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Seeing blue – Stilton all year round
With its origins dating as far back as the early 18th century, Stilton has long been popular on the cheeseboard at dinner parties.
But now experts are encouraging cooking with it too.
"Anything you can do with Cheddar, you can do with Stilton in terms of cooking," says Nigel White, secretary of the Stilton Cheese Makers’ Association.
"As it’s always open textured and slightly soft, it melts fabulously and crumbles very easily.
"When you mix it with other foods it gives them an oomph, a bit of extra flavour.
"Even people who don’t like Stilton on its own will often enjoy a Stilton and broccoli soup, for example, or a cream cheese and Stilton dip."
Like Champagne and Parma ham, Stilton is a protected name and can only be produced in the counties of Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire.
It is made with pasteurised milk, always produced in a cylindrical shape and never pressed, which gives it its open texture.
The cheese is allowed to form its own crust and, in the case of the blue variety, a safe mould is added, which causes striking blue veins to radiate from its centre.
Stilton freezes brilliantly and will relax back to its original shape when you defrost it so there’s no need to throw it away after a dinner party.
White adds: "Although we’d never recommend that you eat the crust, it will melt superbly and top chefs use it because it has more flavour than the cheese itself, so you never have to waste it."
Stilton, Red Pepper and Asparagus Flan with Poppy Seed Pastry
500g pack ready-made shortcrust pastry
1tbsp poppy seeds
200g (7oz) asparagus, trimmed and chopped into 5cm (2 inch) pieces
300g (10oz) roasted red peppers (from a jar, rinsed)
200g (7oz) Stilton cheese, crumbled into small pieces 3 medium eggs
300ml pot half fat creme fraiche
Freshly ground black pepper
Basil leaves, to garnish
1 Preheat the oven to 200°C/fan oven 180°C/Gas Mark 6.
Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface, sprinkle with the poppy seeds, then press them into the pastry with the rolling pin. Use to line a 20 x 30cm (8 x 12 inch) oblong tart tin. Line with foil or greaseproof paper and baking beans and bake “blind” (i.e. without a filling) for 15 minutes.
2 Take the flan from the oven and remove the foil or paper and baking beans. Reduce the oven temperature to 180°C/fan oven 160°C/Gas Mark 4.
3 Lightly cook the asparagus in boiling water for two to three minutes. Run cold water over it, then drain well.
4 Tear the peppers into strips and arrange them in the pastry case with the asparagus and Stilton. Beat together the eggs and creme fraiche. Season with black pepper. Pour into the flan case, then bake for 30-35 minutes, until set. Serve warm or cold, garnished with basil.
Cook’s tip: Try not to handle the pastry too much – it should be kept as cool as possible to give a light, crisp finish. Make mini versions in bun trays to serve as canapes or snacks.
Warm Stilton and Watercress Muffins
250g (9oz) plain flour
1tbsp baking powder
125g (5oz) Stilton cheese, finely crumbled
1 large egg
240ml (8fl oz) milk
90ml (3fl oz) sunflower oil
150g (6oz) carrots, finely grated
50g (2oz) watercress, roughly chopped
1 Preheat the oven to 190°C, fan oven 170°C, Gas Mark 5. Put eight paper muffin cases into a muffin pan, or line them with squares of greaseproof paper.
2 Sift the flour and baking powder into a large mixing bowl. Stir in the crumbled Stilton. In a jug, beat together the egg, milk and oil.
3 Pour the liquid mixture into the dry ingredients. Stir until just combined, adding the grated carrots and watercress at the last moment. You mustn’t beat the mixture or stir it too much. It should be quite lumpy, but there should be no traces of dry flour.
4 Spoon the mixture into the muffin cases. Bake for 20-25 minutes until risen and golden. Cool until the muffins are barely warm.
Cook’s tip: Why not make a batch of these yummy muffins for a relaxed breakfast or Sunday brunch? For mini versions, you’ll need to bake them in mini paper muffin cases in a mini muffin pan.
Stilton, Celery and Spring Onion Pate
(Serves 8) 200g (7oz) Stilton cheese 200g (7oz) pack low fat soft cheese 2tbsp 0% fat Greek-style yoghurt 1 celery stick, finely chopped 2 spring onions, finely chopped 2tsp fresh thyme leaves or chopped parsley Freshly ground black pepper
1 Crumble the Stilton into a mixing bowl, then mash with a fork. Add the low fat soft cheese and yoghurt, combining them together to make a semi-smooth pate.
2 Add the celery, spring onions and thyme or parsley. Season with a little black pepper, then serve with oatcakes, water biscuits or Melba toast.
Cook’s tip: This pate easily translates into a dip by thinning it down with a little milk, to serve with fresh vegetable crudites. Excellent for buffets and picnics!