Next month the Real Food Festival begins at Earl's Court. It's more or less the biggest farmers' market ever, showcasing 500 of the world's finest artisan food producers. There will be lots of great cheesemakers there, including rock star turned cheesemaker Alex James and Juliet Harbutt, chairman of the British Cheese Awards, who are doing a joint gig to promote their latest new product, Farleigh Wallop, a camembert-style goat cheese imbued with the aroma of a fresh sprig of thyme.
Some of the least interesting cheeses come to life when they are mixed with other ingredients. The amazing vacherin, for example, has natural qualities when heated up that transforms it into a perfect after-dinner fondue. And some of the Mediterranean countries produce cheeses that can only really be enjoyed when cooked or melted.
Angel hair fried halloumi
I was recently in my local Turkish supermarket, TFC in Ridley Road Market, looking for a little inspiration. It's one of my favourite local shops; you can almost buy anything there from delicious kataifi pastry to fresh lambs' testicles. Kataifi is a bit like finely shredded filo pastry and is handy for wrapping prawns, oysters or fish and deep frying, or for making those sticky sweet Mediterranean pastries.
These make great little snacks for drinks or you could make them into a starter with some of those long Turkish peppers, simply grilled.
1x 250g piece of halloumi
100-150g kataifi pastry
Vegetable or corn oil for deep frying
Pre-heat about 8cm of oil to 160-180C in a large thick-bottomed saucepan or electric deep fat fryer. Cut the halloumi into 10 finger sized pieces. Mix the flour with enough water to make a wet paste. Pull enough of the kataifi pastry away in as long a piece as you can to wrap round the cheese. Brush a little of the paste on the cheese and wrap a good layer of pastry round the cheese. Deep fry for 2-3 minutes until golden then drain on some kitchen paper.
Sprouting broccoli with garlic fondue
I'm still convinced there's going to be a fondue revival. Cookery shops are still selling fondue sets, so there must be some people out there having swinging Seventies fondue parties (where's my invite?). Sprouting broccoli is one of my favourite vegetables before the asparagus season. It's perfect for dipping into fondue as the flowery heads retain the sauce.
1 clove of garlic, peeled
200ml dry white wine
100ml double cream
120g Gruyère, grated
120g Emmental, grated
60g Beaufort or Vacherin, grated or cut into small pieces
10-14 young heads of sprouting broccoli
Bring the garlic clove, white wine and cream to the boil and simmer gently for a couple of minutes.
Whisk or stir in the cheeses until they are melted. If the cheese doesn't completely melt and you find that the mixture is still a bit stringy, you don't need to worry too much, as the wine and juices will eventually evaporate and prevent the cheese from burning while you are eating.
Then transfer the fondue to a lit fondue bowl or heat-proof serving dish over a pan of simmering water.
Meanwhile, cook the sprouting broccoli in boiling salted water for 3-4 minutes so that it still has a bite, and then drain it. Then all you have to do is dip the sprouting broccoli in the fondue, and it's back to the Seventies again – time to start swinging!
Piccata of veal with taleggio and spinach
We used to make a dish like this at The Dorchester with Anton Mossiman, and serve it on green tagliatelle with a Madeira sauce. Although veal is popular on the Continent, British veal hasn't really taken off in the past because of dubious production methods, but now British rose veal is produced to the high welfare standards and offers a credible alternative.
8 thin slices of veal fillet, weighing about 50g each
Flour for dusting
1 egg, beaten
1 can of chopped tomatoes
8 slices of taleggio
2-3tbsp olive oil
2-3 handfuls of spinach
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Season and simmer the chopped tomatoes on a medium heat until most of the liquid has evaporated; put to one side. With the palm of your hand or a meat bat, flatten the fillets to about 1/3cm thick.
Season and lightly flour the veal fillets, then pass them through the beaten egg. Heat a tablespoon of the oil in a heavy based frying pan and cook the fillets quickly on a high heat for a minute on each side until they colour nicely. Lay the veal on a tray; spoon a little of the tomato mixture on top, then a slice of taleggio.
Meanwhile, heat the grill. Heat the rest of the olive oil in a large pan and cook the spinach on a medium heat, seasoning and stirring every so often until just tender then drain in a colander.
Heat the pieces of veal under the grill for 3-4 minutes until the cheese has melted, then spoon the spinach on to serving plates and lay the veal on top.
Chicory salad with gorgonzola and walnuts
There are lots of interesting members of the chicory family at this time of the year such as witloof, the common bulbous heads of Belgium endive, puntarelle (a green spider leaved plant with tasty hearts), and the trevisso family, including the fine leaved spider trevisso. All these can be used in this salad although be careful: some can be bitter.
A selection of chicory, cut into even sized pieces and washed
24 walnuts, shelled
1tbsp olive oil
2tsp sea salt
For the dressing
1tbsp cider vinegar
1tsp clear honey
2tsp Dijon mustard
2tbsp olive oil
2tbsp vegetable or corn oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Dry the chicory leaves in a salad spinner or colander. Whisk all the ingredients for the dressing together and season. Mix the walnuts with the olive oil and salt and lightly toast them under the grill or in the oven. To serve, toss the chicory leaves in the dressing, season and arrange in a bowl. Scatter the walnuts over, then break the gorgonzola into pieces and scatter over the salad.
As you probably know by now, I prefer using the original 18th century name for what is now commonly called rarebit. You can use grilled strips of streaky bacon or used diced-up chunks in the mix as I have done here. Serve it as a savoury or as a canapé or drinks snack.
150g Cheddar cheese, grated
2 egg yolks
2tsp Worcester sauce
1tsp English mustard
80ml Guinness, stout or ale
80ml double cream
4 slices bread – a small bloomer-style loaf is ideal
Salt and pepper
4 rashers of streaky bacon cut into small dice
4 quails' eggs
A couple of knobs of butter
Simmer the Guinness until it has reduced by half, add the cream and then reduce this by half again until it is really thick. Leave to cool.
Meanwhile, cook the bacon in a frying pan on a medium heat for a few minutes until lightly coloured, drain on some kitchen paper; mix with the cheese mixture. Mix in the other ingredients, except the bread, eggs and butter, and season. Toast the bread on both sides, spread the cheese mixture on top, about 1cm thick, and to the edges to avoid burning, and grill on a medium heat until nicely browned. Gently fry the quails' eggs in the butter and place on top of the browned cheese mixture.
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