Blue cheese and pumpkin pasties – #LoveCheeseChallenge

I love this time of year. Born in October, I’m a true autumn child. To this day I still collect conkers, marvelling at their shiny, marbled sheen that turns dull when you dry them out indoors. I love the smell of the musty piles of leaves in the park and smoke in the air around bonfire night. Dark nights, derided by many, are just an excuse to get out the blankets, knitting and slippers and hunker down for an evening.

When I was asked if I wanted to submit a recipe to Love Cheese’s inaugural Annual Food Bloggers Cheese challenge, there was no way I could create anything other than a warming recipe, redolent of all the best things about this time of year – the sweet scent of nutmeg that lifts spinach and pumpkin so beautifully, the musty/sharp crunch of walnuts and of course pumpkin, the fruit that adorns just about every window, package and surface at this time of year.

Good thing all these go well with cheese then…

Love Cheese sent me three British cheeses to taste and tinker with:

Summerfields Alpine – alpine inspired, very like a Comte (which I adore); nutty, creamy with a slightly tangy aftertaste, slightly farmyardy (but in a very good way – like the smell of a hay bale in the sun).

Hebridean Blue – crumbly, piquant and salty. At first this reminded me of a hard gorgonzola, but as I ate it (which I did a lot of) it became almost like a good quality crumbly Lancashire with a Stilton kick.

Godminster organic brie with black pepper crust – creamy, but with a little kick from the pepper. I’m not one for brie rind usually, but this makes the whole cheese a super delicious treat and cuts through some of the cloying creaminess that I find happens when you binge eat brie (because we all do that, right?).

The initial recipe I developed for this challenge focused on the alpine qualities of the Summerfield, pairing it with pancetta and sauerkraut in an omelette. A truly scrumptious recipe (don’t fret I shall post next week), but I wanted something a bit more substantial and showy.

The pasty recipe below went through a few iterations because I got it bang on autumnal – Summerfield and thyme (too bland), brie and pear (too mushy, but will make a great puff pastry tart… keep your eyes peeled!) and then this. The pasty is warming, satisfying and just piquant enough to make you think ‘oh, what is this?’. So please enjoy (and vote for me as the winner!).

If you like this recipe please vote for me here and get 10% off your cheese orders. Go VOTE (till Nov 30th).

Blue cheese and pumpkin pasties

Serves four – prep 30 mins – cooking 15 mins

Note: you can make small pasties using a smallish side bowl, or you can go big with a cereal bowl – it’s up to you. I quite like the smaller ones as they make good lunch sized nibbles; they’re also perfect for kids and any Halloween parties you may be having! You can make up to step six up to two days before you want to serve (keep in the fridge). You can make your pastry three months in advance and freeze. Defrost overnight in the fridge.

Ingredients

Pastry

I use this BBC Good Food shortcrust recipe – make double the amount

Or use two packs of ready rolled shortcrust pastry

Filling

450g peeled squash or pumpkin, cut into rough 1cm dice

4 small shallots or 1 banana shallot, cut into rough 1cm dice

2 tbsp light olive oil

50g walnuts, roughly chopped

250g spinach

1 tbsp butter

A few gratings of nutmeg (optional)

100g Hebridean Blue cheese (can substitute with Stilton or order from Love Cheese)

Half a pack of sage, chopped fine-ish

1 egg, beaten

Salt and pepper to taste

Flour to dust

Method

  1. Set the oven to 180c (fan) to pre-heat.
  2. Make your pastry as per the recipe linked above and pop in the fridge to chill or follow the instructions on your shop bought.
  3. Pop the squash and onion on a baking tray, so it’s all in one layer, and toss in the oil. Season with salt andpepper. Pop into the oven on the middle shelf and roast for 20 mins, or until the squash is softened.
  4. Whilst the squash is cooking pop a large frying pan on a medium-high heat and tip in the walnuts. Keep them moving and when they start to roast take them off the heat and place in a large mixing bowl.
  5. In the same frying pan, add the butter and let it melt, then add your spinach and cook until it is wilted. I find this works better when the spinach has just been washed and there is still a little water adhering to the leaves. Once the spinach has wilted transfer to a sieve and (when it has cooled!) squeeze out all the water. Chop roughly and add to the bowl with the nuts.
  6. Take your squash/onions out of the oven and pop into the bowl. Set aside and cool until it is room temperature (you can hasten in the fridge if you like). Turn off the oven.
  7. Once the filing is cool, grate over the nutmeg (optional) and crumble the cheese into the bowl. Taste and season as to your taste – the cheese is quite salty, so don’t overdo the salt!
  8. Once you’re happy with the filling, flour a board and role your pastry out to 0.5cm thick. Use bowls (as described above) to cut pastry circles to the size desired.
  9. To fill the pastry – pop the filling on one half of the pastry circle, leave a 0.5cm (small pasty) or 1cm (large pasty) margin along the outer edge. Don’t over fill the pasty! For the small one, I would suggest 2tbsp of filling and for the large a small (woman’s) handful – but it depends on the size of the bowl you used to cut out your circles. I squash the filling together a little as it’s quite loose in the bowl and would make for a bit of a miserly pasty if left loose.
  10. To seal the pasties (I do one test one first, to see if you have the right amount of filling), run beaten egg along the edge of the circle, all the way round, then fold the pasty in half so you have a half moon. Press down slightly to bring the filling together again – do this gently. You can crimp the pastry edge with your fingers if you like, but I prefer the security of using a fork!
  11. Pop two small slits in the top of your pasty to let the steam out, place on a floured baking try and egg wash the top. Repeat until all pastry/filling is gone. You may have a little filling left over – its brilliant over a jacket potato (warm for a few mins in the microwave to melt the cheese).
  12. Bake for 20 mins (small) and 25 mins (large) or until the pastry is golden brown and crisp – you may want to check a few minutes before they are ready to make sure they’re not going over. Serve straight from the oven with some peppery green leaves like watercress or rocket, simply dressed with a grassy olive oil, lemon juice and salt and pepper.

NB these pasties keep for up to three days in an airtight container in the fridge. If you eat them from cold they will retain their crispness, or you can microwave them for a minute and a half (small) or two to three minutes (large) – they’ll go soft, but they’ll still be delicious.

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