Forty years ago, there were only a few people in Ireland making farmhouse cheeses and it’s only recently that microbreweries have arrived in the land of Guinness. Today, though, there are 17 craft brewers and around 50 farmhouse cheese makers on our small island. Like any artisan food, both crafts aren’t just about the flavour, but also the people, personalities, places and stories behind them. This weekend, people all over Ireland will be celebrating our farmhouse cheese and microbrews by enjoying them together during Ireland’s first Farmhouse Cheese and Craft Beer Weekend, with over 30 events taking place around the country.
One way of enjoying Irish farmhouse cheese and craft beer is to cook them together in these beef, beer and blue cheese pot pies. I used Howling Gale Ale from 8 Degrees Brewing Company for the beer and the award-winning Bellingham Blue cheese, but you can use whatever blue cheese and ale (or even stout) are available to you. Or you might like to try this recipe for Irish farmhouse mac and cheese, which goes all out and uses not one, not two, but three different artisan Irish cheeses.
For the best selection of Irish farmhouse cheeses, be sure to make a visit to Sheridans Cheesemongers. Drink Store, based in Stoneybatter in Dublin, carries a good range of Irish microbrew beers (as well as other craft beers from around the world) and they deliver throughout Ireland, so it’s a good excuse to stock up! A new book, Farmhouse Cheeses of Ireland: A Celebration, is a comprehensive guide to all our artisan cheeses and is a must for any food lover’s bookshelf, and with the free BeoirFinder app, you’ll be able to find a pub or restaurant around Ireland that serves craft beer. And if you’d like to learn more about pairing cheese and beer, click here to download Bord Bia’s suggestions (the second red bullet point) or click here to download the free Bord Bia Farmhouse Cheese Guide (the first red bullet point). Sláinte!
Beef, Beer and Blue Cheese Pot Pies
If you don’t have a Dutch oven or an ovenproof casserole with a lid, you can just simmer the beef on the stovetop instead over a low-medium heat. Instead of making pot pies, you could also serve this as a stew straight from the oven.
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 stalks of celery, chopped
1 large red onion, chopped
1 leek, white and light green part only, cut in half lengthwise and sliced
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 kg (2 lb) stewing beef, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 tablespoons flour
500 ml (2 cups) ale
150 g (1 cup) crumbled blue cheese
2 sheets ready-rolled puff pastry
1 large egg, beaten
Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F).
In a large Dutch oven or other ovenproof pot (or just a large pot if you’ll be cooking it on the stovetop; see note above), heat a good splash of olive oil on a medium heat. Add the carrots, celery, onion and leek along with a pinch of salt so the onions don’t brown. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are soft. Add the garlic, thyme and a generous seasoning of salt and pepper and cook for 1 or 2 minutes more. Stir in the beef, then add in the flour. Stir well to coat the beef and vegetables with the flour and cook for 2 or 3 minutes. Pour in the ale, give everything a stir and bring to a boil.
Cover the pot with a lid and place in the preheated oven for 2 1/2 hours, giving it a stir now and then, until the meat is tender. If the stew looks too liquid, put the pot on the stovetop, uncovered, and simmer it until it reduces to a consistency you like. Once it’s ready, either straight from the oven or after reducing, take it off the heat and stir in the cheese, then taste it and adjust the seasoning if necessary.
Place one large ovenproof pie dish or individual gratin dishes on a baking tray just in case any filling bubbles up and over the sides, then spoon the stew into the dish(es). Cut the ready-rolled sheet of pastry to fit the top of the pie dish (or individual dishes), rolling it out a little on a lightly floured countertop with a rolling pin if you need to in order for it to cover your dish. Brush the edges of the dish(es) with some of the beaten egg to help the pastry stick in place, then carefully place the pastry lid on top. Brush the pastry with the beaten egg, then bake in the oven for 30 minutes, or until the pastry has risen and is golden. Allow to stand for 10 minutes before serving.