Friday, July 30, 2010

A great way to make a cheese salad

I've been in the Pacific NW (aka Oregon and Washington State) for the past 10 days, hence the absence of posts but I've come across a lot of good cheese dishes. Not least this salad at a restaurant called Farm to Fork in Dundee.

What's clever about it is that it's basically a reconstructed round lettuce - or butter lettuce as they call them over there - picked apart, washed and put back into a lettuce shape. There were also fine shavings of red onion, roasted pumpkin seeds, a light buttermilk and blue cheese dressing and - best of all - a snowfall of blue cheese flakes, apparently from a piece of cheese that can been frozen and grated on a Microplane. It looked and tasted great.

I came across a similar one at a really good bistro called Le Pigeon in Portland. Not sure who's copying who.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Tilly: a rare British goats' cheese

The great thing about genuinely artisanal cheese - like 'natural' wine - is that it's finite. It may be a small experimental batch or only made at a particular time of year. When it's gone it's gone. So it was good to try this rare cheese from Mary Holbrook at the Bristol Food & Wine Fair from my friends at Trethowan's Dairy.

It's called Tilly after a field on her Somerset Farm and is an unwashed version of the unpasteurised goats cheese Cardo I was raving about last summer which is set using an extract of cardoon thistle rather than rennet.

I can't say I like it quite as much. Cardo has a particularly sumptuous silky texture but it's a delicious cheese by any standard - delicate yet intensely flavoured and not obviously 'goaty' at all.

Jess of Trethowan's Dairy says they simply can't get enough of it. "When we have a big do we have to save up our quota".

So we nibbled it extra slowly (with some dry Montlouis) and look forward - hopefully - to tasting it again next year.

On Sunday I'm off to Washington State and Oregon for 10 days so am hoping for a taste of the famous Rogue River Blue! It might be a couple of weeks till the next post though . . .

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Gnocchi alla Romana

Despite the fact that I've been taught a couple of times how to make gnocchi I've never managed to master it - or at least not to achieve the featherlight consistency that makes it such a delicious thing to eat.

However when I was casting around for recipes for students recently I remembered this easy-to-make Roman version which is really surprisingly delicious. The thing to remember is to get the gnocchi mixture completely cold before you start trying to stamp it out.

And yes, for those of you might feel inclined to remind me, following my blogpost the other day, that it contains both eggs and cheese, I accept that it does. But the crucial thing is that it doesn't taste like it ;-).

Serves 4-6

600ml whole milk (i.e. not semi-skimmed)
150g fine semolina (spotted in Waitrose the other day. Also in Italian delis and some Asian shops)
2 medium eggs or 2 large egg yolks
75g parmesan or Grana Padano cheese
A good slice of butter
Salt, pepper and nutmeg

Pour the milk into a heavy saucepan and season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Bring to the boil then lower the heat and shake over the semolina gradually, stirring vigorously as you so so. Replace the pan over the heat and stir until the semolina is thick enough to stand a spoon in. Cool for a few minutes then beat in the eggs and three quarters of the cheese. Spread the semolina into a rectangle about 1 cm deep over a wetted baking sheet and leave to get completely cold and firm .(A couple of hours at least. I didn't leave it quite long enough so it was still slightly soft when I started to cut it up.)

Heat the oven to 200°C/Gas 6. Thickly butter a baking dish. Stamp out circles from the semolina with a scone cutter or the rim of a wine glass and arrange them overlapping in the dish, tucking the offcuts underneath and down the sides. (Or simply cut it into squares and arrange them in the dish).

Melt the butter and pour over the gnocchi then sprinkle generously with the remaining parmesan. Bake the gnocchi for about 20-25 minutes until the top is nicely browned. Serve with a simple tomato sauce and/or a salad.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Real Danish Blue

Having spent 3 days in Copenhagen this week I've got a totally different perspective on Danish cheese, which is sadly represented in this country by industrialised Danish Blue and Samsoe. I'll be writing more about their fabulous soft cheeses which are often smoked or blended with herbs but it was good to come across a real organic Danish Blue at a small organic cheese shop off the Kultorvet called Osten ved Kultorvet which is run by a guy called Mikael Hendrikson aka 'Mikael the Cheese' (below).

It was called CumuluBlu and was much less harsh and fresher in flavour than the Danish Blues we get here, more like a creamy, slightly less salty Roquefort

There's another good cheese shop called Ostehjørnet at 56 Kongensgade with a beautifully displayed selection of international cheeses where we tried an award-winning semi-hard Gouda-style cheese called VesterHavsost from the Thise Dairy in Jutland.

We don't get this level of Scandinavian cheeses in England, unfortunately but if you're going to Copenhagen seek them out.