She is responsible for my love of the food network UK. I first saw her when I was in Minnesota staying with friends, and when I discovered that they were showing her programme over here in the UK I was hooked.
Ina lives a simple lifestyle, writing foodie columns for a magazine, living in a enviably massive colonial house in a town that feels like a rural idyll. It is quite a quirky town, all of her neighbours seem to be interior designers or florists, they are all pretty much in civil partnerships and the fleeting nature of her own husband Jeffery means that Ina pretty much mother hens the whole community. She holds endless parties and serves up good wholesome food, even if it is a bit heavy on the butter and salt.
Anyway for my Christmas 2011 my good friend bought me one of her books, barefoot contessa how easy is that? Named after her famous catchphrase, it is a collection from one of her series. So It's ideal in that I can watch the recipe being prepared by Ina on the TV and then recreate it from the book. So far I have made her tabuleh salad and also her banana cake, which being cooked in a round tin, put a refreshing turn on a classic banana bread. I know she loves her salt but actually it does make things taste better... After years of not using it at all in my cooking I'm finding more and more that I'm adding a pinch here and there.
So this evening I'm heading to my book club, now it's been a long while since I last attended which is bad on my part. I set it up about 2 years ago now and because I moved away from the area, getting to meetings has proven tricky. To make up for my lapse in attendance I'm taking some shortbread but with a twist. One batch will be from Ina's book how easy is that? and will be her stilton and walnut crackers (I'm not sure why they call them crackers, I suppose they would serve them with cheese and therefore classify them as crackers, I'd call them savoury shortbread).
The second batch are cardamom and white chocolate shortbread, I love the taste of cardamom and it reminds me of wintery bowls of porridge, I would pound up cardamom with demarara sugar and then pour it all into the oats before making the porridge.
Ina's Stilton and Walnut Crackers (Cheesy Savoury Shortbread)
You will need:
- 4oz room temperature butter
- 12oz of stilton (8oz with rind cut off)
- 7oz plain flour
- 2 tsp salt
- 1tsp black pepper
- 1 egg for washing
- 1 hand of walnuts, chopped finely.
Chop up the walnuts until fine and set aside for later.
Chop off the rind from the stilton, I freeze it to add flavour to soups and things later on. Also if your butter and cheese are fridge cold, slice them into 1cm thick slices, smoosh them against the side of a bowl and pop in the microwave for 10 second bursts until they are soft.
Fit a paddle attachment to an electric mixer and cream together the butter and cheese until smooth, pale and fluffy.
Now with the mixer turned to a slow beat, add the flour a little at a time, along with the salt and pepper, until it's all mixed in and a dough has formed. You may need to add a splash of water to bring it all together. When the dough has formed, tip it on to a floured surface and chaff it into a smooth ball.
Roll it into a 12" long log and then brush with the beaten egg. Roll this log in the chopped walnuts, and then wrap in clingfilm.
Put this log into the fridge for at least half and hour, you could even freeze at this stage.
Warm up your oven to 180C and line two baking trays with greaseproof paper. Cut the log into 1cm thick slices (3/8"). Bake them until very lightly browned (about 20-22 minutes). Cool them on the baking tray and then store in a tin.
Check back very soon for part 2.