Best of British Dorset – Dorset Red and Fursty Ferret Tart

The Best of British Dorset  (hosted by Lavender and Lovage was very thought provoking for me.   I live in North Dorset and am surrounded by the traditional food of Dorset – Dorset Apple Cake, Blue Vinny cheese, Dorset Jugged Steak dishes and Dorset Knob biscuits to name a mere few.  I am glad that I feel surrounded by these foods as it means that local people are keeping their regional foods going. And that is what is so interesting about foods of different countries, that they all have their regional specialities, no matter where you go.  However, if you were to go into Tesco or Morrisons in Blandford, you will be very lucky if you come across more than five products that are produced locally and are regional foods.  You will get plenty of Scottish Oatcakes, Cornish Yarg cheese, etc, but look for something from Dorset, a traditional food, then you will be very stuck.  If you want Dorset Blue Vinny or Dorset Knobs, to name but two, then you must go to a local Delicatessen, of which there are many in Dorset.

So, rather than recreating a Dorset dish, I decided to think of traditional Dorset foods individually which are locally produced still today and which are perhaps little heard of.  The first that came to mind was Dorset Red cheese – a fairly new Dorset cheese produced by Ford Farm in West Dorset.  This cheese is delectable; it’s a smoked cheese made only from the milk of cows which graze on the lush pastures of the West Dorset Estate.  In fact, the cheese is not red, but amber in colour and is encased in a rich red rind which is created by the gradual smoking of the cheese over natural oak chippings.  It has a smooth and velvety texture and slightly crumbly.  I next thought of a great independent family brewery in Blandford Forum, North Dorset – Hall and Woodhouse.  Their award winning bottled beer is Badger Beer, of which there are many kinds. I decided to focus on a very locally popular one, and which has been served draught in some local pubs – Fursty Ferret, which is a tawny amber ale, sweet and nutty.  Wow, what a combination – the velvety, rich, smoked cheese and the sweet nutty ale, and both from Dorset.

I thought long and hard about how I could combine these two elements, Dorset Red and Fursty Ferret, to create a truly Dorset Dish.  I was inspired somewhat by a recipe from the ‘Hungry Sailors in Poole’ Smoked Cheese Tart recipe, but wanted to combine Fursty Ferret, too.

I came up with the Dorset Red and Fursty Ferret Tart!


For the pastry:

150 g plain flour

75 g butter (chilled)

½ tablespoon water

Pinch of salt

For the filling:

1 red onion

75 g Dorset Red cheese (grated)

3 thyme sprigs

100 ml milk

50 ml Hall and Woodhouse Badger Fursty Ferret ale

1 large egg

To create:….. (preheat oven to 180 c)

Cube the cold butter and add to the flour and salt.  Rub the butter into the flour until it resembles breadcrumbs.  Add the water and knead the mixture until combined and forming a firm ball.  Chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, peel and cut the red onion into thin slices through the root, so the slices are intact.  Char in a hot, dry frying pan.  Put to one side and allow to cool.

Roll out the pastry to 3 mm thickness and use to line a 9 in diameter, greased flan tin.  Place baking beans or equivalent on the pastry case and bake for 10 minutes in the preheated oven.  Remove and leave to cool.

Beat the egg, add the milk, Fursty Ferret ale, salt and pepper, thyme leaves and grated Dorset Red cheese and mix gently.  Lay the charred red onion over the  pastry case and pour the cheese and egg mixture evenly into the flan case and bake at 180 c for approximately 20 minutes until golden brown on top.  Cool before serving with a glass of Fursty Ferret ale, accompanied by a Dorset orchard apple, crisp and tangy.

A perfect Dorset light lunch.

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