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March 1st is St. David’s Day, a day of continuous celebrations in Wales to honor their patron saint. Since his biography wasn’t documented until the late 11th century, few certain details of St. David’s (or Dewi Sant as he is known in the Welsh language) life are known. But his 6th century religious stewardship in Wales, as a Celtic monk, abbot, bishop and the archbishop of Wales– with many miracles attributed to him– transcends time and continues to be an inspiration for so many.
However great St. David’s achievements were, his message to “Do the little things.” (Gwnewch y pethau bychain, in Welsh), from his last sermon, just prior to his death in 589, are actually St. David’s most famous words. This phrase still carries such strength and perspective, that it is very well-known throughout Wales even today.
St. David’s Day is recognized outside of Wales as well. In America over 1.75 million people claim Welsh ancestry and at least eight US presidents have Welsh roots, including Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln. Welsh migrants traveled mainly to Pennsylvania in the nineteenth century to dig coal in the anthracite mines, attributing to largest Welsh population having settled in that area.
Historically debated are the reasons why the leek became one of the two national symbols of Wales (the other is the daffodil) but both are proudly worn each St. David’s Day. The leek also features strongly in the day’s cuisine along with cheese, a staple ingredient in many of the most traditional Welsh dishes.
Collier’s Powerful Welsh Cheddar is the best selling and top award winning cheese in Wales. The Welsh term “Collier” refers to coal miners and Collier’s Cheddar was created from a closely guarded, traditional recipe that was favored by the Welsh colliers for its rich, delicious flavor that was powerful enough to cut through taste-bud destroying coal dust. Wales’ historic mining tradition and their noble contribution to the world’s mining industry is reflected in every aspect of Collier’s unique qualities.
With a long, deep character, a distinctive crunch derived from the calcium deposits clearly seen on the surface of the cheese, and a savory yet slightly sweet taste, this exceptional cheese is carefully matured up to 20 months to create an incredible taste sensation.
Enjoying Collier’s Powerful Welsh Cheddar in celebration of St. David’s Day or any time a powerful cheddar taste is needed or preferred is definitely the sort of little thing for which St. David would give approval, since each bite of Collier’s cheese carries with it so much history and significance.
Searching for the perfect St. David’s Day recipe that would incorporate leeks & Collier’s led to adapting a traditional Welsh potato, leek, cheddar soup, below. (Thanks, Kim, for all your help!)
2 large russet potatoes (total weight approx 1lb
2 medium/large leeks
1/4 cup unsalted butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups low-salt chicken broth
2 cups water (from boiling potatoes)
1 cup Collier’s Cheddar, shredded (½ for soup, ½ for garnish)
1/2 cup milk
1 6oz jar Devon Crème Fraiche (sour cream can be substituted)
bacon (to garnish)
scallions or chives (to garnish)
Salt & fresh ground black pepper (to taste)
Clean potatoes with scrub brush and water. Cut potatoes into big chunks, then boil for approximately 20 minutes until soft. **If you don’t like potato peel in your soup, then peel potatoes first – but I like the more rustic approach and included the peel.
Melt butter in a large soup pot over low heat. Chop leeks, mince garlic and add them to the butter, increasing the heat to medium-low until they start to soften (about 10 minutes). Add chicken broth and 2 cups of the water you boiled the potatoes in. Simmer over medium heat until leeks are very tender (approx. 20 minutes).
Fry bacon in a skillet until crispy. Then drain on paper-towel lined plate and put to the side.
- My 6 year old sous chef preparing the bacon.
Drain potatoes and transfer ½ of them into your food processor with ½ of the broth/leek mixture to be pureed (unless you have a giant food processor that can handle the whole batch at one time).
Puree until very smooth. Transfer the blended mixture to a large soup pot and do the same with the other ½ of the mixture/potatoes. Heat the entire batch in the soup pot over medium-low heat.
- Sous Chef adding the cheese.
Whisk the milk and Devon Crème Fraiche in a bowl until smooth, then whisk it into the soup. Add 1/2 cup of the shredded Collier’s Cheddar.
Season to taste with salt and pepper. Garnish with bacon bits, and the scallions or chives and the remaining Collier’s Cheddar.
My 2 sous chefs adding seasoning.
But who could do without one of the most well-known traditions in Welsh cuisine, rarebit. Matt Tebbutt, TV Celebrity Chef (BBC Saturday Kitchen & UKTV Food Market Kitchen) and owner of The Foxhunter restaurant, near Abergavenny in South Wales has developed a range of recipes that show just how much, Collier’s can enhance a recipe – including this delicious Welsh Rarebit seen here:
And here are a few other delicious ideas from our home gourmands:
Elizabeth’s Collier’s Cheddar and Chive Scones
1 ½ cups self-rising flour
1 teaspoon backing powder
¼ teaspoon mustard
3 tablespoon cubed chilled butter
1/3 cup whole milk
¼ cup fresh minced chives
3 oz fine grated Collier’s Cheddar cheese
A cookie cutter, 2 inches in diameter
Preheat oven to 425°F. Put the flour, backing soda and mustard in the food processor and pulse to combine. Add butter and process for about 20 seconds until the mixture resembles sand. Tip in to a large bowl and make a well in the center.
Beat together the egg and milk then reserve 1 tablespoon of the mixture. Pour the remaining mixture into the flour and work it in using a fork. When the dough is starting to take shape add the chives and cheese and mix only until blended throughout. Turn out on to a floured surface and kneed briefly to make a soft, smooth dough. (work in more flour if the mixture is sticky.)
Roll or pat out the dough to a thickness of about 1 inch and stamp out rounds with cookie cutter. Arrange them on a greased baking sheet, spaced slightly apart and brush them with the reserved egg and milk mixture. Bake in preheated oven for about 15 minutes until risen and golden. Serve warm with butter and marmalade.
*sometimes I like to add a ½ teaspoon of cayenne pepper to the dry ingredients.
Samantha found Collier’s very addictive, writing, “First I sprinkled the cheese on my tomato based vegetable barley soup….then sprinkled some more. After that, for dessert, I paired the crisp juiciness of a Honey Crisp apple with the cheddar, for a simple delicious treat. I couldn’t stop eating it and also made these BBQ Chicken, Tomato & Collier’s Quesadillas – and this Tex Mex salad too! It’s a wonderful cheese. Absolutely delicious!”
And finally, if you are lucky enough to be in the Pittsburgh, PA area on March, 2nd, Chris Swire, Welshman and founder of Collier’s Powerful Welsh Cheddar, our own Adrian Hurrell, and other special guests, will be conducting a Welsh Cheese Tasting in honor of St. David’s Day at the McGinnis Sister’s location in North-Adams Township. Follow this link for more information: http://www.mcginnis-sisters.com/events.aspx
And look out for Chris Swire who will be dressed for the occasion.
- Chris Swire in traditional Welsh dress
The last day of the 2011 British Cheese Week celebration and the 2nd day of National Cranberry Month in America brings a few more recipes for the cheese that straddles both perfectly: pure Yorkshire Wensleydale with Cranberries.
Vicki sends a delicious Gluten Free Apple & Wensleydale with Cranberry Cheese Pie
Writing, “Here is a picture of my not so pretty, but oh so yummy gluten free Apple and Wensleydale Cheese Pie. (I forgot to take a pic before my mom and I dug in).
I use the pre-made gluten free pie crust from Whole Foods (their “gluten free Bakehouse” brand). This is the closest pie crust I’ve found to tasting like a regular pie crust, even when I’ve made my own. My mom and I decided this would be a great fall treat for the holidays!!!!”
For the filling:
6 cups thinly sliced granny smith apples
3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons all purpose gluten free flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
dash of ground nutmeg
1/4-1/2 inch thick slices of Wensleydale and Cranberry cheese
Thaw 2 pie crusts. In a large bowl mix together apples, sugar, flour, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Put half the apple mixture in one of the pie crusts. make a single layer of cheese, then add the remaining apple mixture. Put a couple pats of butter on top of the apples, then carefully flip the second pie crust over the top of the pie (as you can see by the picture, this is not a perfect science). Cover the edge of the pie with foil or a pie ring and bake at 375 for 50 minutes or until top starts to “golden”. Cool on a wire rack.
(This recipe can also be made with a regular double crust pie recipe for a non-gluten free option)
Hope you enjoy!!
Sela writes, “I crumbled up cheese w/ sliced green and red apples, pears and peaches. YUMM!!!”
And Samantha created Cinnamon Apple and Wensleydale with Cranberries Cheese Crepes
She noted, “Sauteed apples with brown sugar and cinnamon were the perfect accompaniment to the Wensleydale with Cranberries. My grandma absolutely thought the cheese “Made” the dessert. Making the crepes with whole wheat pastry flour made the dessert not only delicious, but healthy too.”
3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
2 tablespoons of sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup of milk
Mix eggs, flour, sugar, and salt. Gradually add the milk until you get a smooth batter (consistency of light cream) . Refrigerate 30 minutes.
Heat crepe pan over high heat and brush with melted butter, unless non-stick pan. Ladle 1 to 2 tablespoons batter onto the pan (crepe should be paper thin). When edges are brown flip and finish other side.
Filling and topping ingredients:
Wensleydale with Cranberries (at least 2oz to fill and top – to taste)
1/4 cup of butter
2/3 cup of brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
4 golden delicious apples, peeled cored and sliced
Heat the butter. Add the sugar and once it caramelizes add the apples. Cook apples until they are soft.
Take a crepe and fill it with some apples and Wensleydale and cranberries, either fold in half or roll it closed. Top with more apples and cheese.
Or fill with vanilla or cinnamon ice cream and top with apples and cheese.