Stilton & Spiced Pear Frangipane

Stilton & Spiced Pear FrangipaneA super-successful off-the-cuff knock-up tart. I’d had in my mind for a few days the idea of combining strong blue cheese with my spiced pears in the form of a cake, tart, or pie. The concept being to effectively combine “dessert” and “cheese course” in one tasty dish. The end result went down very well with nearly everyone begging for a second helping.


  • Spiced Sweet-Vinegar Preserved Pears – in halves & de-cored
  • 227g (half a pound) of Stilton (or similar) – rind trimmed off and roughly crumbled
  • Base – a sweet shortcrust
    • 225g plain flour
    • 110g butter or lard
    • 110g caster sugar
    • 2 medium egg yolks
  • Frangipane
    • 125g caster sugar
    • 85g soft butter
    • 40g soft stilton (using some of the crumbled Stilton above)
    • 3 medium eggs
    • 125g ground almond
Ingredients... missing the flour!

Ingredients… missing the flour!


To cut a long story short, follow this recipe here: Pear and frangipane tart recipe – this is what I’ve based mine on. The differences are:

  • Some Stilton is used instead of butter in the frangipane, and this is creamed in with the butter & sugar.
  • Crumble about a third of the remaining Stilton in the base of the tart before spreading in the frangipane mix.
  • I simply popped my half pears in whole, cut-side-up.
  • Crumble the remaining Stilton around the pears on top of the frangipane and pop a little knob of it into the core of each pear.
Crumb Lard & Flour

lard & flour crumbed

eggyolks for pastry

eggyolks for pastry

creaming for frangipan


pastry rolled

pastry rolled

stilton sprinkled

stilton sprinkled

ready to bake

ready to bake

I found it only needed about 1 hour in a 190C conventional oven to be perfectly cooked.



To complement the tart I used about half a cup of the pear vinegar-syrup combined with half a cup of caster sugar, boiled to form a thick syrup and then flavoured with a small dash of smoky/peaty Caol Ila whisky. A slice of tart was served with a ball of good vanilla bean icecream, a crumble of Stilton, and a drizzle of syrup. I rarely make desserts… but after the response to this one I made it again using a lard pastry instead of butter – both work just fine, but I preferred the lard pastry. I’d suggest it is definitely best enjoyed warm and with a little cream or icecream to cut through the blue-cheesy richness.

Stilton & Preserved Pear Frangipan

Stilton & Preserved Pear Frangipan …

Beer Pairing

To bring this more on-topic! Quite simply: what would go with a stinky-cheese-course is what will work here. Keeping in mind the tart adds another layer of richness and sweetness that’ll pull the guts out of a lot of beers. So go BIG. I’m thinking Brewdog Paradox series beers, or Harvistoun Ola Dubh. In fact that’s what I tried this with myself, the Harvistoun Ola Dubh 16 and it was an excellent complement to the dessert. On a different tack big barleywines and so-called “scotch ales” would also work – perhaps Adnams Tally Ho, or BrewDog Dogma. I’m pondering Yeastie Boys xeRRex, and if it’s intense peat smoked insanity would be too much… only one way to find out. If only I could get me some xeRRex!

Served with Harvistoun Ola Dubh 16

… with Harvistoun Ola Dubh 16

Hardknott Rhetoric Crème Brûlée

Hardknott Rhetoric Ed.1 Crème BrûléeCrème brûlée really isn’t at all difficult to make and it an excellent dessert to produce in bulk to impress people on special occasions. It also gives a great excuse to have a blowtorch in the kitchen.

This particularly rich crème brûlée is inspired by a trip to Musa Aberdeen back around the first BrewDog AGM. Kat had a Paradox Smokehead crème brûlée and has been talking about it ever since… our supply of Smokehead ran out long ago, so I set about putting together a version using a complex & tasty beer from Hardknott instead. Hardknott Rhetoric Ed.1 is described as “Star Anise Infused Quasi-Bombastic Belgique Quad” which hit me as a pretty good flavour element to add to the custard — anise spice combined with boozy Belgian body.


  • 300ml double cream (1 typical supermarket pot)
  • 100ml Hardknott Rhetoric Ed.1 (leaving plenty to enjoy while cooking)
  • 40g golden caster (plus a little more for later)
  • 4 good free-range eggs – yolks only


The tricky part of producing a crème brûlée is cooking it right. I suggest pre-preparing for the baking first.  You need to pre-heat your oven to 160C (gas mark 3, 325F) and have ramekins, or similar, ready for filling.  This recipe makes about 450ml of liquid and you should fill your ramekins close to their tops.  They should be baked in a hot water bath coming up about 2 thirds of their height.  To this end choose an appropriately deep oven dish to bake them in, preferably such that the rim of the oven dish is higher than that of the ramekins.  This allows you to place a baking tray over the top to keep the tops of the custards moist so they don’t brown.  Have a kettle full of water boiled and waiting.

In a small saucepan mix together the double cream and beer and then heat until just barely simmering

While the cream and beer mixture is heating beat the yolks and caster sugar together until thick and creamy.  Easiest to use an electric mixer for this.

When the double cream and beer is heated carefully whisk into the egg mixture. Don’t whisk too vigorously as then you’ll end up with a lot of foam. Once done let sit for half a minute then, using a large metal spoon, carefully skim off any foam (chef’s perk!)

Place ramekins into their baking dish and fill with the custard mixture, preferably to quite close to their rims. Then fill the dish with freshly boiled water to about 2 thirds up the height of the ramekins.  Place them in the oven, covering the baking dish with a flat pan but leaving a crack open at one edge to let excess steam escape.

Freshly Baked CustardsThese should need about 30 minutes in the oven, perhaps a little more.  When they’re done they should still be quite wobbly in the middle but not runny.  They seemed to have “fizzed” a little during cooking as the top surface was bubbly, not surprising given the light carbonation in the beer.  This didn’t seem to do them any damage however, but I’d not want to try it with a particularly fizzy beer.

Cool for a minute on a wire rack then get them into the fridge.  They should be in the fridge for at least a couple of hours before serving and are fine prepared a day in advance.

Torch It!When the time to serve them comes sprinkle with golden caster sugar until well coated.  Tip off excess sugar then evenly sprinkle over a little more.  Wipe clean the rims of the ramekins and make use of a blowtorch to brown the sugar thoroughly, don’t be afraid of a little smoke — but don’t overdo it!  This can also be done under a hot overhead grill.

Serve with a glass of Rhetoric Ed.1!

Hardknott Rhetoric Ed.1 Crème Brûlée

I made just two crème brûlées with this recipe.  Thoroughly decadent!  Larger custards also increases the baking time, to about 40 minutes.  I recommend using four smaller ramekins, about 120ml in size.  If you make 4 then you’re looking at something approaching 500 Calories each.  This is a very rich dessert, you have been warned…

Cake: Honey, Spice & Hardknott Vitesse Noir

Honey, Spice, & Hardknott Vitesse Noir cakeTo celebrate the approval of our UK ILR (permanent residence) I decided to make a particularly rich “celebration cake”. I devised a recipe derived from one for Polish Piernik… it worked rather well I think.


  • 1 cup (250ml) chestnut honey (or other dark rich honey)
  • 225g unsalted butter (leaving some from a 250g block for tin–greasing)
  • 1 teaspoon (15ml) cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon (15ml) ginger powder
  • 1 teaspoon (15ml) allspice
  • 1 cup (250ml) Hardknott Vitesse Noir (or alternative super–rich ale)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 250ml packed dark muscovado sugar
  • 3 teaspoons (45ml) baking powder
  • 1 cup (1000ml) plain white flour

Hardknott Vitesse Noir, Butter, Honey, Eggs, Baking Powder, Ground Ginger, Ground Allspice, Ground Cinamon, Muscovado Sugar, Plain FlourMethod

Life, I find, is easier if you measure out all your ingredients in advance. This also means that you can pour 80ml of Vitesse Noir into a glass to enjoy while you prepare the cake!

Thoroughly beating the eggs, muscovado sugar, and baking powder.Put the chestnut honey, butter, and spices into a small (~1 litre) saucepan. Heat until all liquid and foaming — be careful, this will overboil and make a terrible mess if you’re not watchful.

Take the hot liquid off the stove and mix in the beer, then wait until the liquid is cool enough to dip your finger in (careful!)

Preheat oven to 180°C (gas mark 4, 350°F) and prepare a thoroughly greased large ring tin (or a couple of loaf tins). You may want to do this earlier if your oven is slow to heat.

In a large bowl use an electric mixer to thoroughly beat the eggs and muscovado sugar together util thick and creamy. Mix in the baking powder and then using a lower speed (or hand whisk) gradually work in the warm honey & butter mixture.

Sift the flour in in 4 or 5 batches, folding into the batter with a large spoon.

Carefully fill your cake tin with the batter and pop into the oven as soon as possible.

The cake should take about 45 minutes to bake — use the good old skewer test to check.

Present with a dusting of icing sugar and a glass of Vitesse Noir.

Rich, not overly moist, very tasty - luxurious aroma. Great with a cup of tea or coffee in the morning... or a glass of Hardknott Vitesse Noir later on.


I’ve used Vitesse Noir in celebration of our permanent residence as I wanted to use (and drink) a great beer from one of my favourite UK breweries. You could use any one of thousands of other great “imperial” (strong & rich) ales if you don’t have this one handy. I’d like to try the recipe again with a distinctively barrel aged beer, especially whisky or rum.

I can’t comment on how much of a contribution the beer makes to the flavour as I don’t have a “control” (version without the beer) — there is a chance given the richness of the honey and sugar that it could be minimal. Another experiment I want to try again is the same recipe but with light honey, light muscovado, and no spice.

But there is only so much cake I can bake! Would be great to hear of anyone else’s attempts at this.

Bambi, Thumper, & Moor “Old Freddy Walker” Mince Pies

From time to time I hear it said that Christmas mince pies used to include real mince, not purely a sickly-sweet mixture of dried fruit. Wikipedia documents the use of meat in the Christmas mince pie, so it must be true. There are a few “real mince mince pie” recipes floating around; one even makes an appearance in Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s “The River Cottage Year“. My recipe here is based on the one from Hugh’s book, the main difference being the use of game meats instead of beef. This is the second festive season that I’ve made these mince pies, they have gone down very well at home, in the local pub, and in the office (not poisoned anyone yet!)

First: get hold of some Bambi, this shouldn’t be difficult as many supermarkets in the UK sell venison. However It may be difficult to get minced venison; ideally try to buy venison from a good butcher and ask them to mince it. I have a mincer and minced some stewing venison that I picked up in the supermarket. If mincing at home I would recommend buying venison fillets or steaks, as trimming unwanted sinew from diced meat is a pain in the backside. As much sinew as possible should be trimmed off prior to mincing, otherwise there will be chewy gristly bits in the mince pies. A fine mince is desirable, to achieve this I pushed it through a coarse plate and then my finest plate (about 4mm). This recipe includes minced Thumper (rabbit) because I didn’t quite have enough Bambi to make up the weight I wanted. (If you’re dull you could just use minced lamb or beef instead of venison and bunny, I’m thinking of trying minced 50/50 pheasant and bunny next year.)

Another difference this year is that I’ve added Moor’s Old Freddy Walker old ale to the mix instead of brandy. This is part of a recent effort on my part to cook using beer more often. It has worked out fine in this case, though I’m not sure anyone could tell that there is beer in this. Next time I might try using something like BrewDog’s Paradox Smokehead – I think that would make a mince pie that’d go down very well with a wee dram of Islay whisky.

Ingredients, prepared

Ingredients, prepared

The ingredients I used are:

  • 300g minced venison (lamb or beef will do instead of venison and bunny)
  • 50g minced bunny
  • 150g grated beef suet (preferably home-processed, but “Atora” will do)
  • 150g currants
  • 150g raisins
  • 85g ground almond
  • 2 granny smith apples, peeled and fine-chopped
  • 8 dates, chopped to about currant-size pieces
  • 140g soft brown sugar
  • 40g stem ginger in syrup, fine-chopped
  • 25g …of the syrup from the above
  • 1 lemon – juice and zest
  • 3 lemons & granulated sugar – to make candied peel (or 75g of shop-bought candied peel)
  • ½tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • ½tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½tsp ground ginger
  • ½tsp ground allspice
  • 200ml strong ale (Moor’s Old Freddy Walker)

The candied peel is the most complicated of the ingredients to prepare. I made my own because a friend at work is allergic to oranges and I couldn’t find any candied peel that didn’t contain orange peel. While it would be easier to use peel from the shop, I do think that home-made candied lemon peel is more tasty and lemony than the anything shop-bought. Brief instructions for candying peel can be found at the end of this entry.[1].

The method for making the mince couldn’t be simpler: put the lot into a bowl and mix thoroughly. Hugh’s recipe suggests the mix can be kept in jars in the larder for some time, but I haven’t tried this. I put mine in a sealed container in the fridge and let it sit for at least a week to mature, and for up to 3 weeks (just because it has never lasted longer than 3 weeks!)

Puff parcels

Un-traditional puff parcels

Next thing to do is to bake some mince pies! The photo above is of mince-pie parcels simply packaged in a folded-over piece of shop-bought puff-pastry, washed with a bit of beaten egg, and baked in a 200°C oven for about 20 minutes. I prefer a sweet shortcrust pastry however, which can be simply folded over like the puff version, or formed into little pasties, or used to make little pies in tins just like the shops sell. The little mince pies are a bit of a bother to put together, but they do look good. For the pies in the photo below I used a shortcrust recipe from the Jamie Oliver website and baking was as for the puff version but with 5 minutes at 200°C then 15 at 180°C.

Traditional tarts

Traditional tarts

Have a very meaty &amp beery (not too beery) Christmas! (Well, Xmas has been and gone for 2010 now – so I hope you had one.)

[1] Candied peel, briefly:

  1. 8th the lemons and peel out the flesh
  2. With a small sharp knife slice off the inner fibrous pith (about 1mm)
  3. Blanch in simmering water for 5 minutes
  4. Drain peel and return to saucepan peel in enough fresh water to cover to double-depth
  5. Add sugar, about 1.75 times the volume of water added
  6. Bring to simmering point and simmer until liquid is thick and syrupy, but before it browns
  7. Turn out on some foil and let cool before dicing