From the perfect pairing to a triumphant trio of flavours – steak, blue cheese and pickled walnuts.
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Opies Pickled Walnuts, synonymous with the Christmas cheeseboard in my house, are one of those store-cupboard staples I keep having to buy. For a start, they end up on every platter of cheese or charcuterie. But then, I also like using them in my cooking. They work particularly well in hearty beef stews. But, I’ve also used them to make a seasonal stuffed turkey breast dish that makes the perfect Christmas lunch for one or two – Turkey Breast Paupiettes.
My top five suggestions for how to use Opies Pickled Walnuts are a mix of old and new.
- Put them on your cheeseboard. They pair particularly well with blue cheese – Roquefort, Cashel blue and Stilton are my favourite cheeses to eat with Opies Pickled Walnuts.
- Pair them with a honey roast ham. They add a lovely sour contrast to the sticky honey glaze
- Slice them up and add them to a beef and stout casserole. My own spiced beef in Guinness is the perfect example of a casserole where you could add depth of flavour by slicing in a few pickled walnuts
- Add them to any charcuterie board – they help to offset fattier meats and have enough flavour to pair well with the stronger flavours of chorizo and salami for example
- Enjoy them in stuffing. The mixture I used for my Turkey Breast Paupiettes would also work well as a stuffing for pork tenderloin or even in the cavity of a game bird.
If you don’t cook your pickled walnuts you will find they have a unique and distinctive texture. Made from the whole fruit, not just the nut, when you cut into a pickled walnut you’ll be able to see the skin, the flesh of the fruit and then the pickled version of what we commonly eat as walnuts. For pickling, walnuts are harvested in June rather than in the autumn, when the shell of what will become the nut itself is still soft. Then they are pickled in a spiced malt vinegar to preserve the whole fruit. The end result is an almost black globe of deliciousness. Sliced, you can see the formation of the walnut. If you serve them to guests who haven’t tried them before they may not be able to work out what they are eating. But, once you know, there’s a definite ‘walnut’ taste which is very moreish.
I particularly like chicory with blue cheese and this dish of steak, blue cheese and pickled walnuts evolved from the realisation that blue cheese works well with steak, pickled walnuts work well with blue cheese and chicory works well with both of them. I wanted to make something that was cheffy enough for a dinner party without being overly complicated. Something where you could prepare most of the dish in advance. And something that would provide a delicious but unusual pairing of flavours and textures. And I wanted a dish where the pickled walnuts were not cooked and retained their unique texture and flavour. This particular dish of steak, blue cheese and pickled walnuts was inspired by some of the recipes on the Great British Chefs website where I found a rump steak in blue cheese and a rib-eye with pickled walnuts and chicory. The flavour combinations sounded like winners to me though I am not a great fan of rib-eye steak and the finishing of the rump steak with blue cheese recipe would have pushed me as a home cook!
Rump steak is a tasty and lean steak from the lower back area of the cow. It is tasty, lean and reasonably tender. My steaks, from Lake District Farmers came with fat on but as I was planning to sous-vide with cheese to help keep the meat moist, I removed that before cooking. In the notes about the original rump steak cooked in blue cheese, it says that ‘ The beef is cooked gently in a water bath with the blue cheese, which helps to ensure the meat stays perfectly moist and packed with flavour.’ If you don’t own a sous-vide then I’d suggest starting the recipe the night before and marinating the meat in blue cheese for a similar result.
You’ll need about a quarter of a jar of pickled walnuts per person. Try your best not to nibble on the remaining ones! If you are not cooking for four, you can put the rest of the pickled walnuts in the fridge and they will keep well for at least a few weeks. I tried the salad itself without steak for a light lunch – and it was delicious, so you might find that’s a good way to use up the remainder. Or you could just save them to use in one of my own favourite ways.
Here’s my recipe for rump steak with blue cheese and pickled walnuts. Do try for yourself.
Sous-Vide Rump Steak, blue cheese and Opies Pickled Walnuts combine to make a delicious meal
- 2 Rump Steaks Trimmed of Fat
- 1/4 jar Opies Pickled Walnut
- 50 g Crumbly Blue Cheese Cashel Blue or Roquefort are perfect
- Salt and Pepper
- 30 g Butter
- 1/4 Jar Pickled Walnuts Sliced and cut into small pieces
- 1 head Chicory
- 1 large handful Rocket
- 50 g Crumbly Blue Cheese
- 1 Banana Shallot Peeled and sliced finely
- 50 ml White Wine Vinegar
- 50 ml Water
- 50 g Sugar
- 1 tbsp Walnut Oil
Trim the steaks of any excess fat
Mash the blue cheese with a fork and add a little water till you have a paste
Season the steaks with pepper and then coat with the blue cheese
Put each steak into a vacuum bag and seal
Prepare a water bath to 49c (for rare meat) or 54c for medium-rare) and cook the steaks for between 45 minutes and 1hr 30
Heat a heavy-based frying pan with the butter
Take the steaks from the vacuum bags and sear on both sides for a minute
Remove from the pan and allow to rest while you prepare the walnuts
Reserve two of the walnuts
take the rest of the walnuts and a little of the pickling juice and blend with a fork or a wand blender till you have a smooth puree.
Slice each of the two walnuts into four rounds.
Put the steak on top of the salad and garnish with the walnuts and a few sprigs of chopped parsley
Start by dissolving the sugar in the water and vinegar.
Add the shallot slices and simmer gently for 10 minutes
Once the shallots are softened, remove from the heat and allow the mixture to cool
Trim the chicory and wash and dry the rocket as required
Crumble the cheese
Arrange the chicory around two dinner plates or shallow bowls
Add the rocket to fill in the gaps
Add a few of the pickled shallot bits and the blue cheese crumbles
Top with pickled walnut pieces and then drizzle with walnut oil
Once the steak has rested, put a dollop of the pickled walnut puree onto the salad
Put the steak on top
Garnish with the remaining slices of pickled walnuts and a little chopped parsley
If you are not using a sous-vide, make up the blue cheese paste the night before you want to cook and use it as a marinade.
When you are ready to cook, proceed as in the main recipe, but cook your steak for 3-4 minutes per side for medium-rare and 5-6 minutes per side for rare.
Although the recipe looks a little fiddly and the end result is stunning, this is a deceptively easy dish to make. You can prepare the salad in advance and, whether or not you sous-vide the steak, finishing the dish takes around 15 minutes from start to finish. Somehow the velvety, dark pickled walnuts add a luxurious touch to the plate – they contrast beautifully with the vivid green salad and add a great depth of flavour. And, of course, blue cheese and pickled walnuts are a classic pairing – one that everyone loves. So, adding the two ingredients to a steak dinner makes for a very special dish indeed.
What I love about Opies Pickled Walnuts is that they are a cost-effective store-cupboard staple that can really lift what would otherwise be an everyday dish. From popping them onto a cheese or charcuterie board to using them in rich wintery casseroles or adding them to a poshed up steak supper like this one, they can be used in so many ways. A jar of Opies Pickled Walnuts costs around £3 and you’ll find them in the pickles section of most major supermarkets.
For more information about Opies Pickles Walnuts and other products from Opies Foods, check their website –www.opiesfoods.com. You can also find them on social media with the handle @opiesfoods