At this time of year, cheese and cream are often used in indulgent dishes, for times when we want to treat ourselves to something rich and satisfying.
Vanessa Greenwood, Irish Times baking columnist and Cooks Academy tutor, has created a series of recipes for the National Dairy Council, making the most of Ireland's superlative cheese, butter and cream.
Her caramelised shallot tart tatin has blue cheese and black pudding added, to make it extra special. Cheddar cheese and courgette souffles have been designed to be suitable for preparing a few hours in advance of cooking and serving (immediately!).
For festive gatherings, there’s a seafood lasagne that could become a family favourite. Hake, smoked haddock and prawns are enrobed in a savoury cream sauce and layered between fresh pasta sheets.
“Source really good quality ingredients”, is Greenwood’s top tip for recipe satisfaction, and to ensure you get the best available, place your order for anything that might be in short supply, well in advance.
CARAMELISED SHALLOT TATIN WITH BLUE CHEESE
Serves 4 as a starter
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
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
1. In a medium ovenproof frying pan, fry the black pudding in oil for 5 minutes to crisp up, 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 mins to reduce the liquid and slightly caramelize (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 mins 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).
CHEDDAR CHEESE AND COURGETTE SOUFFLÉS
1 large courgette
50g butter (divided into 25g and 25g)
25g plain flour
100g mature cheddar Cheese, grated
pinch cayenne pepper
4 medium eggs, separated into yolks and whites
salt and white pepper
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
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 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 par-cook 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.