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Georgina Campbell's Cookery Feature - Starring Role for Cheese

These tasty recipes were created for the National Dairy Council by Vanessa Greenwood of Cooks Academy Cookery School, Dublin, with the aim of celebrating the best of Irish and European cheese at Christmas.

But cheese is a brilliant (and convenient) ingredient at any time and what makes these recipes especially appealing is that they are such a refreshing contrast to the traditional Christmas fare - and they’re just great versatile dishes for any time, perhaps especially in winter.

 

Cheddar Cheese and Courgette Soufflés

Cheddar Cheese and Courgette Soufflés

Soufflés are much easier to make than their reputation suggests - but you do need to have your diners in situ when they’re ready, as they will sink if kept hanging around. This makes a tasty hot starter for six or a light lunch or supper dish for four - and, as courgettes are out of season, squash might be a better alternative in winter.

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

1 large courgette (or equivalent squash flesh)
50g butter (divided into 25g and 25g)
25g plain flour
250ml milk
100g mature cheddar Cheese, grated
pinch cayenne pepper
4 medium eggs, separated into yolks and whites
salt and white pepper

Method

1. Preheat oven to 200°C fan oven. Grease 4 large ramekins (or 6 medium size ones) with melted butter and lightly dust insides with a little flour.

2. In a medium heavy based saucepan, melt 25g butter (add a dash of oil if necessary) and sauté the grated courgettes, season and when nicely coloured, remove from the pan. Set aside and wipe out the pan.

3. Melt the remaining 25g butter in a saucepan and stir in the flour to make a roux, cook for 1 minute. Slowly add the milk, continually stirring to avoid any lumps forming and once all the milk has been added, allow the sauce to come to a simmer (stir vigorously so it doesn't catch on the bottom of the saucepan) until it coats the back of a spoon. Mix in the grated cheddar and cayenne. Taste and season, then slowly stir in the egg yolks and courgettes.

4. Lastly, in a spotlessly clean bowl, whisk the egg whites with a pinch of salt to stiff peaks. First stir a large spoonful of egg white into the sauce mixture to loosen it, before gently folding in the rest of the egg white mixture (without knocking out too much air).

5. Fill the ramekins to just below the rim (note: once the soufflés are in the ramekins, they can be made a few hours in advance and chilled until ready to bake).

6. Bake in the centre of the preheated oven at 200°C for 15 minutes. Serve immediately.

 

Luxury Seafood Lasagne

Luxury Seafood Lasagne

A good homely seafood dish, such as a fish pie or seafood lasagne, is always a great standby - a good call for a crowd at any time of year, it’s especially welcome in winter as an antidote to the amount of meat and poultry that the festive season usually entails. Don’t be put off by the long ingredients list as the cooking and assembly is quite straightforward - but it is worth making a decent quantity while you’re at it. Fresh Irish prawns could be used to replace the imported prawns, or you could make up the weight using other fresh local fish.

Serves 6

Ingredients

1 tbsp olive oil
2 banana shallots, peeled and diced small
1 stick celery, diced
1 garlic, crushed
1 bay leaf
4 large mushrooms, peeled, sliced
100ml white wine
50g butter
50g plain flour
500ml fish stock
½ tsp paprika
1 tsp worcestershire sauce
5 drops tabasco sauce
½ lemon zest and juice
200ml cream (divided into 100ml + 100ml)
1 roasted red pepper (from a jar, drained, sliced)
15g fresh dill, leaves
2 tbsp capers
250g mixed fish (hake, smoked haddock), skinned and cut into chunks
300g raw, peeled and deveined tiger prawns
8-9 sheets fresh lasagne (alternatively, use par-cooked dried lasagne sheets)
100g grated mozzarella
30g parmesan cheese, grated
salt and white pepper, to season

1. Heat olive oil in a wide heavy based pan and sweat the shallots, celery, garlic, bay leaf and mushrooms. Add wine, simmer to reduce by half. Add 50g butter, then stir in the flour for 1 min.

2. Gradually stir in the fish stock to make a smooth thickened sauce, then pour in the cream. Season with salt, pepper, lemon juice and zest to your taste. Discard the bay leaf.

3. Just before cooking, bring the sauce to a simmer and add the fish for 2 minutes to par cook.

4. Grease a lasagne dish with butter, then place a layer of fresh lasagne sheets on the base. Spoon half of the fish mixture on top, then scatter over grated mozzarella. Cover with a sheet of lasagne, then repeat with a second layer of fish mixture and mozzarella cheese.

5. Cover with the final layer of lasagne and top with the remaining cream and parmesan cheese.

6. Transfer the lasagne to an oven preheated to 190°C fan and cook for 30 minutes until bubbling and the top is crisp and golden.

 

Caramelised Shallot Tatin with Blue Cheese

Caramelised Shallot Tatin with Blue Cheese

This savoury take on the famous dessert is fun as a starter or light meal, and it’s easy enough to make if you’re using frozen puff pastry - look out for an ‘all-butter’ product.

Serves 4 as a starter

Ingredients

1 tbsp olive oil
100g black pudding, cubed
50g butter (and extra olive oil if needed)
150g banana shallots
2 sprig thyme
30ml sherry vinegar
30ml port (or red wine)
1 tbsp demerara brown sugar
1 apple
25cm circular sheet puff pastry
1 egg, beaten, to glaze
75g fresh rocket leaves drizzled with olive oil
120g blue cheese, cubed
3-4 semi sundried tomatoes (optional garnish)
salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Method:

1. In a medium ovenproof frying pan, fry the black pudding in oil for 5 minutes to crisp it, then remove from the pan and set aside.

2. Peel and halve the shallots lengthways (reserve 1 shallot for garnishing). Wipe out the pan, heat the butter (and a little extra oil if necessary) and without stirring brown the shallots for 5 min on both sides, season. Add thyme, port, vinegar and sugar and boil for approx 3-5 minutes to reduce the liquid and slightly caramelise (without burning), then remove the pan from the heat, allow the pan to cool before adding the pastry.

3. To assemble for baking: Preheat oven to 220°C. Peel, core and cube the apple and scatter it and the black pudding over the onion base, remove the thyme stalks. Cover with the puff pastry lid and tuck it down into the sides. Brush with beaten egg.

4. Transfer the pan to the oven and bake at 220°C for 25-30 minutes or until the pastry is risen and golden in colour.

5. To avoid a burn from any pan juices, use caution when you upturn the tatin. Hold a plate upside down over the frying pan and in one swift motion, upturn the tart onto the plate. Serve warm with lightly dressed rocket leaves, sliced shallot, blue cheese (and semi sundried tomato if using).

 

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