Stand Up for Stilton

I seem to have made a multitude of sweet things recently and I definitely need some more savoury foodstuffs in my life. Not only am I exceptionally bored of puddings and Quality Street but I have just inhaled a bag of Maltesers and I don’t think this has helped.

In the ongoing theme of clearing out the fridge, I’m spending a lot of time focussing on Stilton at the moment. I adore Stilton. As does my housemate. I believe it to be the King of cheeses and at this time of year, I don’t think you can get any better.

As English as Noel Edmond’s House Party, Stilton has its own Certification Trade Mark and is an EU Protected Food Name.

This means that:
– it can only be produced in the three Counties of Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire
– it must be made from locally produced milk that has been pasteurised before use
– it can only be made in a cylindrical shape
– it must be allowed to form its own coat or crust
– it must never be pressed and
– it must have the magical blue veins radiating from the centre of the cheese

Stilton’s distinctive blue veins are created by piercing the crust of the cheese with stainless steel needles, allowing air into the core. The manufacturing and ripening process takes approximately nine weeks. A 2005 survey carried out by the British Cheese Board reported that Stilton cheese seemed to cause unusual dreams when eaten before sleep, with 75% of men and 85% of women experiencing “odd and vivid” dreams after eating a 20-gram serving of the cheese half an hour prior to sleeping

You can keep your Vacherin Mont D’Or (although it is still delicious) and I’d much rather have a wedge of Stilton and a lump of walnut bread and a sliver of pear.

However, this being our fridge and me having a similar attitude to those stockpiling for nuclear war, we must have at least 5kg of Stilton and it is becoming a case of Olympic eating! With this in mind, I have compiled some of my favourite recipes for using up Stilton or any other crumbly blue…

Stilton and Walnut Scones

I discovered these this winter and I am quite in love. I like these with nothing more complex than a knob of salty butter but you could have them with soup or I quite fancy with some hot carved ham and cumberland sauce..

  • 250g self-raising flour, plus extra to dust
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 50g cold butter, diced
  • 175ml buttermilk
  • 125g Stilton, cut into 1cm cubes
  • 100g walnuts, roughly chopped
  1. Preheat the oven to 220°C/fan 200°C/gas 7. Place the flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt in a large bowl. Add the butter, then using your fingertips, rub into the flour. Stir in the buttermilk, cheese and walnuts and very lightly knead to make a soft dough.
  2. Roll out into a large sausage, then cut into 8 rough rounds. Transfer to a non-stick baking sheet, dust with flour and bake for 15–20 minutes, until risen and golden brown. Serve warm.

 

Stilton, Leek and Celery Tart

This is a lovely little vegetarian quiche/tart. I think this time of year, we are more inclined to have things like leeks and celery and butter lying about but none of these things are terribly expensive if you want to buy them especially. You could pair this with leftover chutneys or even leftover cranberry sauce, pickled onions or if feeling really wild and carnivorous some sausages!

  • 35g butter
  • 2 leeks, trimmed, washed and finely sliced
  • 2 celery sticks, very finely chopped
  • 200g Stilton, crumbled (vegetarian if cooking for Vs)
  • 4 large eggs, plus 1 large egg yolk, beaten
  • 400ml double cream
  • Freshly grated nutmeg, to taste

and for the pastry:

  • 350g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 250g cold butter, cubed
  • 1 large egg yolk
  1. Make the pastry. Put the flour, butter and a pinch of salt into a food processor and briefly whizz until it resembles breadcrumbs. Add the egg yolk and whizz again until it comes together in a ball. Wrap in cling film and chill for 30 minutes.
  2. Let the pastry come up to room temperature. Roll out on a lightly floured surface and use to line a 28cm round x 4cm deep loose-bottomed fluted tart tin. Freeze for 20 minutes.
  3.  Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 180°C/fan160°C/gas 4. Prick the pastry base with a fork, fill with baking paper and beans and place on a baking sheet. Blind bake for 10 minutes, then remove the paper and beans and bake for a further 10 minutes. Set aside to cool slightly.
  4. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a wide, heavy-based frying pan over a low heat. Add the leeks and celery, stir, then add a splash of water and cover. Sweat for about 15 minutes, stirring, until softened. Add another splash of water if drying out. Season.
  5. Spread the vegetables over the bottom of the tart case, then sprinkle over the Stilton. Mix the eggs, cream and nutmeg together, season and pour into the pastry case. Bake for 35 minutes or until the filling is just set and the top is golden. Cool slightly, then remove from the tin. Slice and serve.

And I leave you with this poem about Stilton:

Sonnet to a Stilton Cheese – G. K. Chesterton

Stilton, thou shouldst be living at this hour
And so thou art. Nor losest grace thereby;
England has need of thee, and so have I–
She is a Fen. Far as the eye can scour,
League after grassy league from Lincoln tower
To Stilton in the fields, she is a Fen.
Yet this high cheese, by choice of fenland men,
Like a tall green volcano rose in power.
Plain living and long drinking are no more,
And pure religion reading “Household Words”,
And sturdy manhood sitting still all day
Shrink, like this cheese that crumbles to its core;
While my digestion, like the House of Lords,
The heaviest burdens on herself doth lay.

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