Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Two summery cheeses from Homewood

Today has been the best day of summer so far. Gorgeously sunny but not too hot - just the sort of day to go to Bristol's weekly farmers' market.

I haven't been for a while - I always seem to be up in London midweek - so it was good to see some old friends including the Angela's Kitchen and Homewood's Dairy stall which sells delicious cheeses, jams and jellies.

They had two today that I thought really suited the weather - a fresh, not over-salty feta-style cheese (above) which I think would be great with beets and broad beans and a 'pickled cheese' of unpasteurised ewes cheese in Somerset sunflower oil (top), a great storecupboard ingredient which lasts a couple of months. I doubt if I can wait that long though. I'll probably open at the weekend and have it with flatbread, slow roast tomatoes and olives though I've just spotted they have a recipe for a spinach and pickled ewes' cheese slice and also serve it with nasturtium flowers which sounds very pretty.

They're also selling some tasty pickled sheeps' cheese and spring onion tarts

Apparently they also do Bath Farmers' Market on a Saturday. You can also buy their cheeses from the Trethowans Dairy shop and from Abel & Cole.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Warm pasta salad with tomatoes, mint, lemon and ricotta salata

I've never used ricotta salata before but was urged to try it the other day by Patricia Michelson of La Fromagerie. Here's what it looks like from the outside . . .

And cut side upwards . . .

It's a salted type of ricotta that's hard enough to grate . . .

Patricia suggested using it to make a simple plate of pasta with fresh tomatoes which I expected to taste like a pasta dish but tasted more like a warm salad. Which is what I've called it. Lovely, light and summery for the warm weather I'm sure we're going to have sometime this summer. Aren't we (she asks hopefully?)

Serves 2

225g penne
400g ripe tomatoes, chopped small
4 tbsp olive oil
leaves from 2 sprigs of fresh mint, torn into small pieces
rind and juice of half a lemon
75g ricotta salata, coarsely grated
salt and pepper

Bring a large pan of water to the boil, add salt and cook the pasta for the time recommended on the pack. Chop the tomatoes small and mix with the olive oil and torn mint leaves. Strain the pasta reserving a couple of tablespoons of cooking water. Return to the pan and tip in the chopped tomatoes, lemon juice and rind and reserved pasta water. Season to taste with pepper and a little salt. Serve in warm bowls generously scattered with the grated ricotta salata.

I have a feeling some lightly cooked peas would be good with this too. You could also add a few snipped chives.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Munster and Gewurztraminer: a classic cheese and wine pairing

I’ve spent the last few days in Alsace and can’t remember when I found a region so dominated by a single cheese. Even the Jura has Morbier and Mont d’Or as well as the ubiquitous ComtĂ©.

It is, of course, Munster the washed rind cheese named (it’s thought) after the village of the same name though there are suggestions that it may have been a corruption of monastery as it was first made by monks.

It’s typically served locally (as above) with cumin seeds and a glass of gewurztaminer, Alsace’s exotically perfumed off-dry wine which complements it perfectly. (I prefer the drier styles with it to the off-dry and certainly the sweet (Vendange Tardive) versions.)

Interestingly I found the Munster generally served younger than I would have expected presumably because of its pungent smell. The one exception was at the Taverne Alsacienne at Ingersheim where they serve a younger and more artisanal version (right) together. Needless to say the latter was the one I liked best.

Friday, June 3, 2011

3 clever cheeseboards

It's good to see restaurants getting more adventurous about the way they serve cheese, forgoing the lumbering cheese trolley (a pet hate) for stylish plates or boards. Here are three I've come across recently.

First, an individual cheeseboard (above) at the London members club Blacks. I was deep in conversation so forgot to ask what they were but think I spot a Tallegio and some kind of alpine cheese. (Likely to be Italian anyway as the owners come from Italy).

Next a cheese board at Marcus Wareing's new restaurant The Gilbert Scott (below). I like the matching chutneys - fresh pear with the blue cheese, apple with the goats' cheese (unusual but good) and a really intriguing savoury orange conserve with what I think was a cheddar though could have been a Lincolnshire Poacher.

And finally a lovely cheese plate that was served at a natural wine dinner at the South London wine bar Artisan & Vine, again with an Italian cheese, Fiore Secano, British Barkham Blue, some tiny cubes of candied peel, a scattering of roasted nuts and a drizzle of ... not sure but it was delicious. If I find out I'll let you know. Oh and a piece of Sardinian flatbread.