I have just arrived home from a holiday in the Picardy region of Northern France. I have to confess I have lost my enthusiasm for blogging recently due to my poor student bank account taking a battering and my house-”mates” whose kitchen cleanliness leaves little to be desired. After a trip to this beautiful part of France however, I have returned with a new passion for cooking and all things cheese!
In case you’re not familiar with Maroilles, it’s a soft cow’s milk cheese with an orange rind that’s made in Northern France. Those simple facts sound harmless enough but there’s a little more to it than that. The aroma of Maroilles can be scary. If you don’t eat it quickly, it could start to set off fire alarms and endanger low-flying aircraft. On the other hand, it tastes great.
One of the most common dishes using Mariolles is the Tarte au Maroilles. You can find different versions of this tarte around Nord-Pas-de-Calais and Picardy but the most traditional form has a yeasted dough base rather than a layer of pastry. You can of course use a shortcrust or even puff pastry if you want a result similar to a quiche. Indeed, I personally prefer a crisper base that puff pastry achieves but I have provided the recipe for the authentic yeasted base here.
If you can’t get hold of any Maroilles, then you could substitute another cheese that isn’t too soft and ripe but does have a powerful flavour: Chaumes, Reblochon or Pont-l’Évêque come to mind.
For the base:
½ tsp easy bake fast action dried yeast
300 g strong white flour
½ tsp salt
2 tsp caster sugar
15 g softened butter
1 egg, beaten
100 ml milk
20 ml water
For the topping:
300 g Maroilles
200 ml crème fraîche
Plenty of pepper and a little salt
Freshly grated nutmeg to taste, optional
Add all of the base ingredients to the large mixing bowl and combine then on a lightly floured work surface, knead the mix for 10-15 minutes. You should have a light, slightly sticky dough. Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover and leave to prove in a warm place for 1 hour.
Butter a 25 cm or 26 cm diameter pie dish. (The tarte topping tends to bubble up more than you might expect and so a deeper dish is useful.) Knock the dough back and roll it out until it covers the base of the pie dish. Some recipes suggest that you should fully line the dish by spreading the dough up the sides, but I was told in Picardy that it should remain flat.
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Slice the Maroilles quite thinly and cover the dough base with the cheese. You don’t have to remove the rind of the cheese, but unless the cheese is very fresh then it can be quite strong. I personally love the flavour and leave it on. Beat the egg and stir it into the crème fraîche. Season this mixture with the pepper and salt. Pour the mixture onto the tarte and spread it out to cover the whole of the surface (you don’t need to be too fussy or precise about this). Grate nutmeg over if using. Bake in the oven for 30 – 35 minutes or until the top is golden and puffed up.
Serve warm with a fresh green salad and a cold beer.
These ham hock and pea croquettes are made from a stiff béchamel, rather than mashed potato that so many versions of croquettes seem to be bulked out with. They need to be eaten hot – so hot you burn your fingers on the crisp breadcrumb exterior as you rush to bite into the oozing, cheesy, molten centre. The smoky ham and tangy mustard make the perfect accompaniment to a cold beer or cider.
Makes about 40
75g plain flour
500ml whole milk
100g mature cheddar, grated
1 tbsp mustard
Salt and white pepper
200g cooked smoked ham hock, shredded into chunks
100g frozen peas, defrosted
flat-leaf parsley a handful, finely chopped
3 eggs, beaten
150g panko breadcrumbs
groundnut oil for deep frying
Melt the butter in a pan and then stir in the flour to make a thick paste. Gradually stir in the milk until you have a smooth sauce. Simmer over a low heat for 10-15 minutes. Add the cheese and mustard and stir until melted, then add the ham, peas and parsley and season. The mixture should be quite thick and paste-like. It will thicken a little more once chilled too.
Scoop into a tray or dish, cool, then chill completely in the fridge. (This can take 2-3 hours, or you could make it the day before.) Scoop out large tablespoons of the mix and roll each into small logs, around 5cm long and 2cm thick. Flouring your hands slightly will help prevent the mix from sticking to everything.
Put the beaten egg on one plate and breadcrumbs on another. Roll the croquettes in the egg then the crumbs. Repeat so you have two layers of egg and breadcrumbs.
Fill a pan no more than 1/3 full with oil and heat to 180C (or until a cube of bread browns in around 30 seconds), then deep fry the croquettes in batches for 3-4 minutes until crisp and golden. Scoop out and drain on kitchen paper (you can keep the cooked croquettes warm in a very low oven). Serve with English mustard and cold beer.
If your will power lasts more than 10 minutes then these tasty morsels will keep for a week in the fridge. As with most of my posts, you can adapt this to include other fillings and textures but I think this combination showcases the biscuit spread flavour.
Very easy to put together, you don’t even need to turn the oven on for this one.
This recipe makes 16 pieces of Biscoff Rocky Road!
400g White Chocolate, chopped
125g Biscoff Spread
50g Unsalted Butter
150g Mini Marshmallows
250g Lotus Biscuits, chopped
Spare Biscoff Spread for Drizzle
Line a 8/9″ square tin with greaseproof paper and leave to the side.
In a large bowl, add in the chocolate and butter – melt on a low heat in a large glass bowl, over a pan of simmering water (making sure the water doesn’t touch the bowl) until fully melted – stir until smooth!
In a separate bowl, melt the biscoff spread in the microwave for 30 seconds or so or until runny, beat into the melted white chocolate mix.
Once it has melted and combined, add in the marshmallows and chopped biscuits and fold together – pour into the tin and spread until it is even. Refrigerate until set!
If you want the extra biscoff kick, melt some extra biscoff spread and drizzle over the top of the Rocky Road, again, refrigerate until set!
I would love to provide a picture of the cake as a whole with its silky, chocolate custard covering but once I removed it from the fridge to serve, it didn’t last two seconds before everyone crowded round for a slice! I made this for my little brother’s birthday. He is a massive chocolate fan and this cake certainly delivers in that respect.
For the chocolate sponges:
150ml vegetable oil, plus extra for greasing
200g plain flour
70g cocoa powder
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
200g light brown soft sugar
100ml strong coffee
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
For the chocolate custard:
250g golden caster sugar
500ml full-fat milk
140g chocolate, 85% cocoa solids, broken into cubes
2 tsp espresso powder
2 tsp vanilla extract
Make the custard first as it needs to chill. Put all the ingredients, except the vanilla, in a large pan and bring gently to the boil, whisking all the time, until the chocolate has melted and you have a silky, thick custard. It will take 5-7 minutes from cold. Stir in the vanilla and a generous pinch of salt then scrape the custard into a wide, shallow bowl. Cover the surface with cling film, cool then chill for at least 3 hrs or until cold and set.
Heat oven to 180C/160C fan. Grease and line two 20cm cake tins with baking parchment – if your cake tins are quite shallow, line the sides to a depth of at least 5cm. Put flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, light brown soft sugar and 1 tsp salt in a bowl and mix well. If there are any lumps in the sugar, squeeze these through your fingers to break them up.
Measure the buttermilk, coffee, oil and vanilla in a jug. Add the eggs and whisk until smooth. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and whisk until well combined. Pour the cake mixture evenly into the two tins, and bake for 25-30 mins until risen and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Cool in the tins for 10 mins, then turn out onto a wire rack, peel off the baking parchment and leave to cool.
To assemble, cover one of the cake layers with a generous helping of the custard. Add the second layer to the top of this and spoon the remaining custard on top of the cake then spread it around the top and down the sides until smooth. Chill for 15 minutes to firm up the custard again.
Chill for 2 hours, or longer if possible, before serving, and eat it cold. This cake can be made up to 2 days ahead. The cake gets fudgier and more enticing the longer you leave it. The coffee in the recipe cannot be tasted but really brings out the intense cocoa flavours in the custard and the sponge and the addition of a small pinch of salt in the custard really intensifies the chocolate even further.
Bierocks are made with a yeasted dough to form a pastry casing for a savoury filling of meat and cabbage and originating from Eastern Europe.
Ever in search of new ways with mince, this recipe also provides an interesting, tasty and cheap combination of ingredients that also provide a hand held snack that pairs perfectly with a cold beer. Winner!
500g strong white flour
1 7g sachet fast action yeast
1 large egg
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
100ml whole milk
100ml hot water
500g lean beef mince
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 small Savoy cabbage, finely shredded
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
Make the bread dough:
Put the flour, yeast, egg, salt and sugar into a bowl.
Add the hot water to the milk and add gradually to the mixture until it comes together into a soft dough. You may need more liquid, depending on the moisture in the flour and egg.
Knead the mixture for ten minutes, cover and set aside to rise for an hour.
Make the filling:
Heat a non-stick saucepan over a medium high heat and crumble in the meat. No need to have any oil, even lean mince has a certain amount of fat in it which will come out as the meat cooks.
Stir the meat around until it is browned and shiny.
Add the onion and continue stirring while the onion softens.
Finally add in the cabbage and cook until the cabbage has softened – probably no more than 2-3 minutes.
Stir in the salt and pepper, remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
When the dough has risen, tip out and pat down.
Divide dough into pieces weighing 75-80g.
Roll dough out into a 15cm square.
Put a large tablespoon of the cooled filling into the middle of the dough.
Add 1 teaspoon of the grated cheese, if using.
Bring the corners of the dough together and pinch along the edges to seal in the filling. What you will end up with looks like the back of an envelope.
Turn the buns over and place onto a parchment-lined baking sheet.
Dust the buns with flour and set aside to rise for 15-20 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C Fan.
Bake the buns for 15-20 minutes until lightly browned.
Remove the buns from the oven and immediately cover the baking sheet with some tea-towels. This will trap the heat and create steam, which will soften the crust of the buns.
150g/5oz Caerphilly cheese or Welsh Cheddar, finely grated
2 eggs, separated
1 tsp English mustard
½ tsp flaked sea salt
5 tbsp sunflower oil
freshly ground black pepper
For the sausages, melt the butter in a large non-stick frying pan and fry the leek gently for 8-10 minutes, or until very soft but not coloured.
Put 100g/3½oz of the breadcrumbs, the parsley, thyme and cheese in a large mixing bowl and mix until well combined. Beat the egg yolks with the mustard, salt and plenty of freshly ground black pepper in a separate bowl.
Remove the frying pan from the heat and tip the leeks into the bowl with the breadcrumbs. Add the egg yolks and mix together well with a large wooden spoon until well combined. Divide the leek mixture into eight portions and roll into sausage shapes. Place the sausages onto a tray lined with cling film.
Whisk the egg whites lightly in a bowl with a large metal whisk until just frothy. Sprinkle 40g/1½oz breadcrumbs over a large plate. Dip the sausages one at a time into the beaten egg and roll in the breadcrumbs until evenly coated, then place on the baking tray. Chill the sausages in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Heat the oil into a large non-stick frying pan and fry the sausages over a medium heat for 10-12 minutes, turning regularly until golden-brown and crisp. Serve the sausages with what you fancy. I chose baked beans!
8 Spring onions – white and green part, thinly sliced, plus more for garnish
1 TBSP Fish Sauce , divided
1 TBSP Lemongrass , white part only – minced
1 TBSP Fresh Coriander – roughly chopped
5 Cups Chicken Broth , divided
1 Cups Water
1 Thai Chili – sliced (optional)
2 TBSP Miso (I used white)
2 TBSP Vegetable Oil
2 heads Baby Pak Choy , quartered into wedges (can substitute 1 regular head)
¼ tsp Crushed Red Pepper Flakes , plus more for garnish
Salt and Pepper , to taste
Make the Meatballs: In a large bowl combine the chicken/turkey, panko, minced garlic, soy sauce, grated ginger, half the spring onions, 1 tablespoon fish sauce, lemon grass, coriander and 2 tablespoons of broth. Gently mix, just until combined. Use your hands to scoop out about a tablespoon and form mixture into (1’’-diameter) meatballs. Transfer to a plate or clean work surface lined with parchment paper. Repeat until all meatballs are formed. I had 22.
In a medium pot over medium heat, combine remaining broth, water, Thai chili, smashed garlic, onion, sliced ginger, 1 tablespoon fish sauce and remaining scallions. Bring to a gentle simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to maintain a simmer and cook for 15 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to remove solids and discard. In a small bowl combine miso with 2 tablespoons of the broth and whisk to combine. Add the miso mixture to the pot of broth. Stir to combine.
Meanwhile, heat oil in a large frying pan over medium heat until shimmering. Add meatballs to the pan (in batches if necessary to not overcrowd the pan) and cook, turning occasionally, until golden brown on all sides, about 6-8 minutes. Remove and transfer to a clean plate.
Add the pak choy and crushed red pepper flakes to the broth. Simmer until pak choy is almost tender, about 3 minutes.
Add in the meatballs and bring broth back to a simmer. Simmer until meatballs are cooked through, about 5-8 minutes. Taste broth and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper.
Serve garnished with spring onions and crushed red pepper flakes.