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.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Cheese & Football Feast day 18: Belgium

Slow roast pork shoulder is one of my favourite roast dinners. The joint can be cooked at a low setting for the whole day so you can go out in the morning and come back to the delicious aroma of roast pork when you return. If I am cooking a small joint just for the two of us on a work day I set the oven to 80C in the morning, cover the joint with foil, and let it cook at that temperature until I return. The oven can then be turned up to 180 to finish the cooking. I prefer mashed potato to roast potato, which may be a strange choice, and is most likely because I am not so good at cooking roast potatoes, but if they are not really good, I don't think roast potatoes are worth the calories.
The gratineed onions idea comes from my Everybody Eats Well in Belgium Cookbook but whereas their recipe was in a cream sauce I chose to braise the onions in a beer sauce which went very well with the roast pork. I think this dish is best cooked with smaller sweeter onions like shallots or large spring onions. The peeled onions were placed in a single layer in a heavy based saucepan with a good pinch of salt and a knob of butter, and beer to a depth of about 2cm. I then cooked them gently, turning occasionally, until they could be easily pierced with a knife. The cooked onions were transferred to a gratin dish and the remaining cooking juice boiled down to a thick syrup. The syrup was drizzled over the onions and they in turn were covered with a good layer of a 50:50 mix of fresh breadcrumbs and grated mild cheddar like cheese. The dish was then put in a hot oven until heated through and golden brown on top.
For the third quarter final game of Germany vs Italy I am serving ricotta and spinach cannelloni.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Cheese & Football Feast day 17: Portugal

The first quarter-final game in the Euro2016 tournament was Portugal vs Poland and for the cheese feast I made my best attempt at a Portuguese Francesinha sandwich. This has a grilled cheese top and a cheese middle layer but also a huge number of other meat and egg fillings that made me think of the expression 'everything but the kitchen sink'. The dish is served with a beer and tomato sauce so that fitted my euro cheese and beer theme very well. Potato fries are the usual accompaniment but I just  served a few saute potatoes.
We drank a Polish beer from my local Polish deli which seemed to have been packaged just for the Euro tournament.
The recipe that I tried to follow came from blogger 'Tia Maria's' blog at I did not manage to include quite as many of the fillings as specified. The most notable omission was the fried egg which should have been added at the end. The sandwich was looking quite chunky enough by then, as it already had layers of cheese, ham, cured sausage, fresh ham and steak. I will try the egg addition when I have a bigger appetite.

The tomato sauce is really quite different to any I have tried before as it includes beer, whisky, milk and meat stock along with the tomato. I think the beer I used was a little too strong on hop flavour as the finished sauce had quite a bitter aftertaste to it. It was however quite a good accompaniment in smaller condiment size portions.
A lot of pictures I found on the web of this dish were much taller, and clearly packed with meat fillings. This one was still pretty filling though.
For the second quarter final I move to Belgium and will be serving Roast pork with gratineed beer braised onions and mashed potato.