Category: Cheese


Two Cornish Blue Cheese Recipes

May 7th, 2014 — 10:00am

Cornish Blue Cheese Ageing

I recently went to Cornwall, where I met a man called Philip Stansfield, who makes Cornish Blue cheese. I’ll be completely honest from the off and say I’d never even heard of it and so, it was a huge relief to find that the cheese tasted good (really excellent, actually), considering I’d spent the half  hour prior to tasting it getting all enthused about the production process and the man himself. I know you’ll have no sympathy whatsoever when I say this, but it can be damn awkward to find oneself at a tasting when the product turns out to be a bit shit.

So we had toured the dairy, roaming like cattle through pasteurising rooms, curd cutting areas (technical term) and ageing rooms (shipping containers) where the air was so thick with ammonia and flora I found it tricky to breathe. Whoever is responsible for turning every one of those cheeses must have lungs of steel. Or full of cheese mould. “Is it a hernia, doctor?” “No I’m afraid it’s a truckle.” Each room contained row upon row of cheeses at different stages of maturity, some sporting impressive furry tufts on the rind, “just like my cat!” I commented, wittily, more than once. I know.

Cornwall

Cornwall

Despite appearances, production is relatively small scale, and that’s the way Philip wants to keep it. He’s a smart man who knows his product is excellent, and he knows that other people know it too. He has just a few other people working with him, particularly at busy times of the year, and one of them is salting cheese when we arrive. “This is very physical work” Philip tells us, and I can see. The woman is lifting, salting and re-stacking cheeses at some speed, and we work out (well, someone else works out), that she must be shifting about 200kg all told. Who would’ve thought that cheese could keep you slim?

What really pleases me about Philip’s story is that he turned to cheese-making because he honestly didn’t know what else to do. Dairy farming wasn’t a good place and he basically needed to survive any way that he could. “I thought right, I’ve got cows, I’ll make some cheese.” Of course many failed attempts followed, but when he got things right, he scooped the prestigious ‘Champion Cheese’ title at The World British Cheese Awards. Amazing. He recalls the event “The judges were down to the final three, and I could see a cheese that looked a bit like mine in front of them… “So what does a winning cheese taste like? Well, it’s a mild blue, and deliberately so, because Philip likes the creamy base flavour to show through; many blues are dominated by the mould, and can taste what I like to refer to as (again, technical term, so brace yourself), ‘a bit bitey’. There’s the familiar salty twang of a blue though, and boy has it got some length.

Cornwall

A young cheese

So Philip asked if I would do a couple of recipes for his website in return for this little tour and of course I said yes, GIMME THE CHEESE! Ahem. I’ve done one for summer, which is so simple a calf could put it together and I’ve pointed you to another suitable for winter, which you can actually eat at any time of year should you wish. I will allow it.

Watermelon and Cornish Blue Cheese 

I refuse to insult your intelligence by giving you quantities here.

Watermelon, seeds removed and cubed
Cornish Blue cheese
Good flaky sea salt, preferably Cornish
Good olive oil

Arrange watermelon on plate. Crumble on cheese. Sprinkle salt. Swirl with small amount of olive oil.

If you fancy something a bit more hearty, perhaps after a bracing Cornish coastal walk, then this baked gnocchi recipe is for you. Just swap the Gorgonzola for Cornish Blue, obviously.

Untitled

11 comments » | Cheese, Salads

Kookoo Sabzi

March 6th, 2014 — 6:22pm

Kookoo sabzi is basically an Iranian omelette with a whacking great load of herbs in it. I became rather attached to it as a weekend breakfast option a year or so back and it’s really very good in a sandwich too, just wrapped in warmed flatbread with some slivered pickles and a splutter of hot sauce (there’s a recipe for that sandwich in a very good book about sandwiches from around the world I’ve heard mentioned somewhere occasionally perhaps maybe).

Kookoo sabzi flatbread wrap with Iranian pickles and hot sauce

Anyway on Tuesday it was the day of the pancakes and so I found myself wondering what a load of skinny kookoos would be like rolled up around a stuffing and baked in a cheesy sauce. They were very easy to make and flip in a little non-stick pan, and I filled them with what was basically a mixture of posho garlic shrooms (chanterelles and chestnuts) and spinach, and baked them in a sauce rammed with cheddar and Lancashire cheeses (what I had in the fridge). Oh and I grated some rather suave aged Comte on top, because I also had that in the fridge, because I’m a member of the Food Tosserati.

The kookoo made this whole dish really pleasing because they’re just so fragrant with herbs and bitey with spring onion; they lift the whole thing meaning you can eat a large amount and not feel in danger of developing diabetic neuropathy the instant you stop eating and slump on the sofa in front of The Restaurant Man. Come to think of it, a gluten free cheese sauce would also make this a good alternative for coeliacs in danger of missing out on cheesy baked pancake things come Fat Tuesday.

Diet food

Kookoo sabzi stuffed with garlic mushrooms and baked in a cheesy…okay I don’t know what to call this but it’s well tasty, promise. 

For the pancakes (makes approx 10 pancakes)

12 eggs
3 tablespoons self raising flour
1 large handful parsley leaves, finely chopped
1 large handful dill, finely chopped
1 large handful coriander, finely chopped
3 spring onions, finely chopped

For the filling

100g chanterelle mushrooms
200g chestnut mushrooms
1 regular onion
3 cloves garlic, crushed
350g spinach, chopped roughly if leaves are large (include the stalks, finely chopped)
Knob of butter
Veg oil or similar, for frying

120g cheese, grated (I used a mixture of cheddar and Lancashire)
Comte (or another cheese, obviously, to grate on top)
50g butter
50g flour
600ml milk

This method looks long and it is really, but you can get most of it going at the same time.

Preheat the oven to gas mark 6/200C/400F.

Beat the eggs together and sift in the flour. Whisk the mixture to combine; it will go lumpy which is annoying but just whisk the shit out of it. Mix in the chopped herbs, spring onions, and season highly with salt and pepper.

Set a small frying pan (mine is 6 inches diameter) over a medium-low heat and add a scant splash of oil, then wipe it around with a piece of kitchen paper. Add enough eggy mixture to make a very thin ‘pancake’, spreading it out with the back of a spoon. Cook until almost set (it’s so thin it will cook almost all the way through without turning), then, when almost set, flip it over for 30 seconds or so to set the other side. This is about a hundred times easier than it sounds. Repeat until all the mixture is gone.

Once the first pancake is out of the way, you can get the filling on at the same time. Heat a little oil in a frying pan and sling the onion in to soften. Once translucent, add a knob of butter and the mushrooms and garlic. Cook for 5 minutes or so, stirring regularly. Set aside, then add the spinach to the same pan and allow to wilt down and cook until no liquid remains in the pan. Mix with the mushrooms. Season.

To make the cheese sauce, wang the flour, butter and milk into a pan and bring to a simmer, whisking it with an air of nonchalance. Once simmering, cook out gently for a few minutes, then add the cheese. It will melt pretty fast. Season with salt and pepper.

To assemble your masterpiece, roll each pancake around some of the filling (not too much). Line them up in a baking dish. Cover with the sauce. Grate a little Comte on top. Put in the oven. Bake for 35-40 minutes until golden.

10 comments » | Breakfast, Brunch, Cheese, Eggs, Main Dishes, Sandwiches

Battle of The Borek

November 14th, 2013 — 11:37am

Final batch of borek

The Turkish Food Centre in Camberwell sells a really mean spinach and cheese borek. It’s a snazzy swirly number which has been making a regular appearance in my face of a Saturday morning. Last week though, one just wasn’t enough. With hindsight, it would have been easier to nip down to the TFC and buy another one, because I basically spent the entire weekend battling with the pastry recipe.

It came from my mate, but it’s not his fault I ballsed it up to be fair; he was working when I asked him for it, and I got drip fed bits in Turkish whispers over the space of a two day period. The first batch were um, pretty interesting. ‘Oh, isn’t it weird that there’s no folding of the pastry after I’ve brushed it with butter?’ I thought to myself. Weird that, considering I’m trying to get it flaky. How will it do that without any layers? So in realising that mistake, in engaging with the culinary knowledge I have built up over a number of years, I decided promptly to just carry on regardless like a complete and utter tool. The pastry was shit, and everyone on Twitter laughed at me, saying the resulting borek looked like turds. THANKS YOU GUYS.

Borek or turds?

So I tried again. Goddam it’s hard to roll that pastry out really thin; it’s just flour and water, and the fat is brushed on in the form of melted butter between the folds. I even bought a special skinny rolling pin in not one, but two different lengths, so I have a reeeeeally long one specially reserved for that time when I need to make a borek the size of the Starship Enterprise. That’s big, right? I hate Star Trek. I think.

I used a spiced butter – actually the niter kibbeh from this recipe but think about it, nigella seeds totally work in borek – and I folded and rested and rolled and made a right royal mess and in the end they looked…well, they looked a lot better than the first batch. The flakes were there but the pastry was nowhere near as plainly and obviously rammed with delicious butter like the TFC version, which is rubbish, because it was. After two days and 30 odd borek I declared temporary defeat. The next day my mate came around, had a look at my efforts and said all they needed was a bit longer in the oven. Arse. “Other than that” he said, “totally nailed it!” and he knows his shit in the borek department. So in your faces Twitter followers! Behold my tasty pastry turds!! (top picture by the way). Bottom line is that the recipe below is a sound one, so knock yerselves out. What do you mean I’ve put you off trying?

Spinach and Cheese Borek (makes 12)

325g Turkish flour (I bought mine from the TFC and I knew it was the right one because it said ‘borek’ on the front. Genius)
175ml water
1.5 teaspoons white wine vinegar
Spiced butter (recipe here)
600g spinach, roughly chopped
175g Tulum cheese (or use feta)
Half an onion, finely chopped
1 egg, beaten

A skinny rolling pin helps here. I bought mine from – you’ve guessed it – the TFC.

Mix the flour and water together then knead until lovely and smooth. I did this in a Kitchenaid mixer with a dough hook. Let the dough rest under a wet cloth for about 30 minutes.

Make the filling by washing the spinach and then putting it straight into a large saucepan, lid on, low heat, until it is all wilted down. Allow to cool then squeeze out as much water as possible. Chop finely. Gently cook the onion in a little olive oil until soft but not coloured. Allow to cool then mix with the spinach. Stir in the cheese. Taste and add salt if necessary.

Separate the dough into balls, each weighing approximately 45g. On a lightly floured surface, roll each ball out as thinly as you can, into a circle shape. You should be able to see through the dough when it is thin enough. Brush the pastry with the spiced butter, then fold it in half and keep folding until you have a small square of pastry (about 4 folds). Let rest for 10-15 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 200C. Roll each ball out again as thin as you can, in a circle shape. Add a thin snake shape of filling around the bottom half of the circle and then roll up into a cigar shape. Curl the cigar around into a snail shape. Brush each with the beaten egg and bake for 30 minutes or until a lovely golden brown colour.

23 comments » | Cheese, Pastry, Vegetables

‘Dirty’ BBQ Veg with Queso Fresco

July 26th, 2013 — 8:37am

 

‘Dirty veg’. This isn’t some new dude food trend, but a pretty shit hot way of cooking vegetables on a BBQ. Cooking something ‘dirty’ basically means cooking it directly on the coals. I found this on a blog called Country Wood Smoke, which is written by a guy down in Devon who appears to be married to his BBQ. Actually I have many friends like that. Hang on, actually I’m a bit like that…

Anyway, the idea is simple and brilliant; nothing ground breaking but a real trick up the sleeve nonetheless. Basically, man-down-in-Devon (real name – Marcus) is saying, ‘what the hell y’all doing slinging your vegetables on dat grill when you could be charring em directly in the coals you bunch of absolute fookin’ numpties?’ because in my head Marcus has an accent which is a cross between Southern American, gangsta and Scottish. Wouldn’t that be a thing. Weirdy hybrid accents are cool. I met a man recently who had an accent which was a cross between Georgian (ex-Soviet state Georgian), and cockney. That was hilarious. I really liked him. He didn’t like me because I laughed every time he said something.

Anyhow. Get yourself some hardy-ish veg like peppers and courgettes and some onions, oil them up, salt and pepper them, then stick them directly in the coals once they’re ready for cooking (ie when the flames have died down and they are white/grey). Turn them occasionally until they’re charred in places all over. You think the courgette won’t cook, but it will. It’s also nice to do some more delicate veg, so once you’ve taken peppers et al off the coals and put them aside, get your er, BBQ wok (a wok with holes in) or, if like me, you don’t have one, a metal colander, and put that directly in the coals. Oil and season up some cherry toms and also some baby corn and put them in, tossing them about quite often, until they’re charred in places too. When all veg are done, chop them finely; the smoke and char flavour is just wonderful. What difference does it make cooking them in the coals rather than on the grill? Well they taste smokier, they cook in about 2 minutes flat and above anything else, it’s just really FUN.

Not quite cock rocket veg arrangement

Makeshift BBQ wok. Probably should warn you I can’t really get all the burnt bits off the bottom…

When you first put the vegetables in the coals you will think, ‘I can’t eat it that! It’s all dirty!’ That of course is stupid. They don’t come out covered in ash, just nicely charred and tasting amazing. Woman up.

We ate them wrapped with salsa, and some queso fresco, which is a Mexican cheese in case you don’t know. The idea that you might not know it will sound ridiculous to any American or, indeed, Mexican readers (sure I have loads), but it’s really not a cheese that is available here. And now someone is making it in Peckham. I know. Gringa Dairy is under an arch on the Old Kent Road. This means there are now like, 3 reasons to love the Old Kent Road! There’s Gringa and Shu Castle and also the fireman in the window – you’ll know what the last reference is all about if you know the Old Kent Road. I can hear at least two of you shouting, ‘I know the fireman in the window!’

The cheese is a bit like feta, but less salty, more creamy and a little less crumbly. You could slice it, for example. It’s apparently a right ball-ache to get the cheese tasting the way it does in Mexico due to issues of climate and method. I can’t say I’ve tasted the original to compare but by gum it tastes just perfect with a bit of dirty veg of a summer’s eve. Give it a whirl. We also splodged on some sour cream plus green chillies (note to self – CHAR THOSE TOO). A squeeze of lime caramelised on the grill…

I don’t want to make some cliche about this being the best vegetarian BBQ food as if there’s nothing good for vegetarians to eat from the BBQ. It is, though.

Dirty BBQ Veg  (two of us managed to plough through this – disgraceful)

2 peppers
1 courgette
2 large red onions, peeled and quartered
Handful baby corn
Handful cherry toms
Handful garlic cloves, unpeeled
Green chillies
Olive oil

Oil up the veg and season with salt and pepper. As I said the peppers, courgette and onions can go directly in the coals, just move them around a bit – this is proper instinctive cooking you cavewoman, you. Once done, set aside then do the baby corn, chillies, tomatoes and garlic in a metal colander or BBQ wok, if you’re well organised and er, have one. Move them frequently. When all veg are charred, chop them up. They should still have nice crisp, charred bits on the outside, but will be soft inside.

Serve with tortillas/tacos, sour cream, salsa, queso fresco…wrap em up. The possibilities for variations on garnish are obviously many.

19 comments » | Barbecue, Cheese, Mexican Food, Vegetables

Date, Feta, Pomegranate and Marigold Salad

June 7th, 2013 — 10:37am

When moving to a new flat recently I envisaged the shiny new, mahoosive balcony as a lush urban garden, flourishing verdant green with bush upon bushy bushel of salad leaves, herbs, courgettes, beans, basically anything I could get to grow vertically; anything that would crawl, climb or thrive in a pot. The only flowers I’d allow would be my favourite sweet peas, the odd geranium, a clematis or four and and…okay so I wanted everything.

I’ve managed to cultivate the sweet peas, the geraniums (already here) and a dying clematis. Some herbs are flourishing, albeit left field ones, like wormwood (absinthe) which is bitter but rather tasty in many things including, surprisingly, hollandaise. The vegetables, well, not so much action on that front. Some lettuces are doing well. Ummmm. Hmmm. So as I sat pondering this state of affairs from my makeshift office/boot camp (I’m currently working 12 + hour days – get the tiny violins out), it struck me that there was one more thing that could be eaten – the marigolds. I was damn well going to get a meal out of this balcony.

The basis of this salad is herbs. Recently I’ve been taking the approach to herb usage seen in countries such as Iran and Georgia, by which I mean I’ve been using them basically like salad leaves. See below a salad of mint, parsley and dill with asparagus. We ate it with lamb chops rubbed with za’atar, Turkish chilli and garlic, sprinkled with radishes.

For the marigold salad I used mint and parsley, tossed with pieces of fried flat bread, red onion slivers, sliced dates, pomegranate seeds and feta. The marigold petals have a slight peppery heat, but mainly they just look gorgeous. It’s a festival of sweetness from the fruit, against salty feta. The dressing has it going on too – olive oil mixed with viscous date syrup, balanced with acidity. It’s a lesson in the power of contrasts basically, and darn if it doesn’t look purdy.

Date, Feta, Pomegranate and Marigold Salad (serves 4 as a side salad, 2 as a main)

1 handful of mint leaves, picked, although leave some in sprigs
1 handful parsley leaves, picked,  same as above
A few crunchy lettuce leaves like little gem or romaine, shredded roughly
150g feta cheese (proper feta cheese)
8 dates, pitted and each cut into a few pieces
1 small red onion, finely sliced
1 small pomegranate, seeds removed (the easiest way to do this is to halve it, then smack each half on the skin side with a wooden spoon, working your way around until the seeds come out. Wear an apron. Pick out any white pithy bits)
1 flatbread, or one large pitta bread or similar
The petals from 1 marigold (optional, obviously), picked and really, really thoroughly washed (the bugs LOVE them)

For the dressing

4 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons date syrup
1.5 tablespoons white wine vinegar

Cut the flatbread into squares and fry it gently in a little oil until crisp. Set aside on kitchen paper.

On a large serving plate arrange the lettuce, mint and parsley leaves. In another bowl, combine the dates, pomegranate seeds, feta cheese and red onion. Add the flatbread pieces and mix well.

Combine the dressing ingredients and whisk to emulsify. Season with salt and pepper.

Arrange the cheesy fruit mixture on top of the herbs, and drizzle with the dressing. Sprinkle over the marigold petals, and serve.

17 comments » | Cheese, Edible flowers, Salads, Side Dishes, Vegetables

Yoghurt Love and Labneh

May 21st, 2013 — 2:02pm

In his excellent book, ‘The Yoghurt Cookbook‘, Arto der Haroutunian talks about the health promoting properties of the white stuff, and its supposedly life lengthening power. By my reckoning I should live until at least 180, providing the yoghurt can counteract a history of fags, booze and fast livin’.

Cultures which consume a lot of yoghurt, such as the Georgians, are huge believers in its supposed powers, and have used it as a cure for…well, pretty much everything actually, for centuries. I can’t vouch for the validity of those claims, but I can vouch for the taste, and its hangover curing properties. This buffalo yoghurt made in a traditional clay pot brought me back from the brink; I’m talking nausea, shakes, the creeping doom…not a whisker of it after I’d gobbled this lot down at the side of a rocky road in Georgia.

Yoghurt in Georgia 

The yoghurt I tried in Ethiopia recently was a little more…challenging. I asked the lady we were visiting how she made it, and she replied ‘well I just put the milk in this bucket (straight from the cow in the back yard) and leave it on the shelf for three days.’ That’s one approach, although it is of course really just curdled milk and not ‘proper’ yoghurt. The taste was very sour and it had a loose wobbly texture. The Ethiopians often mix it with chilli powder and drink the whole glass like a shot, and I can see why. I spent the next three hours concerned about potential gastrointestinal payback.

Yoghurt in Ethiopia

Mixed with chilli powder

Labneh, then, is basically yoghurt that’s been strained of its whey. Of course I adore it because, well it’s like yoghurt to the power of ten. Once strained, the resulting substance is more akin to cream cheese, but with the obvious tartness of yoghurt; that sour freshness that yoghurt-lovers crave.

I’ve found that the best brand by far for making yoghurt is Total. It’s even better than the mega expensive stuff I bought from the farmers’ market, which relinquished hardly any liquid. It is thick and creamy before straining  which is a good thing if you’re eating it straight up, but with labneh you want some residual sourness.

To make labneh, mix the yoghurt with a large pinch of salt, then wrap in muslin, or as I have done, a clean/brand new dishcloth. Hang in the fridge (to be honest I used to just hang it in a cool place but now I have a very hot kitchen so the fridge it is) and allow the whey to strain away for about 5 to 6 hours. The longer the strain, the thicker the labneh, obviously.

After this time it is ready, and can be used or preserved in a number of ways.

Try rolling in herbs and preserving in olive oil…it’s then lovely just spread on bread. It’s also delicious rolled in dukkah, or za’atar. Straight up it’s best topped with punchy flavours like anchovy and chilli, or dolloped onto salads as you would use a goat’s curd for example.

My favourite way to use it right now however is to stuff it into Turkish peppers before slinging them on the BBQ. They are lovely when wrapped up inside a flat bread with a kebab, oozing their creamy centres against the sizzling meat. If you’re up for it, you fly bastards, stuff some green chillies instead.

Labneh Stuffed Peppers

1 x 500g tub Total yoghurt
Large pinch of salt
About 5 mild green Turkish pepper for stuffing (you could also use the long red Romero peppers if you can’t find the Turkish ones)
Oil
Muslin or a dishcloth for straining

In a bowl mix the yoghurt with the salt. Line a bowl with the muslin or cloth and scrape the yoghurt into it. Tie the top with string or whatever you have and suspend it from something. I used to use a cupboard handle but now I have a very sun filled, hot kitchen and so I hung it in the fridge. Set a bowl underneath to catch the whey. Leave for 5 or so hours. It will be usable but soft after 3. If you want to make balls with it and preserve them in oil then the longer the better as the labneh will need to be fairly firm for rolling.

Cut the tops off the peppers and de-seed them without cutting the sides. Stuff with labneh. Rub with oil, salt and pepper and either grill on a BBQ or underneath a hot grill until charred in places and soft. Serve either in kebabs, or on toast, in pittas…

38 comments » | Barbecue, Cheese, Uncategorized, Vegetables

Cheese and Herb Stuffed Artichokes

April 30th, 2013 — 7:04pm

Oxford, despite being a rather famous and much visited city, doesn’t really have many good restaurants. At least, it didn’t when I lived there for a good five years and I haven’t really heard any news to the contrary since. Maybe I’m out of touch.

One diamond in the rough used to be The Magdalen Arms, a pub on Iffley Road, which served food that was everything pub grub should be but rarely is; un-fussed and generous, yet skilfully cooked. I remember a resplendent crab, nothing more than plunged into boiling water and served whole, ready to be worked over, the meat dipped in quivering mayonnaise. We sat in the sunshine and cracked, delved and mined its nooks and crannies for meat, rocking around in our seats on the back of copious amounts of rosé.

Another highlight was a stuffed artichoke, leaves splayed and crammed fat with goats’ cheese, herbs and breadcrumbs, shiny with olive oil. We teased away the leaves and sucked the creamy, intense stuffing from them. This was probably about 3 years ago and the dish still enters my thoughts occasionally, hence, this recipe.

Once the leaves are sucked clean, there is of course the sweet, soft heart to be had. A lovely, leisurely starter.

Cheese and Herb Stuffed Artichokes (serves 2-4, depending on appetite)

2 large or 4 smaller globe artichokes
1 thick slice stale white bread, whizzed into breadcrumbs
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 small bunch parsley leaves, finely chopped
125g ricotta and 50g feta OR 175g goats cheese
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Zest of 1 lemon
4 tablespoons olive oil, plus one more for cooking

Snip the tips off the artichokes leaves and stems, turn them upside down and give them a good rap on the counter top to make the leaves splay out a bit. Give them a bit more encouragement to open up using your fingers, then keep them in a bowl of water with a squeeze of lemon juice. This supposedly stops them from going brown, although they always seem to do it anyway.

Prepare the stuffing by mixing everything together and adding some salt and pepper. Stuff the mixture into the gaps between the leaves then arrange the artichokes in a pan where they fit snugly, you don’t want them moving about in there. The advice is not to cook them in a pan made of reactive metal such as iron or aluminium, again because it makes them discolour although again, I find they do anyway.

Fill the pan with water so it comes about a third to halfway up the artichokes and add the other tablespoon of olive oil. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer and put a lid on. Cook for 25 minutes, or until the leaves come away without too much resistance.

Allow to cool for 5 minutes or so, then serve. With napkins. Lots.

19 comments » | Cheese, Starters, Vegetables

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