Friday, February 24, 2012

A clever cheese plate at Dabbous

I've said this before but it always surprises me how little effort restaurants make to serve their cheese with style so it was good to find this clever cheese plate at one of London's hottest new openings, Dabbous.

What caught my eye was the fact that it came with baked apple. In fact it was more like the sort of sticky, caramelised apple you find on the top of a tarte tatin - though not as sweet.

The cheeses were from front to back were Driftwood a French-style goats' cheese from Whitelake in Somerset, Wigmore, a bloomy-rinded ewes milk cheese from Berkshire, a scoop of creamy Lancashire Bomb a 24 month old Lancashire cheese from Goosnargh and Crozier Blue, a ewes milk cheese from Co. Tipperary, sister (brother?) cheese to the more famous Cashel Blue. The Lancashire and the Crozier Blue went particularly well with the apple.

Full marks for presentation and for serving a selection of British and Irish rather than French or Italian cheeses. The plate also came with toasted sourdough - toasted on one side which didn't make it too crisp.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Gorgeous gougères

There's nothing nicer with drinks than something warm, crisp and cheesy and gougères fit the bill perfectly. I made a batch last night for a couple of friends and wondered why I didn't make them more often. (Probably just as well, on reflection. We scoffed the lot.)

Basically they're a cheese-flavoured choux puff and choux pastry is the easiest type of pastry to make. You simply melt the butter in water, tip in the flour, beat in the eggs and spoon it out. Well, pretty much. Here's the actual recipe from my book Food, Wine and Friends which is out of print though you should be able to find a second hand copy.

Makes 20-24
50g (2 oz) butter
75g (3 oz) strong white flour, sifted with 1/4 tsp salt and a pinch of cayenne pepper
2 large (but not extra-large) eggs and some extra beaten egg
50g (2 oz) mature Gruyère or Comté, finely grated (but not as fine as parmesan. I used Beaufort which I happened to have in the fridge which worked just as well)

You'll also need 2 lightly oiled baking trays

Preheat the oven to 220°C/425°F/Gas 7. Measure 150 ml (5 fl oz) of water into a saucepan and add the butter cut into cubes. Heat gently until the butter has dissolved then bring to the boil.

Take the pan off the heat and tip in the sifted flour all at once. Beat vigorously with a wooden spoon until the mixture forms a ball and leaves the sides of the pan clean. Set aside for 5 minutes.

Beat the large eggs and add them to the pastry bit by bit, working them in till the mixture is smooth and glossy (This is much easier and quicker in a food processor) Add all except 1 heaped tbsp of the cheese.

Beat the remaining egg and brush the top of each puff lightly with a pastry brush, sprinkling them with the remaining cheese.

Run the two baking sheets under the tap to make them slightly damp. Shake off any excess water. Using two teaspoons place spoonfuls of the mixture onto each sheet then bake in the oven for about 25 minutes until puffed up and golden. (Some people pipe the paste which gives you more perfect results but I can't be bothered.)

Remove the gougères from the oven and cut a small slit in the base of each to let the hot air escape and keep them crisp. Pop them back in the oven again, base side upwards for a minute then remove and cool on a wire rack.

Eat warm so if you make them ahead - and you can - just heat them through for about 4 minutes in a moderate oven. (Very good with Chablis and other white burgundy or a glass of champagne.)