Now that Easter is over and April is coming to a close, I figured it was time I turned my attention to this month’s Cheese, Please! Challenge.
Ordinarily the topic of this month’s challenge would cause me to disregard it immediately.
Because this month we were asked to do something with blue cheese.
Not my favourite.
However, following the epiphany I have had regarding avocados and the fact that my brain tried to trick me and get me to pick something off a menu with Stilton in it, I thought maybe it was time I faced my blue cheese fears.
Prior to this challenge I have only had two memorable encounters with blue cheese – one pleasant and one not so pleasant. The pleasant one was a broccoli and Stilton soup. It was nice. It was so nice that I wondered if I had blue cheese all wrong. Maybe I was being unnecessarily harsh on it. So, bolstered by a new found blue cheese confidence, I made potato skins stuffed with kale (before it was trendy) and Stilton. Damn that broccoli and Stilton soup. It had lulled me into a false sense of security. The potato skins were not pleasant. The Stilton was too strong.
I haven’t touched blue cheese since.
However, I figured it was time I was a grown up and tried it again. Because if you don’t try something, you don’t know if you like it. Right? Besides, I like avocados now and I used to detest them, so there was hope.
Having expressed my skepticism about the challenge, Alex at Baker’s Day Off recommended that I start my trip into blue cheese world with something mild, like Oxford Blue.
So I set about trying to find it. First I looked it up on my favourite supermarket’s website, to see if they sold it. They do, in some stores, on the cheese counter. I traveled 4 junctions up the motorway to a large branch of said supermarket, in the hopes that they would have it. They didn’t. I think I may live just too far away from Oxford / a large urban conurbation.
There was a farmer’s market on in the same town as the supermarket, so we had a little wander around it first. There was a cheese stall. And it had a blue cheese on it. Having tried just about every other cheese on the stall (including a red goat’s cheese) I declared to the world that I was going to be brave and try the blue one. I carefully speared a small piece with my cocktail stick and ate it.
I tried not to pull a face. I didn’t want to offend the woman whose stall it was. I tried not to instantly reach for a piece of another cheese in order to take the taste away. After commenting that it was quite salty and strong I eventually had to reach for that ‘take-the-taste-away’ cheese. Which we then bought a piece of because I felt guilty. My confidence wobbled slightly, but I told myself that there had been no indication on the stall of how strong the blue cheese was, and I was going to cook mine. It will all be fine once it is cooked.
Back in the supermarket. Whilst there was no Oxford Blue, there was Cornish Blue. That sounded pretty similar to me and my mum said she had eaten it in a dip whilst visiting Cornwall and it was fine (no-one in my family is a lover of the blue cheese). There was a small, 200g piece reduced (it was the Saturday before Easter Sunday, just about everything was reduced) to a bargain price of 49p. I snapped it up and put it in the trolley, along with my mushrooms. I was regaining my confidence.
The day of tart making arrived. I made my pastry. I cooked my mushrooms. I whisked my eggs and cut up the cheese into small pieces. I put it in the oven.
I sniffed the oven door whilst it was baking. It smelt okay. I was still quietly confident.
I let it cool for a bit. I took some photographs of it. I was still confident.
It was okay. Mushroom-y. Cheese-y.
I ate a bit more.
I made my sister try it. I didn’t tell her it was blue cheese. I just said it was mushroom and cheese tart. “Not bad,” she said. I told her it was blue cheese. “Huh, you wouldn’t know.”
“No, you wouldn’t,” I said, gleefully shoving another piece into my mouth.
That bit was all ‘blue’. Salty and strong.
Let’s cut to the chase. Do I like blue cheese?
Well . . .
As someone who does prefer their cheese on the mild, what some would call slightly soapy side, I am not sure blue cheese is for me. Even if I do try to mix it in with some mushrooms.
I feel as if I have failed slightly because I haven’t changed my mind. However, I guess I can say that I truly don’t like blue cheese. And I don’t think that will change any time soon.
However, if you do like blue cheese, here is the recipe.
I hope you enjoy it more than I did.
If you don’t like blue cheese, leave it out and you will have a perfectly acceptable mushroom tart.
Mushroom & Blue Cheese Tart
- 100g rice flour
- 50g gram (chickpea / garbanzo bean) flour, this can be replaced with rice flour if you wish
- 2 tbsp fine cornmeal
- 1/2 tsp xanthan gum
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 75g unsalted butter, chilled and cubed
- cold water, to bring the pastry together with
- 2 eggs
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp butter
- 1/2 onion, finely diced
- 150g mushrooms, sliced, I used a mix of shiitake and chestnut mushrooms
- 1 tsp dried tarragon
- freshly ground pepper
- 100ml milk
- 200g blue cheese, your choice, cut into small cubes
- Pre-heat the oven to 180 Celsius / 160 fan / 350 Fahrenheit. Grease an 8 inch flan / tart tin (preferably one with a loose bottom).
- Place the rice flour, gram flour, cornmeal, xanthan gum, salt and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the paddle attachment on a medium speed, mix the ingredients until it forms a breadcrumb texture.
- Separate one of the eggs and add the yolk to the flour/butter mixture. Keep the white for later. Add a couple of tablespoons of water and mix to combine.
- Remove the bowl from the mixer, and using your hands, bring the pastry together so that it forms a ball, adding more water a little at a time if necessary.
- Place the pastry between two pieces of cling-film and roll out until approximately 5mm thick and large enough to cover the tart tin. Remove the cling-film and carefully transfer to the tin, lifting and pressing it into place with your fingers.
- Place a piece of non-stick paper on top of the pastry, pour in some blind baking beans and bake for 20 minutes.
- While the pastry is baking, heat the olive oil and butter in a large frying pan over a medium heat until the butter is bubbling. Add the onion and cook for 5 minutes, until it is soft and translucent. Add the mushrooms and cook until they have reduced in volume and have browned (approx. 5 minutes).
- Add the dried tarragon, season with pepper, remove from the heat and set aside.
- Remove the tart shell from the oven and leave to cool for 5 minutes before removing the baking beans.
- While it is cooling, mix together the egg white, whole egg and milk in a small jug.
- Spread the mushrooms as evenly as possible on the bottom of the pastry shell. Scatter the cheese over the top and pour over the egg and milk mixture.
- Return the tart to the oven for another 20 minutes, or until the cheese has melted and the egg has set.
- Leave to cool before removing from the tin.
- Keep refrigerated once cooled.