Saturday, June 11, 2016

Cheese & Football Feast Day 1: France

I love watching the Euro and World Cup football tournaments and I love food, so how better to celebrate than with a 'national' dish for each game night. I have done this for a couple of years now and it has been a lot of fun. The theme for Euro2016 is Cheese! 
And with any celebration there has to be drink, and apart from a few variations most of the drinks will be national beers.
 I have been pulling a lot of barely used cookbooks off the shelf in search of suitable dishes and wandering the internet in search of suppliers. Most of these beers came from the rather fabulous Beers of Europe who are currently offering a specially selected Euro2016 mixed pack, but its more fun to pick your own. They have a very informative web site which is worth a look even if you don't shop with them.
But back to the cheese. It has long been something I expect to see at just about any social feasting; from huge platters found at cheese and wine parties (do they still exist?) to morels on sticks at family christenings, hastily gathered cheese and bread for holiday picnics and now even in the most majestic of whole cheeses tiered into wedding cakes it turns up at every party.
Cheese Wedding Cake
West Country Cheeses Celebration 'Cake'
And for a cheese lover this is all good news. Cheese is also the humble ingredient that sits happily in the fridge for all of those instant meals and snacks. The ubiquity of cheese as the base for fast and delicious family food is what I am exploring for my euro cheese feast. If you are engrossed in watching a game you want something simple to eat and easy to prepare. If it can be assembled during the half time break or just before kick-off all the better. 

So with France hosting the tournament they were the opening act and played Romania. I chose to make Gruyère, Ham & Spinach Buckwheat Crêpes, served with Breton Cider. Gruyère is of course a Swiss cheese, so I've mixed things up a bit here, but it was called for in so many of the Breton pancake recipes I found. I did balance things out though by putting some totally french Comté on the top to gratin the pancake at the end. The Comte was a late addition to the larder. According to Comté used to be called Gruyère de Comté, so I think I have the right cheese family at least. 
This Dove's farm brand of buckwheat flour was the only one that I could find locally and although it is described as wholemeal it really is a very pale, light flour. It does not produce the dark brown nutty crepes I was looking for. I found some french branded flours for sale on the internet but they were too expensive to buy by post.
I noticed the producer's own recipe uses the buckwheat flour on its own, where most recipes I found called for a mix of buckwheat and white flour. If you buy this one I wouldn't mix it with any white flour, whatever your recipe says. Doves farm Galettes de Sarrasin recipe

I based my recipe around this one- Buckwheat Crepes with Asparagus, Ham and Gruyere by David Tanis but swapped some lightly cooked spinach for the asparagus. The pancakes can be made ahead and then quickly finished shortly before you want to eat. Just have all the fillings prepped, with plates warm and the grill hot and ready if you want to toasted cheese topping. I don't think that is traditional at all but I like toasted cheese. The basic pancakes make perfect desserts too and on a recent trip to Paris we enjoyed buckwheat crepes with roasted rhubarb and strawberry filling.
The Breton Cider was delicious - just be careful with the sediment in the bottom of the bottle!
Day 2 is going to feature the England vs Russia game so of course I have to feature Cheddar Cheese. Living in the South West of England it would be rude not to.

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