National Cheese Week kicked off on 5 June and runs to 9 June 2017. Not that we need a reason to celebrate Irish cheese in all its forms – oozing on a shepherd’s pie or simply paired with chutney on a quality cracker – but the National Dairy Council is taking it one step forward with their national Cheese Up Your Life recipe competition.

After receiving a huge volume of entries across two categories, Hanna Mathe, who is studying Culinary Arts at Waterford Institute of Technology, won first prize in the Culinary Student category for her delicious Blue Cheese, Kale and Pecan Tart.

While amateur chef Roisin Gallagher won first prize in the Passionate Cooks and Foodies category with her innovative take on a classic lasagne: the Cheesy Bean Lasagne.

Both cooks have shared their cheesy treats with Irish Country Living. Hanna’s is below and you’ll find Roisin’s recipe as well as videos at

Blue Cheese, Kale and Pecan Tart

Preparation: 45 minutes

Total time: 180 minutes

Servings: 8

This is a delightful dish with an explosion of flavours with every bite. Not only is it aesthetically pleasing, with vibrant colours, but has a perfect balance of sweet, bitter, sour and savoury. The cheese, pecans and pear create a wonderful combination of opposites in flavour, completed by the crunchy texture of the kale and creaminess of the custard.

For the shortcrust pastry:

200g plain flour

100g butter, chilled & cubed

35ml of cold water

pinch of sugar

For the custard:

1 whole egg

1 egg yolk

150ml cream

1 tbsp caster sugar

For the filling:

150g kale, roughly chopped and washed

75g pecans, roughly chopped

1 small pear, cubed

100g Cashel Blue cheese, cubed

1 tsp coconut oil

1 tsp butter

maple syrup to taste

1. Put flour, pinch of sugar and cubed butter into a food processor and process until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.

2. Gradually add the cold water until the dough just about comes together.

3. Remove from food processor, wrap dough in cling film and chill in fridge for 15 minutes.

4. Make a cartouche of greaseproof paper, roughly 8cm to 10 cm bigger than your tart tin.

5. Remove dough from fridge. On a floured surface, begin “ridging” the pastry disc. Holding the rolling pin in both hands, loosely tap over the entire surface of the pastry once or twice, turning it at a 90° angle and repeating the same process until it has at least doubled in size.

6. Once doubled in size, using short, sharp strokes of the rolling pin, roll the pastry out to a thickness of 3mm, turning it while rolling. (If pastry is cracking around the edges, stop rolling and seal the cracks with your fingertips). Ensure the pastry isn’t overworked.

7. Carefully wrap the pastry once or twice around the rolling pin and place it over the tart tin. Lift overhanging pastry up a little, encouraging the pastry inside to fit snugly.

8. Using a piece of overhanging pastry, push the pastry in the tin well into the corners. Using a rolling pin, cut through the pastry and remove overhanging bits from the tin.

9. Insert the cartouche and baking beans, then chill the pastry for at least 30 minutes in the refrigerator.

10. Preheat the oven to 200°C/gas mark 6 and blind bake pastry for 20 minutes.

11. Reduce the oven temperature to 180°C/gas mark 4. Remove the baking beans from the pastry and bake for a further 10 to 15 minutes (to create a protective layer between the pastry and wet filling, brush with lightly beaten egg white). Remove from the oven and cool.

12. Make the custard by whisking the egg, the yolk and 1 tbsp sugar together. Heat the cream by bringing to a simmer, remove from heat and, using an electric mixer, add to the egg mixture.

13. Return the custard to the stove and on low heat (75°C to 85°C), use a wooden spoon and stir continuously until it coats the back of the spoon. Ensure the heat is low, so the custard doesn’t curdle.

14. Sauté the kale in the teaspoon of butter and coconut oil and set aside to cool.

15. When all your ingredients have cooled, begin filling the tart case by starting with a layer of blue cheese on the bottom, followed by kale, pear and pecans and more cheese. Repeat the process until all fillings are used up.

16. Pour custard over the tart evenly and drizzle with maple syrup to taste.

17. Bake in a 180°C/gas mark 4 oven for 45 minutes to an hour, or until the custard has set and the pecans have toasted (Cover tart with tinfoil 20 to 25 minutes into baking and return to oven).

18. Remove from oven and cool before slicing. CL