Le Serre Nuove – Thoughts from Glasshouses

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Hefeweizen and Goats Cheese Soup continued…

Following on from my previous post about the Beer and Cheese soup, here is a pictorial guide to my efforts this afternoon. I changed a couple of things compared to the original recipe, as this was proving to be very sweet, so I had to find ways to cut through it, and jingle with the ingredients.
First off… Goats Cheese:

Lots of Goats Cheese

I am quite lucky really to have a great Cheesemonger, Ian Mellis, at the end of my street. They have a wide variety of Cheeses to choose from, highlighting the best you can get in the UK, and I spent an age tasting them. I plumped for the Golden Cross in the end, as it has a good richness to it, but was not too sweet.

Beer and Cheese

As I have mentioned in the original post I was going to make it with Stewart Brewing’s new version of the Hefewiezen. First time I sampled it in bottle, and the carbonation really cuts down the banana flavour. It works a lot better in the bottle, and will be something that I have to search out a bit more.

I decided to cut down the amount of flour and milk in the recipe as well, as I did not want to use as much cheese as if it was a hard cheese. The soup would tend to be a bit floury otherwise. I also decided to add a bit more mustard too (a further half tbs), and to season it at the very end, which helped cut down the sweetness significantly, and balance it a lot more. The key was to cook the soup relatively slowly which prevented it from spoiling. I also added the ingredients gradually to ensure they did not overpower each other – this was particularly important when adding the goats cheese. In order for this to avoid lumps too from the Goats Cheese I removed the wax, and grated it, breaking down the texture.

So here are some snaps:

Melting the butter: the start of it all

Stock, veg, flour

Adding the Beer

Let it simmer


Adding the Cheese

This turned out to be a very warming soup, the flavours of the beer and cheese worked well together, without being too sweet. My wife had a number of reservations that this would not work – Thankfully I managed to proved her wrong!



Beer, Cheese, Hefeweizen. Soup?

Is there nothing more satisfying than a decent pint of beer? It has been remarked recently the beer renaissance the UK is going through, and living in Scotland there are whole host of fabulous Brewery’s making different and intriguing beers. Being Edinburgh based you cannot escape the fabulous local brews from Stewart Brewing – who have recently branched out into bottles and I went to their launch night of their first Wheat beer, Hefeweizen, this week.

Intense banana flavour, but with the soft clove and wheat notes you would expect from this type of beer, and clean on the palate, it was a very complex beer that did justice to its name. It is the first time I have ever had that style of beer uncarbonated, which gave way to the stronger fruit flavours, it is refreshingly different and goes to show the versatility and innovation of the UK beer scene, and the plethora of styles and beers that are starting to immerge. Great brewery’s to sample? Anything from Marble, Lovibonds, Kernel, Highland, Dark Star, Thornbridge to name a few, and let’s not forgot Brewdog – who for all their shouting do actually know how to make decent beer. The increase in the availability of US ‘craft’ brews has diversified the market and we are not short of great beer; long may it continue.

In honour of all these great beers, here is a traditional American recipe that I have never seen in the UK. There are great ways to play around with this, mixing the styles of beer and cheese, finding things to add it, and the qualities you use in the recipe for each. Beer is perhaps the perfect combination with cheese. The malt and hops bring out so many different flavours; it brings a completely different slant to the cheese. Perhaps this is why it is the perfect accompaniment to Pizza. This is traditional in the Mid – west where they make some of the best beers about.

Beer Cheese Soup

40 g butter
100g minced celery
100g minced carrots
100g minced onion
100g flour
1 tsp Dijon mustard
300 ml chicken broth
500 ml beer (or a pint)*
300 ml milk
400g cheese*
Popcorn to serve

In a soup pan, melt butter over medium heat. Add celery, carrots and onions, sauté until tender (about 6-8 minutes). Stir in flour and mustard and whisk constantly until smooth and bubbly. Add broth and beer. Cook until thickened. Put mixture into a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Return mixture to pot. Gradually stir in milk, stirring to avoid scorching. Simmer for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to low. Stir in cheese and continue to cook until cheese has melted, stirring frequently for about 15 minutes.

Ladle into soup bowls. Garnish with popcorn and serve hot.

* Different Beer styles suit different cheeses … Brooklyn Brewery from NYC recommends the following…

– Sharp Cheddar – Pale Ale
– Feta – Wheat Beer
– Mascarpone – Fruit Beer
– American Cheese – Pilsner
– Colby – Brown Ale
– Gorgonzola – Barleywine
– Gruyere – Bock Beer
– Swiss cheese – Octoberfest Beer
– Parmesan – Amber Lager

For me, there is nothing better than the first one, Cheddar and Pale Ale, or more specifically a really hoppy India Pale Ale. I would also add:

Stilton (or strong blue cheese) – Stout
Caerphilly (or mild nutty cheeses) – Milds (i.e. dark malty beers) or Red Ales
Goats Cheese – Hefeweizen

I am going to pick up some of the aforementioned Stewart Brewing Hefeweizen this weekend, some fabulous Goat’s Cheese from Ian Mellis and try this again over the weekend…

Something warm and refreshing whilst freezing at Murrayfield!

Look out on Twitter for the results…

Macaroni Cheese

Macaroni Cheese. Pasta in a cheese sauce. Grains with dairy. I think I was about Four. Maybe even Three. Sitting at the dining room table, possibly in a high chair, and I started to cry. I threw something; a spoon? That is not vivid enough in my mind but I certainly remember the crying. I was eating Macaroni Cheese, or Mac and Cheese as I have started to call it now, like my wife, who’s American and how it is always called nowadays. It is one of my earliest memories (I assume my mum made it from scratch but I think she probably used a sauce packet as I have seen her a couple of times), and I can’t quiet remember when it was but I definitely remember the Macaroni Cheese.

The velvety warmth of the sauce, the richness and flavour from the cheese, and the softness and chewiness of the pasta. It is a stable favourite, indeed it has been voted in the top five of comfort dishes in the UK, in most Anglophile countries but where did it come from?

Thomas Jefferson was the first person to serve it in the White House (some even claim he invented it, although I think that has just help popularize it), and one of the earliest recorded recipes stems from The Experienced English Housekeeper, by Elizabeth Raffald. There  is not much variation on the classic dish we now get, albeit without nutmeg. It is probably true that, as with all pasta dishes, there is some origin of it from Italy – but have you ever seen it on a menu there? I was laughed at by an Italian chef when I asked him about it once. I am saw he was thinking of the Kraft version and it being processed American junk.

If I make it nowadays I always keep it simple – macaroni, a bechamel sauce, nutmeg and cheddar. I went through a spell in my teens where I would eat Spaghetti with cheddar and Worcester sauce. It was kind of my de-facto version. It sounds horrible now, and I would have a tendency to use too much Worcester sauce so it swam in it, but it was quick and easy and I made it. Ironically there is a recipe out there that does something very similar, well it doesn’t cover it in worchester sauce and uses bay leaves, and four types of cheese, but it is not that far off. It took me a rather long time to perfect the bechamel sauce to ensure that the flour cooked out enough, the sauce / cheese ratio was correct, and you didn’t overkill it with nutmeg. I discovered very quickly that it is easy to make a bad mac and cheese.

In New York recently I stumbled across a takeaway that is exclusively mac and cheese – even to the extent that they sell it in plastic macaroni (which somehow made it back across the Atlantic). The most decadent version I have ever tasted is with Lobster – which honestly just was silky and succulent, creamy and rich. I am not a fan of it with ham / pancetta (or burgers) – but I really want to see what it would be like by adding some beer to it (a really hoppy one), and experimenting with the cheese – it has to be fairly oily, sharp and nutty. Manchego or Gruyere probably would be a good substitute.  Either way you have to keep it relatively simple or its just not mac and cheese.

But perhaps the best thing about it? A perfect hangover cure when you fry yesterday’s leftovers.

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