cheese

Toasty Brew

When my friend and cuppycake collaborator Anne Belov recommended To Brew or Not to Brew, I couldn’t wait to read it. I’ve always enjoyed a good mystery, and one set in a craft brewpub seemed just my cup of tea – or really my cup of beer 🙂 Throw in a stray cat called Hops and I’m hooked. It was a great read. When the murderer was revealed I was surprised, as although they were on my list, so was most of the town! This is the first book in the Brewing Trouble Mystery series and I can’t wait for the next instalment.

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To Brew or Not to Brew is part of the Cozy Mystery genre. Cozy mysteries usually feature amateur detectives and are often set in small towns or villages. Think of the TV series Murder She Wrote and you’ll get the general idea. While I’ve always loved reading and watching mysteries, there is a particular sub genre of cozy mysteries that has really got me interested – Culinary Cozy Mysteries!

Culinary cozy mysteries often feature amateur detectives who work in or run cafes, bars, food stores or restaurants. The TV show Pie in the Sky is a great example. The titles are often witty puns such as The Long Quiche Goodbye from the Cheese Shop Mysteries or Caught Bread Handed from the Bakeshop Mysteries. This is a very popular and prolific genre but I have found a way of narrowing down the field – pick the ones that include recipes! That’s right, some of these series include recipes that you can use at home. Thankfully To Brew or Not to Brew is one of these 🙂

I’ve just started my Culinary Cozy Mystery journey and already there are a couple of more series that are on my list. I don’t know if I’m more excited about the mysteries or the recipes! Inspired by To Brew or Not to Brew, I had to make my own “brewed” recipe. I have already made Beer and Bacon Cuppycakes so I thought I would make a tried and true classic – Welsh Rabbit. Traditionally beer is used in this recipe but I wanted to try something a bit different, so I used stout.

Stout Welsh Rabbit

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Ingredients
250g strong cheddar cheese, grated
2 teaspoons flour
15g butter
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 egg yolks, beaten
50ml stout
4 thick slices of bread

Method
In a small saucepan add the cheese, flour, butter, Worcestershire sauce and mustard. Mix well then add the egg yolks and stout. Stir slowly until smooth. Do not allow to boil. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly.
Toast the bread on one side and lightly brown the other side.
Place toast on baking tray with lightly browned side facing up. Pour cheese mixture over toast.
Grill until brown and bubbling.

For another interesting variation substitute apple cider for stout.

A Very Magical Weekend

I knew it was Imbolc weekend but I forgot it was also a Blue Moon.
To find out more about Imbolc and see my recipe for Grenadine Mulled Wine click here. To find out more about Blue Moons, read on 🙂

There are actually three different types of Blue Moons which I call Calendar Blue Moons,
Astrological Blue Moons and Seasonal Blue Moons.

A Calendar Blue Moon is when a second Full Moon occurs in the same calendar month. While this is now the commonly accepted interpretation, it is actually the newest way to calculate a Blue Moon and is the least celebrated in the esoteric realms.

An Astrological Blue Moon is when a second Full Moon happens in the same Astrological Sign. Much like a calendar month, Astrological months are approximately four weeks in length. Astrological months begin and end around the 20th of each month. If an Astrological sign begins and ends with a Full Moon, the second Full Moon is a Blue Moon. This was the type of Blue Moon I was taught about in both my vampiric and witchy education and is the one I celebrate.

A Seasonal Blue Moon is when there is a fourth Full Moon in a seasonal cycle. I had never heard of this interpretation before and only discovered it whilst doing research for this blog. It is a bit more complex to work out. Basically there are four seasonal cycles in a year measured from Solstice to Equinox. Each cycle lasts three months and has three Full Moons. Occasionally there is a fourth Full Moon, but, surprisingly, it is the third Full Moon and not the fourth that is a Blue Moon!

The reason for this appears to be that the twelve Full Moons of the seasonal cycles have names and seasonal attributes such as the first Full Moon after the Solstice, the first Full Moon of the season and the first Full Moon before the Equinox. When a fourth Full Moon occurs in this cycle it throws off the order. I’m still not sure why it is the third and not the fourth Full Moon that is Blue. I’ll have to research that further.

To celebrate the Blue Moon I thought I would create a fun version of the retro cheese ball –
after all, isn’t the Moon made of cheese 🙂 There are no quantities, only ratios, so feel free to change it up how you like. Just make sure you use blue cheese and blue corn chips!

Blue Moon Cheese Ball

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Ingredients
2 parts cream cheese
1 part blue cheese
crushed blue maize corn chips

Instructions
Bring the cheeses to room temperature.
Mash together then form into balls. You can do one big ball or multiple bite sized balls. There are no set rules.
Roll in crushed corn chips.
Cover and refrigerate until set.
Serve with shots of blue agave Tequila.

Old World Libum

It’s the longest night of the year in the Southern Hemisphere.
What better way to celebrate than with this ancient Roman cheese bread, baked on bay leaves and drizzled with warm honey.

Click here for my previous article on the Winter Solstice.

Keep reading for my Old World Libum recipe.

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Ingredients
16 fresh bay leaves
225g ricotta cheese
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup plain flour
extra flour for dusting
1/4 cup honey
extra fresh bay leaves for serving (optional)

Method
Preheat oven to 220C / 430F.
Line two baking trays with baking paper.
Arrange the bay leaves into four wreaths on the baking paper.
Place the cheese into a bowl and beat until soft.
Add the egg and mix until combined.
Add the sifted flour a tablespoon at a time until a soft but sticky dough is formed.
With well floured hands, gently shape the dough into four rounds.
Place a round on each wreath.
Bake for 20-30 minutes or until firm and golden brown.
Score a cross shape into the cakes but do not cut all the way through.
Warm the honey and pour evenly over the cakes.
Arrange extra bay leaves into a wreath shape around the cakes before serving if desired.
Best eaten straight away although you can let the cakes soak in the honey for 30 minutes.

Traditionally these cakes would be baked in a covered testo. You can cover each round with an ovenproof dish. They will be more steamed rather than baked and less browned. They are still delicious baked this way.

If you cannot find fresh bay leaves you can use dried ones.