. I have tried two different press designs and found both hard to work with but as one rusted in the cupboard I now just have this one.
 There are some helpful photos and instructions for making the noodles on this step by step guide at

Here is a link to a recipe from for a very basic version of how to make this dish. This recipe for Kaesespaetzle , again from the Germanfood site is much more detailed but like me you may still get yourself in a bit of a tangle trying to make the noodles. I imagine the amount of liquid added to the dough is the critical part, not too thick and not too thin but only practice will tell you what that magic spot is.

Now France play Portugal in the final and I shall be making a Portuguese Jorge cheese stuffed fillet of pork and cheering for France.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Cheese & Football Feast day 21: Wales

Wales played Portugal in the first of the semi finals for Euro 2016 and sadly they did not go through. I am not football savvy enough to know if Portugal raised their game from earlier shows, or if Wales lost their spark, but it never looked like Wales had much of a chance to win.

My cheese feast dish was 'Glamorgan Sausages' which have no connection with sausages other than the shape. These are in effect croquettes of cheese and leek, and very tasty so long as you are not expecting anything resembling sausages. The mixture includes breadcrumbs, egg, leek, cheese and herbs such as parsley and thyme with an egg and breadcrumb coating. You can shallow fry them quite successfully and then finish off under a grill or hot oven.

I looked at a recipe I had used many years ago from a book by Sophie Grigson and was reminded how portions have changed somewhat over the years. The recipe stated it served 4 as a supper dish but only had 150g each of cheese and breadcrumbs and 2 eggs. In my world that only serves 2.

The recipe is reproduced online here but I am afraid there are pretty irritating adverts on that website too. So many of the websites I used to look at regularly for food articles are clogged with video adverts now. My broadband speed is pretty slow where I live so now I just crash out as soon as I find they have trashed their sites with this stuff.
For the beer we returned to the Welsh Brain's Brewery and enjoyed a bottle of the Rev James.
Next up is the semi final between Germany and France and a dish of cheese noodles.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Cheese & Football Feast day 20: France

The last of the quarter finals in the Euro 2016 football tournament was France vs Iceland and whilst Iceland had what seemed to be the entire Icelandic nation cheering for them it was to be their last game. The dish I chose for my cheese feast was French Tartiflette. Great cold weather comfort food, so in keeping for a game against Iceland. This is a glorious mixture of potatoes, smoked bacon, white wine, fromage frais and Reblochon cheese.
I found a french bottled beer with a picture of Eric Cantona on the label, and in the same week read a rumour that Cantona has voiced an interest in being the England team's next manager. Now that would be a change for us, but I suspect it was just gossip.
I was delighted to have home grown potatoes ready in time for this recipe which made it all the more special.  I am growing some potatoes in large pots at home as well as a few on the allotment. The pot grown ones were ready first.

 It took me a while before I realised why there were no Tartiflette recipes in my old classic french cook books. It was apparently invented in the 80's to help sell Reblochon cheese. I looked at quite a few internet recipes, many of which had a large amount of cream, which I did not want. Some fried the potatoes, which gain I was happier to avoid.
So in the end I just made a couple of changes to the recipe published here: Guardian's Tartiflette. I did not fry the potatoes after boiling them and I used 2 heaped tablespoons of creme fraiche in place of  all of the double cream. If you use more cream you would get more sauce, but my version did not taste dry and a small left over portion reheated very well the next day.
This was the first time I had cooked reblochon cheese and it worked really well. This has been one of our favourite dishes of the cheese feast so far and I am looking forward to cooking it again. I think you need well flavoured waxy potatoes to make the dish special so take some care in selecting them.

Next, onto the semi-finals, the fisrt of which was Wales vs Portugal and I made Glamorgan 'Sausages'.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Cheese & Football Feast day 19: Italy

The third quarter final of the Euro 2016 football championship saw Germany beat Italy by the narrowest of margins. Decided on penalties but with both sides making mistakes the outcome was far from clear as player after player gave the other team a chance. But Germany are through and Italy now go home.  I will miss watching the Italian keeper Buffon who must be such a great role model in a sport that is much criticised for its prima donnas.
The cheese feast was Italian  ricotta and spinach cannelloni, with a German Beck's beer. Provided you start with frozen spinach and have a large disposable piping bag to fill the the pasta tubes this is a very simple dish that can be prepared a day ahead, or even frozen. For the recipe follow next link to Jamie Oliver's site. I like to add a little mild chilli to the tomato sauce and will often just make this sauce with reduced down passata and a little olive oil and chopped garlic. If you don't have mozzarella for the topping a mild cheddar melting cheese will work. Ricotta has a distinctive flavour which although mild I think is not readily substituted with other soft cheese, so I would definitely use ricotta. If you have a good Italian deli near you they may buy in whole fresh ricotta cheeses that they sell by weight. I first saw these when I was a student in Bristol and a frequent shopper at the Licata deli in Picton Street. That was over 30 years ago but I still remember how helpful the staff were when I asked about produce I had never seen before like coppa and persimmons. It was never any trouble to them to slice small amounts or weigh out tiny portions for me.

For the last of the quarter finals France play Iceland and I am cooking Tartiflette; potatoes, smoked bacon and reblochon cheese all baked together. Perhaps more a winter dish but our weather is not too hot for baking in the oven just yet.