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Fennel baked with Parmesan

27 Mar

Like all great dishes this one is so simple and so delicious. I first tried this one New Year in Italy at our friends house where Maggie always cooks up a storm of simple food with a big taste. It makes an excellent first course, vegetable side or light lunch.

Serves  4
Prep: 15mins  Cooking 30mins

  • 2 fennel bubs
  • Olive oil
  • Cracked sea salt and black pepper
  • Parmesan cheese freshly grated

Wash and trim whole fennel bulbs then slice the bulbs vertically through the middle so that you have 2 mirror halves of each. Place these in a pan with water just covering bring to the boil and simmer for 10-15mins until only just tender. Drain and lay the 4 halves flat side down in a oiled baking dish drizzle with olive oil and a pinch each of cracked sea salt and black pepper. (if you are cooking for a dinner party this stage can be prepared in advance and left aside to finish just before serving). Bake in a moderate oven for 20-30mins. Sprinkle a generous amount of parmesan over the fennel 5 minutes before the end of cooking and put back in the oven. Serve hot sprinkled with a little more grated or shaved parmesan if desired.


Bean, Roquefort & Walnut salad

7 Oct

Lightly cooked green beans make a delicious salad ingredient, teamed with salty Roquefort cheese and walnuts they are divine. This protein rich salad makes a great vegetarian lunch, starter or light super while green beans are at their best from June to October.

  • Green Beans
  • Roquefort cheese, crumbled
  • Walnuts, Shelled and bashed
  • Olive oil
  • Walnut Vinegar or a light vinegar or lemon juice

Pinch the growing ends off the beans and snap them in half. Drop the beans into a pan of boiling water and cook covered for 4-5 minutes then drain and rinse under cold water. While the beans are slightly warm sprinkle on some crumbled Roquefort and walnuts, drizzle with a little olive oil and a sprinkling of walnut vinegar. Toss well to coat then sprinkle a little extra crumbled Roquefort. & nuts over the top.

Cooks Note the ratio of nuts and cheese to beans is really a matter of taste, I like lots of everything. But do use freshly shelled nuts as the oil in walnuts like other nuts tends to get an acrid nasty taste when its old.

Recipe Source The inspiration for this recipe came from The Complete Book of Vegetables, Herbs and Fruit, a great reference book on growing anything edible or useful. With this recipe I have simplified it by dropping the garlic, balsamic vinegar and seasoning as I think the fresh ingredients have enough flavour of their own. The simpler the better in my opinion.

Original post 21/6/2008

Summer Salad (Greek)

5 Oct
Of all the countries in the world, to my mind, the Greeks do the best summer salads. It is not just the Aegean blue and blazing sun that make them taste so good they really know how to make the simple, chunky ingredients of summer sing.

Cucumber, cut into chunks
Onions, sweet ones sliced
Fresh herbs: parsley, basil, thyme or marjoram
Lemon juice (optional)
Olive oil (optional)

    Simply chop the vegetables into bite size pieces, season with salt and chopped herbs and that is it. As the vegetables are fairly juicy they create their own dressing but you can give it a touch of oil and lemon juice too. I sometimes use Salted Parsley Preserve instead of fresh parsley as the only addition for speed.

    Variations To the basic vegetable ingredients you can add all manner of stuff to make a more substantial salad. I particularly like adding a handull of pickled caper berries, black olives, feta cheese, chopped boiled egg or cured ham.

    My Aegean Spice Mix
    This is my own blend of herbs and spices that remind me of the Aegean, I use it to season raw summer veg and grillades. Fresh herbs such as oregano, mountain thyme, mint dried and rubbed then mixed with sea salt, dried lemon zest and ground chilli.

    Gardeners Note
    Summer salads like these start in June with the first cherry tomatoes and cucumbers from the polytunnel and carry on until the last rays of summer sun in October.

    Spinach Pélardon Lasagne

    28 Jun

    This is a lovely vegetarian lasagne using the famous speciality cheese of our region, the Pélardon. The Pélardons are small, round, soft-ripened goat cheese that, when bought young, is smooth and creamy with a mild taste. This lasagne is so easy to knock up with ingredients straight from the garden and any kind of soft goats cheese. It is also a great cupboard quicky using passata or pasta sauce from the pantry and quickly thawed spinach from the freezer.
    • Olive oil
    • large colander full of spinach
    • 2 cloves garlic
    • 2 small rounds of goat cheese (Pélardon)
    • 200-400g home made ricotta, cottage cheese, thick yogurt or creme fraîche
    • 3-4 tbsp grated parmesan
    • 1x250g jar home-made tomato sauce or passata
    • fresh basil
    • sheets of ready to cook lasagne
    Preheat Oven to 180c
    Choose an oven proof dish that will accommodate one or more sheets of lasagne in a single layer. Wash the spinach then plunge into boiling water for a few minutes to blanch. Drain and chop, mix with the cheeses and garlic (reserving 2 tbsp of parmesan). Season with salt and pepper and set aside. Drizzle a little olive oil in the bottom of the baking dish then add a couple of spoons (about a quarter of the jar) of tomato sauce and some basil leaves, a layer of pasta, a couple more spoons of tomato and another layer of pasta. Spread a layer of half the spinach and cheese mix followed by a layer of pasta then the other half of the cheese and pasta again. Spoon on a thin layer of tomato sauce another layer of pasta and a final layer of tomato and sprinkle with the remaining parmesan.
    Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes, remove the foil and bake for another 5 -10 minutes until the top is golden.
    Add pinenuts to the cheese and spinach mix for a little added richness.
    Cooks’ Tip
    Use fresh or frozen spinach. I grow spinach in the cooler months then blanch for 2 minutes and freeze in batches, which are perfect for this dish. Home-made bottled tomato pasta sauce makes this dish even easier.