Pudding then cheese? Cheese then pudding? Quelle dilemma!
Do you stick with British tradition, and follow dessert with a nubbin of stilton and a mouthful of port? Or do you follow our French neighbours who, despite just being 21 miles across The Channel, dine in a different order? There, cheese is served straight after main course. Le français decree that sucré must always follow salé, and save pudding for last.*
Here’s a diplomatic solution! A Franco-Anglo cheese-based pudding, which features good bits of both courses. Now bear with me, this isn’t as bonkers as it sounds. Fruit and cheese have been good friends forever. And a revived interest in products like goats curd and buttermilk means people are experimenting with more savoury-sweet, cheese-like flavours. Changing food trends are seeing puddings veer away from ubiquitous sweetness to something more - dare I say - sophisticated.
Traditionally, panna cotta was thought of as rich a creamy-sweet dessert. But a tangy, buttermilk version, served with ever-so-slightly sharp fruit, is creeping onto more menus round Britain. At a trip to St John’s recently, we ate Eccles Cake with Lincolnshire Poacher, and Tom Hunt’s team served ‘goat cheese whipped cream’ with a lemon tart at our wedding earlier this summer.
It makes total sense when you think about it. It’s long been acknowledged that a salty streak can enhance a pudding – take salted shortbread, miso caramel, olive-chocolate truffles or even candied bacon fudge. And if there’s one thing that a lump of goats cheese or a slab of stilton have in common, it’s a hefty streak of salt. So maybe this isn’t as mad as it first sounded, and is just the tip of the cheesy-pudding iceberg.
* The exception to this rule is the notorious rebel that is Mary Berry, who despite being a British icon recently caused a scandal by revealing that she conducted things the French way, and served cheese before pudding.
Blackberry and Goats Cheese Tartlets
175g ready-made puff pastry
40g soft goats cheese
1 tsp runny honey
6 sprigs of thyme (optional)
2. Lightly flour a surface, and roll out the puff pastry. Use a cutter to cut out six circles, and very gently push them in to the jam tart tray.
You don’t have to ram them into the tray, so the pastry is pressed against the bottom – just push them down so that the sides slightly crimp, and so that there’s enough of a dip to hold the filling.
3. Now use your fingers to crumble up the soft goats cheese, and then mix with the quark, honey and egg into a basic custard.
4. Divide the mixture between the six cases, and then place three blackberries in the centre of each.
5. Put in a pre-heated oven at 200°C for 15 minutes, or until the pastry is golden, and the custard is just-set.
- These were really nice served with 1:1 ‘whipped cream : plain yoghurt’, with a drizzle of honey.
- Experiment by changing levels of sweetness/sourness by switching the quark for crème fraîche, plain yoghurt or double cream (for sweeter) or sour cream (for more savoury).
- I added ‘optional thyme’ in the ingredient list, because I experimented by using a sprig as a garnish –but of course it got a bit frazzled after a blast in a 200°C oven. I pulled off the unsightly oven-cooked thyme, and there was actually was a lovely level of thyme-aroma left behind. Still if/when I make these again, I might stir a few thyme leaves into the custard, as I think (hope!) or might just garnish with some fresh thyme leaves after cooking.
- When cooking puff pastry, the most important thing to remember is to make sure that the oven is HOT before you put it in, and try to resist the temptation of opening and shutting the door while cooking, as this will make the temperature drop.