Two Cornish Blue Cheese Recipes

Wednesday, 7th May 2014

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.

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11 comments | Cheese, Salads

Favourite Istanbul Meze: Yoghurt with Celeriac

Monday, 5th May 2014

Yoghurt with Celeriac

Like every other cook, I plan my holidays around what I can put into my gob, and where. Neither I, nor the majority of my friends would consider going away without having made The List, a document on which is collated restaurant and other food oriented recommendations extracted from mates, Twitter and Google in the weeks running up to the trip. As useful as these lists can be however, I also find them an albatross. There’s a lot to be said for exploring a city simply by arseing about with no particular plans or direction, and it can often lead to the best discoveries. I stumbled across Has Urfa Lahmacun for example on a morning when we were slightly lost, and desperately hungry; we just pitched up there out of necessity and had one of our favourite meals of the trip. Being too tied to The List can mean one ends up ping ponging from place to place, frantically trying to tick off experiences without stopping to actually enjoy just being somewhere new. I’ve definitely been guilty of that.

What I try to do now is just mark out a few places that really MUST be visited, and keep the rest in reserve. Çukur Meyhane, a ‘Turkish pub’, was in the former category; I’d heard good things about the food, but also I knew that (DANGER! DANGER!) they specialise in raki. If you’re not familiar, raki is an anise flavoured spirit, like pastis, Pernod, or arak, but with the ability to induce next-level drunken irritability. Unfortunately we have quite a taste for it. Or should I say ‘had’. The fridges at Çukur Meyhane are rammed with bottles distilled in different areas of Turkey (some labelled with people’s names – for their use only), but I have to admit, they all tasted the same to me.

What I really enjoyed was the food. We gorged (and I do mean gorged; I rolled around afterwards like a fatted seal pup) on aubergine and yoghurt salads, pastries, stuffed vine leaves (not sure I’ll ever really come round to liking vine leaves that much), and a seriously good grilled liver flecked with ground coriander and chilli, which I’ve since tried and failed to re-create on the BBQ. This yoghurt dish was my absolute favourite. You’ll find a yoghurt meze dish on every menu in Istanbul, but this was different. At first I thought it contained grated celery which had been allowed to drain its water, but then I recognised the earthiness of that weird knobbly root. I’m not the  biggest fan of celeriac in soup, or even just cooked, to be honest; baked in ash at The Ledbury is one thing, but at home? Meh. Remoulade all the way, for me, and now of course, in this yoghurt. It spoke to me, basically. Give it a whirl.

Kartalsk

Raki pictures line the walls at Çukur Meyhane

Yoghurt with Celeriac

The original: yoghurt with celeriac at Çukur Meyhane

IMG_4049

Hazy Raki days

Istanbul Cats

Sunbathing cats

Yoghurt with Celeriac (we ate this as a meze between 4)

500g full fat Greek style yoghurt. I used Total, but you could also use a strained yoghurt. Don’t use low fat if you can help it and don’t use one that is too thin (hence my suggesting strained if you can’t find the Total brand).
Juice 1/2-1 whole lemon
Small handful parsley leaves, finely chopped
80g celeriac, grated
1 large clove garlic

Cook the garlic clove in boiling water for 3 minutes, then drain and set aside. Put the yoghurt in a large mixing bowl, then beat it with a fork until smooth. Grate in the celeriac and squeeze in about half the juice from half the lemon. Crush the garlic clove and add it, then stir in the parsley, add a good pinch of salt, and set aside to sit for an hour or so at room temperature. After this time, stir again, taste, and add more lemon juice and salt if needed. Eat with warmed or toasted bread.

Çukur Meyhane, Kartal Sokak 1/A, Beyoglu, Istanbul 
Telephone: 212-244-5575
Quite a few tables were reserved on the evening we went, so get there early or call ahead.

17 comments | Barbecue, Dips, Istanbul, Nibbles, Sauces, Condiments and Spreads, Starters, Turkey

Has Urfa Lahmacun, Istanbul

Tuesday, 29th April 2014

Has Urfa Lahmacun, Istanbul

Istanbul is a vast, sprawling city. Everywhere you go, something is happening. It can be quite overwhelming at first. There are about 14 million people milling about over 2 continents. Fourteen million. There are also a lot of cats. Joy! I always knew Istanbul was going to be my city. I wanted to pet and chin tickle every one of them, but, well, rabies. Every corner you turn, something is happening. No nook, gap, rooftop or cupboard is left unfilled, and if a space is up for grabs, someone will more than likely sell try to sell something from it. Vegetables, shoes, börek, Turkish delight, sheeshas, plates, kebabs, chestnuts, bread, kittens, chicks, junk, socks, watermelon, simit, fish, tea, anything, basically.

On a side street off a relatively un-touristy stretch, Kasimi Keve has claimed his space and built a lahmacun (la-ma-jun) restaurant in it. It is really no more than a counter top, an oven, a titchy counter at the back and 3 tables outside. He is immensely proud of his lamacun, and so he should be. During the 6 days I was in Istanbul, I obviously couldn’t  try every lahmacun on offer (even I have limits), but if anyone is making it better than Kasimi, I’d like to hear about it, and then I probably wouldn’t believe you anyway.

Kasimi’s lahmacun are lighter than others I’ve had; the dough rolled impossibly thin, then crisped, bubbled and spot-charred in the searing heat of the oven. Lesser examples can be doughy, which is perhaps what led to the nickname ‘Turkish pizza’. Pretty sure I’ve been guilty of saying that at some point, actually. The dough of a lahmacun is spread thinly with spiced, minced lamb, and every seller has their own blend; Kasimi’s had us excited because the spicing was so deft as to just enhance the sweetness of the meat (a very light touch of cinnamon?), yet it was also rich and complex. He gave us some of the spices to take away, but only after we promised not to tell anyone his secrets. I wouldn’t. Ever. I’m a writer but I’m also a cook, remember. I’ll just say then that there’s some of the famous Turkish red pepper paste, so terrifyingly red it looks like it could stain a t-shirt at 30 paces, Turkish biber flakes, roasted to deep maroon, and a spice blend of top secret components, which reminded me a little but not entirely of garam masala.

Pide and Lahmacun

Pide is also available but for me, it’s all about that lahmacun

Lahmacun

Lahmacun

Lahmacun

Each lahmacun arrives with a plate of salad, herbs glistening with water droplets from a recent wash, tomatoes ripe and inviting. He does roasted chillies too. Get them if you go. You top your bread with salad and chillies, tinkle with lemon juice and roll it all up. The eating is over in moments. That means it’s time to order another.

While we wait for our lahmacun to be prepped, we get chatting to a Turkish lady who says she lives in Holland, but always makes Has Urfa her first port of call when in Turkey. She wise. I suggest that you do the same.

Has Urfa Lahmacun
Ragipbey Sokak
0034, Istanbul, Turkey
(over the street from Aksaray Metro, near to Yusefpasa)

Lahmacun is set to be a big trend in London this summer, with Zeren Wilson and Turkish chef Huyla Erdal to host a modern Turkish pop up, on Sunday 15th June. I predict this will be worth moving your summer holiday for. Follow @londonlahmacun for more details. 

Istanbul Cats

29 comments | Istanbul, Restaurant Reviews, Travel, Turkey

Jerk Chicken and Ragamuffins

Saturday, 5th April 2014

Jerk Chicken and Ragamuffins

Almost looks a bit artfully food styley styley, that photo, doesn’t it? IT’S LIKE YOU DON’T EVEN KNOW ME. Then you clock the gnawed chicken bone on the right, the Iphone slung to the left and you realise, yeah it’s just a genuine mess on my table, actually. Wang it on there and chow down, as I believe they say on Downton Abbey.

I cooked this chicken on the BBQ, which is how I will be cooking all of my food until Monday, since I had what is known to all rational (urgh) and calm people as a GAS CRISIS. The flame in my oven started burning orange instead of the regular, non-panic-making blue, so faster than you could say ‘Google is the first port of call in a potentially serious situation’ I was reading combinations of words like ‘incomplete combustion’ and ‘carbon monoxide production’. It did at least explain why the ragamuffins took 40 minutes longer to cook than they should have done. Mmmm carbon monoxide laced corn muffins. Think I’ll probably need to get back to you with that recipe at a later date. Still ate them. Well, half of one; the rest are still on the balcony.

The chicken however was awesome and I want to tell you two pieces of information with regards to jerk chicken. The first is that this method of soaking bay leaves in water and making a little bed for the chicken with them on the grill is brilliant, and probably the closest we’ll ever get here to replicating the flavour of allspice wood. The second is that my jerk marinade has some new threads, designed by my old roomie, Vicki Brown. I love them. As soon as I get my arse in gear there will be a new shiny website for it too, but you know, I’ve got 99 problems right now, and potentially slipping away in a gas induced coma during the night is one of them*. Might take me a while to get around to that website thing. You can buy the marinade here as before though, in Persepolis in Peckham and possibly maybe shortly in some new exciting new places which I’m too scared to tell you about in case something goes wrong.

Jerk on.

Jerk Chicken and Ragamuffins

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*(MUM, I’VE TURNED IT OFF AT THE WALL, DON’T WORRY)

19 comments | Barbecue, Caribbean Food, Meat, Peckham Jerk Marinade

100% Horse Meat Crispy Pancakes in the Style of Findus

Friday, 7th March 2014

I wrote somewhere recently that my family ‘ate well’ when I was a child, which prompted my mum to send me a text saying, “what? fish fingers and Findus crispy pancakes?” There’s no denying it, I was more than partial to a Findus or five, along with Mr. Brain’s faggots and many products from the repertoire of Birdseye. The minced beef crispy pancakes were my favourite, or, should I say, the minced beef and horse. That is of course if Findus were (unwittingly perhaps) using (maybe) horse meat in their pancakes at that time.

I clearly got a taste for hossie during those formative years as I was salivating at the thought of recreating these pancakes. 100% horse meat, mind. No beef for me! Incidentally, anyone who was under the impression that using horse meat is a money saving exercise, let me correct you – 250g of that finest filly set me (my boyfriend) back £5 and I bought 500g so that’s – all together now – a whopping £20 per kg! It’s probably cheaper online but we bought ours at Borough Market like impatient money-spaffing chumps.

We cooked that steed down with onions, celery and a bit of Old Bay seasoning, then slung in some red wine, beef stock and Worcestershire sauce. Despite my best efforts to thicken the sauce with cornflour I couldn’t get QUITE the same gloop-ooziness (technical term) as displayed within the originals but rest assured there was enough gravy in there to spurt out liquid with third degree burn capability. Authentic.

The filling is clamped inside regular pancakes, which proved a challenge until I started to channel my inner child once again to form a kind of glue with egg and a sprinkling of flour. That worked. I had demanded the boyfriend buy the necessary dyed orange crumb for the proper oompa loompa hue on the outside, and then it was just a case of frying in hot oil.

The similarity of the final product to the original pancakes a la Findoos was astounding. My boyfriend had never had them because he’s too posh but I was all like, ‘WOAH NELLY!’ Yeah it was kind of unnerving, but then horse really does taste a hella lot like beef.

WHO KNEW?

100% Horse Meat Crispy Pancakes in The Style of Findus

For the pancakes

1 egg
300ml milk
160g flour
Pinch salt

For the filling

1 onion, finely chopped
1 stick celery, finely chopped
500g horse meat, minced
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning
300ml beef stock
Splash red wine
Splash Worcestershire sauce, or two
1 teaspoon corn flour

To coat

Breadcrumbs, to coat the pancakes
Oil, for frying
2 eggs, lightly beaten
Seasoned flour
Sprinkle paprika (optional)

Sift the flour into a bowl and add a pinch of salt. Crack the egg into the middle and whisk it in to make a weird crumbly mixture. Add the milk a bit at a time, whisking, until smooth.It should be the consistency of single cream. Cover and rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Heat some veg oil in a pan and soften the onion and celery gently until the onion is translucent. Add the Old Bay and garlic and cook out for a few minutes, stirring. Add the horse meat and cook, breaking up with a wooden spoon until brown. Add the Worcestershire sauce and red wine and allow to bubble. Mix the cornflour with a splash of the stock until smooth and add to the pan with the remaining stock. Allow to cook until the meat is coated with a thick and glossy gravy. Allow this to cool while you make the pancakes.

Wipe a small frying pan with oil and add enough pancake batter to cover the base of the pan, swirling it around to cover. When cooked on the bottom, flip em. Repeat.

To assemble the pancakes, spread one plate with seasoned flour, then to the right of it get yourself a large shallow dish with the two beaten eggs in it, and to the right of that, spread another plate with the breadcrumbs (we sprinkled a little paprika into ours but it’s not necessary). Feel free to do this the other way around if you’re left handed. Uh huh.

Put a couple of tablespoons of filling on one side of the pancake, then fold it over. Brush the edges with beaten egg, then sprinkle on some flour. Stick it down with your fingers.

Heat oil to the depth of about 3cm in a frying pan. Dip the sealed pancake first in flour, then egg, then crumbs. Fry for about a minute each side. They really didn’t take any longer than this. Drain on kitchen paper. Repeat.

Reminisce!

34 comments | Far Out Crazy, Guilty Pleasures, Meat

Kookoo Sabzi

Thursday, 6th March 2014

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

The Art of Avocado on Toast

Saturday, 22nd February 2014

I’m being serious, there’s an art to this. Done properly, avo on toast is one of the most sublime breakfasts/brunches/snacks/whatevers going. Done badly, which it is so often, it’s nowt but slimy green bread. I consider myself something of a master when it comes to avo toast and I don’t mind saying so. Here are my 5 steps to a really good Saturday morning.

1. Choose the right bread. You need one slice of excellent white sourdough bread per person. It really does need to be the best bread you can get. My favourite is from Brickhouse.

2. Choose the right avocado. A properly ripe avocado is essential, either the Hass (small, bobbly) or Fuerte (smooth skinned) variety, although it’s harder to get a good example of the latter. If you live near a grocer that sells those mahoosive African jobbies then give them a go – they can be gorgeous if caught at the right stage of ripeness.

3. Get the toast temperature spot on. One of the joys of avo on toast is the contrast between the warm bread and cool topping but don’t be tempted to whack it on there straight away, it will be too hot and the fruit will go unpleasantly gooey underneath. The key is to let the toast cool for 30 seconds or so, out of the toaster, but propped up against something (like the side of a chopping board); if you let it lay flat on a surface it will sweat and go soggy.

4. Apply the avocado correctly. Use a spoon to scoop out portions of avocado, then smoosh each onto the toast with a fork, leaving attractive tine marks. Don’t go overboard, it just needs to be pressed on unceremoniously. Chunks are desirable.

5. Get the toppings right. The ultimate combo for me is as follows:

  • 1 very finely shredded spring onion per slice
  • A sprinkle of red chilli flakes (the flavour works better than fresh chilli, I think)
  • Plenty of good salt, like Maldon
  • Black pepper (not too much)
  • A conservative tinkle of lemon juice (really do be careful as too much will ruin it but a tiny bit is wonderful)
  • A little zig zag of your absolute best extra virgin olive oil (a grassy flavour is perfect).

That, for me, is the ultimate avocado on toast. The most satisfying meatless breakfast/brunch going, surely?

40 comments | Breakfast, Brunch, Fruit, Vegan

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