Friday, 10 April 2015

Cashel Blue Cheese, Bacon & Onion Quiche

The one thing that no one could ever accuse me of is being a fussy eater. Ever since I was a young child, I have always been more than prepared and often very eager to try new foods and flavours. However, I will admit that for a long time I refused to try blue cheese, being slightly put off by its strong smell and unusual look.

My grandmother was always quite a fan of it and would buy it from time-to-time and eat it for lunch along with a slice of brown soda bread and an apple. Back in the 70s and early 80s there were far fewer varieties of cheese available to buy in the shops, and the only blue cheese that my grandmother bought with any regularity was processed Danish Blue, which packs quite a punch in flavour terms, but lacks the subtly and complexity of flavour that many artisan and farmhouse cheeses possess. This was the very first blue cheese that I ever ate and although I did like it, it wasn’t until I first tried the Roquefort that I truly fell totally in love with blue cheese and would actively hunt out different varieties to try. Gorgonzola and Stilton became firm favourites but it was my introduction to Cashel Blue made by the Grubb family in County Tipperary, here in Ireland, that made me realise that Irish cheeses could be just as good as the classic cheeses.
 
Whilst I often like to eat Cashel Blue as it is with a few oat biscuits, I also think that it is a great cheese to use in cooking and regularly employ it in a whole range of recipes. The weather has been beautiful for the past week, so I decided to use some in a simple quiche - a dish which I always associate with good weather!
 
I blind-baked some shortcrust pastry and sautéed off a finely chopped onion with some bacon lardons and scattered these into the pastry shell. I then made a luxurious custard enriched with ream and eggs and poured this on top of the bacon and onion before scattering over a generous amount of Cashel Blue.
 
The resulting quiche tasted absolutely heavenly. If you like Blue Cheese, you HAVE got to make this quiche! The sweetness of the gently sautéed onions and the slight saltiness of the bacon really accentuated the flavour of the cheese which had gently melted into the rich custard, but still retained its essential characteristics. Everything was just so well balanced, with each ingredient complementing the next so that all were shown at their very best. In this regard, I recommend being a little less generous when seasoning the custard with salt than you normally would be as you must remember that both the cheese and bacon have a certain inherent saltiness in them. Do, however, be generous with the freshly ground black pepper! 

Ingredients:

Pastry:
200g Plain flour
100g butter, cubed
1 egg yolk
1tblsp water:
Filling:
Large knob of butter
1 large onion, chopped
100g bacon lardons
1 sprig of thyme
150ml cream
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
100g-125g of Cashel Blue cheese, crumbled
 

Method:

Pastry:
1. Place the flour in a large mixing bowl and add the butter. Using your fingertips, rub the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Make a well in the centre and add the egg yolk and water. Use a fork to bring everything together into a dough. Tip out on to a lightly floured work surface and knead lightly and BRIEFLY until smooth. Cover with cling film and refrigerate for 30 minutes to give the pastry a chance to relax.
2. Preheat oven to 180C/Fan Oven 160C/Gas mark 4. Lightly sprinkle some flour on the base of a 23cm round and fluted, 4cm deep tart tin with a removable base to prevent the pastry sticking as it bakes. Place tart tin on a baking tray.
3. Roll the pastry out into a circle until it is about 3mm-4mm thick and large enough to line the tart tin. Lightly prick the pastry with a fork and line with a sheet of crumpled non-stick baking parchment. Fill this with dry beans and bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes, removing the baking parchment and baking beans for the final 5 minutes of baking. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool while you make the filling. Leave the oven on but reduce temperature to 160C/Fan Oven 140C/Gas Mark 2.
Filling:
4. Heat the butter in a medium sized frying pan. Add the bacon, chopped onion and sprig of thyme and cook gently over a moderate heat until the bacon is cooked and released some of its fat and the onion is a light golden colour, but not caramelised (about 10-12 minutes), stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and allow to cool a little. Remove the sprig of thyme and discard.
5. Meanwhile place the eggs and cream in a mixing jug/bowl and whisk together well using a balloon whisk. Season with a SMALL pinch of salt and a more generous amount of black pepper.
6. Scatter the sautéed bacon and onion over the pastry case and carefully pour in the custard (you can do this whilst the tart tin with baking tray is sitting on the oven shelf to minimise spillages). Sprinkle the Cashel Blue and bake in the preheated oven for approximately 30 minutes until golden brown and the custard is just set in the middle but still retains a slight wobble. Remove from the oven and allow to cool, before serving at room temperature.
 
Serves 6.