Bleu Cheese and Walnut Tartlets...and the precious village of Dingle

I've been nominated for Babble's Top 50 Food Blogs. I've moved from 197 to spot 31, but I sure would love make it into the top 30!   Could you take a minute and add your vote?   Click here or on the side link to the right.

 Thank You!

There are a few villages  we have visited over the years that make me fervently desire to pack up and spend a year or two absorbing their charms.

Bonnieux, France; Yvoire, Switzerland; Cowbridge, Wales; and now to add to that list...

Dingle, Ireland. 

After tasting some incredibly soft and velvety bleu cheese in Ireland, I knew I was going to make these tartlets from my Irish cookbook.

Their bleu cheese is so different from ours.  It is creamier, milder, but with strong earthy undertones. 

The morning after we arrived at Pax House, after delighting in our morning breakfast and absorbing the enchanting views, it was time to toodle around the little port village of Dingle.

There is a tiny little cheese shop that introduced us to the delights of Ireland's variety of cheeses.

I can honestly say, the charming village of Dingle pops right out of the pages of any Ireland coffee table book.  

The shops lining the port and running up to the center of the village are all brightly painted and jostling each other, vying for who is most fetching in the charm department.

The fishermen were on some of the larger boats going about their daily tasks while the smaller boats bobbed up and down cheerily in the early morning hours.

This gentleman {above} looked quite content as he sat outside a sweet coffee shop across the harbor enjoying the morning sunlight.  I imagined it buzzes with activity during the summer months with boats coming and going and lots of gaiety as groups enjoy the beautiful harbor waters.

I enjoyed it most just like this, however.  The morning was quiet and the sound of the soft lapping of  water against the docks was more to my liking.

If anyone knows how to take ordinary scenes and splash them with charm and character, I think it is the Irish.  The colorful little boats nuzzled against each other are fully decked out in an array of juicy reds, jovial blues, and sunny yellows.

We ambled in an out of the tiny little shops in Dingle.  Long gone were the hoards of tourists so we were able to linger in some shops having a wonderful time chatting with the locals.

Here is the cheese shop mentioned earlier.  It was such a yummy find.  The kind woman there shared many Irish cheese samples for us to try.  

One in particular, the Irish blue cheese, was remarkable.  It was as soft as butter with a deeper taste than the bleu cheese we know in the U.S.  It was strong but not overly pungent.

I remembered a recipe for  little Irish Bleu Cheese Tartlets in my Irish cookbook.  I knew when we returned home I was going to make them.

School let out and these girls, in their matching uniforms, chatted happily as they passed by a beautiful church. 

We chatted at length with the owner {above} of an art gallery.  Her mother painted all of the watercolors and oils in the shop.  They were all scenes from her life on the Dingle Peninsula.

But I am happiest when we veer off the beaten path.  Patrick and the kids continued shopping but I took a different path and enjoyed seeing the quiet neighborhoods of Dingle.

That's when I stumbled across some of the beautiful people that live in this tiny town.  I ran into the elderly woman {above} in a small dimly lit artist's studio off the main road.  This is the only photo I took because the very essence of her was so profound.  I wanted to hear her story more than I wanted to fiddle with my camera.

She lived for years in Dublin but craved the quiet of a town like Dingle.  She told me, in her quiet voice filled with grace, that she was stitching her designs in silk fabric that would be sent to a shopkeeper on Madison Ave. in NYC.  The designs were extraordinarily beautiful and I felt privileged just to see her work.

I wanted to visit with her  longer but I knew it wouldn't be possible.  She was so lovely, graceful, kind and interesting.  To me, she embodied the beauty of the land of Ireland.

That night, we chose a seafood restaurant down by the harbor.  When in a port town right on the water - seafood is a must.

"Out of the Blue" is a tiny little spot but filled with a seafood menu that leaves your head whirling with possibilities to try.

Of course we had to sample the "Out of the Blue" seafood chowder - delicious.  I could easily live on this every day. And brown bread.  And that delicious bleu cheese.

I ordered the Plaice Cordon Bleu with Parmesan Shavings.  It was wonderfully crisp on the outside but soft and velvety on the inside.  For dessert, we can never turn down a delicious looking Tarte aux Pommes.  

That evening, the kids stayed in but Patrick and I headed out.  We heard about a pub that offered authentic Irish music nightly - O'Sullivan's.

Around 10pm the pub filled with people all ready to cozy in and hear the Irish tunes.  I tried an Irish whiskey for the first time.  While sipping on this powerful drink, we met other people from all over the world, swapped stories of our trip, and then quieted once the winsome  instruments  swept us into their haunting reverie.

What an evening to remember.  What a romantic way to spend time together.  I am not interested in raucous night clubs or loud sports venues but if this was an option for date-night, no problem.  

We planned to drive along the coastline all around the peninsula of Dingle.  I was so glad that we spent time first in Dingle getting to chat and meet some of the locals.  

The next day, driving into the remote and stunningly beautiful landscapes of Ireland we were able to put faces and personalities to the sights.

I'll be dreaming of Ireland for a long time.  In the meantime, I have my beautiful memories as well as my Irish cookbook to offer continued tastes of this scenic country.

Bleu Cheese & Walnut Tartlets
{adapted from the Irish Pub Cooking cookbook}
Makes 12
Pie Dough
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
pinch of celery salt
1/2 cup cold butter, cut into pieces, plus extra for greasing
1/4 cup walnut halves, finely chopped
2 Tbsp butter
2 celery stalks, trimmed and finely chopped
1 small leek, trimmed and finely chopped
1 cup cream (plus 2 Tbsp extra)
7 oz/200 g bleu cheese
3 egg yolks
salt and pepper

Lightly grease twelve 3 inch/7.5-cm holes in a muffin pan.  Sift the flour and celery salt into a food processor, add the butter, and process until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.  Transfer the mixture to a bowl and add the walnuts and a little cold water, just enough to bring the dough together.

Turn out onto a floured counter and cut the dough in half.  Roll out the first piece and cut out six 3 1/2-inch/9-cm circles. Take each circle and roll out to 4 1/2 inches/12 cm in diameter and fit into the muffin holes, pressing to fill the holes.  Do the same with the remaining dough.  Put a piece of parchment paper in each hole, fill with dried beans, and let chill in the refrgerator for 30 minutes.  Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400˚F/200˚C.

Remove the muffin pan from the refrigerator and bake the tartlets in the preheated oven for 10 minutes, then carefully remove the paper and beans.

Melt the butter in a skillet, add he celery and leek, and cook for 15 minutes until soft.  Add the 2 Tbsp of cream and crumble in the bleu cheese.  Mix well and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Bring the remaining cream to a simmer in a separate pan, then pour onto the egg yolks, stirring all the time. {Snippet's Notes:  be careful because you don't want to cook the eggs}  Mix in the bleu cheese mixture and spoon into the pastry shells.  Bake for 10 minutes, then turn the pan around in the oven and bake for an additional 5 minutes.  Let cool in the pan for 5 minutes before serving.

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,