Melt away: From artisan British blue to a cow's variety from the Irish mountains, Mark Hix celebrates the versatility of cheese

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

 

Melted, crumbled, deep-fried or simply sliced, the wonderful thing about cheese is its versatility. It's such an easy ingredient to incorporate into all sorts of dinner-party dishes; and cheese can transform the humblest of vegetable dishes into something quite special.

British Cheese Week begins today – so I thought I would celebrate by devoting this week's column to our delicious cheeses, as well as others from around Europe. If you want to find out more, visit thecheeseweb.com.

In some countries, cheese is more of a starter than an after-the-meal course and in Italy a big hunk of Parmigiano Reggiano often makes a welcome appearance as a delicious, simple pre-dinner nibble – can you imagine the same thing with a chunk of cheddar?

Slow-baked tomatoes with Blue Monday

Serves 4 as a starter

Slow-baking is a good way of using up an excess of tomatoes you have grown, or cheap ones you have bought from the market. Once they are cooked you can preserve them in sterilised Kilner-type jars with a rubber seal, in olive oil with thyme, oregano or basil. Then use them chopped or blended into pasta sauces

I've used Alex James's famous Blue Monday here, but any soft blue cheese would also be fine. As a starter you can serve it with a few leaves of rocket or a similar salad. I've used a few different varieties of tomato here to add colour.

10 medium-sized mixed tomatoes
1tbsp olive oil </br>2tsp chopped thyme leaves
1tsp sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

To serve:
150g Blue Monday or another soft blue cheese
3tbsp extra virgin olive oil
tbsp good-quality red wine or balsamic vinegar
A few herb leaves like bush or Greek basil

Preheat the oven to 120C/gas mark 1-2 (preferably fan oven). Halve the tomatoes, cutting through the core. Lay them, cut-side up, on a baking tray lined with lightly oiled greaseproof paper. Lightly brush over the olive oil and scatter the thyme, sea salt and black pepper.

Cook in the oven for about 2-3 hours until the tomatoes have reduced in size by about half. Some ovens may take longer. Leave to cool a little.

To serve, arrange the tomatoes on serving plates, break up the Blue Monday and scatter on top with the basil leaves, then mix the oil and vinegar together and spoon over.

Wild mushrooms with Parmesan crust

Serves 4

This is a nice, simple, tasty dish that you can make with one variety or a selection of wild mushrooms. The Parmesan crust can be made in advance and scattered on all sorts of pasta or vegetable dishes.

400-500g wild mushrooms, cleaned
1-2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
2tbsp olive oil
60g butter
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the crust:
40g fresh white breadcrumbs
30g butter
40g freshly grated Parmesan
2tbsp chopped parsley

First make the crust. Melt the butter in a frying pan and brown the crumbs, stirring them so they get an even colour. Transfer to a bowl and leave to cool, then stir in the Parmesan and parsley and season.

Heat the olive oil and garlic in a frying pan and cook the mushrooms on a medium heat for 3-4 minutes, seasoning them and turning them as they are cooking, adding the butter towards the end of cooking. To serve, spoon the mushrooms on to warmed serving plates and scatter the crust over.

Macaroni pie

Serves 4

I had something like this in Barbados some years ago which was delicious .

200-250g shortcrust pastry, rolled to one-third of a cm thick
150g macaroni, cooked
300g mascarpone cheese
150g grated cheddar plus another 20g to scatter on top
150ml double cream
Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 180C/gas mark 5.

Grease and line an approximately 25cm x 3cm-deep flan tin with a removable base with the shortcrust pastry and trim the edges. Line with foil or greaseproof paper and fill with baking beans, bake for about 15 minutes then remove the greaseproof paper and beans and return to the oven for another 6-7 minutes, then remove from the oven and turn the oven up to 220C/gas mark 7.

Meanwhile, melt the mascarpone in a thick-bottomed pan with the Cheddar and bring it to the boil. Add the double cream, season with salt and pepper and simmer for a couple of minutes until it thickens. Whisk the sauce well and mix with the cooked pasta.

Put the macaroni mixture into the flan case and scatter the extra Cheddar on top. Bake for 20-25 minutes until browned.

Leeks on toast with shaved coolea

Serves 4

Coolea is a lovely Irish cheese that has the characteristics of a Dutch cheese.

4-5 medium-sized leeks
4 slices of sourdough
2-3tbsp olive oil
70-80g coolea
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cook the leeks in boiling salted water for 10-12 minutes until tender, then remove and leave to cool. Cut the leeks into -1cm lozenges. Toast the bread, arrange the leeks on top, season and spoon over the oil. Shave the coolea or Parmesan with a sharp knife; arrange on the leeks.

Join Mark Hix, Alex James, beer expert Rupert Ponsonby and Patricia Michelson of La Fromagerie for a British cheese and beer masterclass at Mark's bar, Hix, 66-70 Brewer Street, London W1 on 3 October at 7pm. Tickets £50; contact lianne@hixfoodetc.co.uk

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
Voices
A meteor streaks across the sky during the Perseid Meteor Shower at a wind farm near Bogdanci, south of Skopje, Macedonia, in the early hours of 13 August
voicesHagel and Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise, says Robert Fisk
News
peopleEnglishman managed quintessential Hollywood restaurant Chasen's
Life and Style
food + drinkHarrods launches gourmet food qualification for staff
Arts and Entertainment
Michael Flatley prepares to bid farewell to the West End stage
danceMichael Flatley hits West End for last time alongside Team GB World champion Alice Upcott
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
i100
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T plays live in 2007 before going on hiatus from 2010
arts + entsSinger-songwriter will perform on the Festival Republic Stage
Life and Style
food + drinkThese simple recipes will have you refreshed within minutes
News
Jermain Defoe got loads of custard
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Oracle 11g SQL 2008 DBA (Unix, Oracle RAC, Mirroring, Replicati

    £6000 - £50000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: Oracle 11...

    Recruitment Consultant (Graduate Trainee), Finchley Central

    £17K OTE £30K: Charter Selection: Highly successful and innovative specialist...

    SQL DBA/ C# Developer - T-SQL, C#.Net

    £45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Working with an exciting ...

    Sales and Office Administrator – Sports Media

    £23,000: Sauce Recruitment: A global leader in sports and entertainment is now...

    Day In a Page

    All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

    Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

    Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
    Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

    Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

    So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
    Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

    Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

    Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
    What happens to African migrants once they land in Italy during the summer?

    What happens to migrants once they land in Italy?

    Memphis Barker follows their trail through southern Europe
    French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

    French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

    The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
    Frank Mugisha: Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked

    Frank Mugisha: 'Coming out was a gradual process '

    Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked
    Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

    Radio 1’s new top ten

    The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
    David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

    David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

    A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
    Florence Knight's perfect picnic: Make the most of summer's last Bank Holiday weekend

    Florence Knight's perfect picnic

    Polpetto's head chef shares her favourite recipes from Iced Earl Grey tea to baked peaches, mascarpone & brown sugar meringues...
    Horst P Horst: The fashion photography genius who inspired Madonna comes to the V&A

    Horst P Horst comes to the V&A

    The London's museum has delved into its archives to stage a far-reaching retrospective celebrating the photographer's six decades of creativity
    Mark Hix recipes: Try our chef's summery soups for a real seasonal refresher

    Mark Hix's summery soups

    Soup isn’t just about comforting broths and steaming hot bowls...
    Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'

    Tim Sherwood column

    I would have taken the Crystal Palace job if I’d been offered it soon after my interview... but the whole process dragged on so I had to pull out
    Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

    Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

    Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
    Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

    Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

    The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
    Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

    Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

    The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition