Posts Tagged ‘cheese’

A few months ago ‘Austerity Monday’ was introduced in the flat. When I say ‘introduced’, I really mean ‘enforced’. Cook’s prerogative. An as self-appointed head cook, I thought it’d be a good idea.

Austerity Monday first happened when I’d treated myself to a weekend of boiling down pork bones into a stock. Steaming up the windows. Sending drips of condensation trickling down the white walls. And performing some sort of alchemy which turns Thames tap water into a delicious meaty jelly.

I couldn’t help but think I’d make my Great Grandma Grete proud. She was renowned for sitting at the kitchen table after Sunday lunch, clawing the last bit of meat off the chicken carcass before it was allowed to be put in the stockpot. Because that’s proper cooking. And what kind of world are we living in where chicken carcasses and pork bones are so frequently thrown away? A world where people have better things to do during the weekend than dance around a big stockpot with excitement, steaming their faces with meat-flavoured vapour?

So the first austerity Monday involved a bowl of pork-flavoured broth. My flatmates pretended to be disgusted, but gobbled down the ramen. And so began the tradition of daals, suspicious stews and leftovers, on what has become a competitively meagre, and joyfully miserable evening of the week.

There was, incidentally, a lapse in Austerity Monday when I went on holiday for a week in November. My flatmate sent me a photograph entitled ‘Austerity Monday is out of the window’. The fact he was so quick to introduce Frivolity Monday in my absence implies that the weekly frugal meal is mainly done to humour me. And not for the joy of a puritanical start to the week.

Anyway, as most of you will have noticed, today is Monday. So I thought I’d share tonight’s supper with you: jacket potato.

“Who blogs a jacket potato?” I hear you cry. Well, I suppose I do. Because a jacket potato is an enormously underrated supper. For a long time my boyfriend had a real prejudice against jacket potatoes. I think he saw them as ‘tea’ not ‘dinner’. And mixing the two is disorientating for him.

But on a Monday evening there’s something wonderful about a jacket potato. A super use of a potato you have lying around. And a super use for the gnarled piece of cheese that’s been festering in the fridge since 2012.

Now, Felicity Cloake – who I normally have nothing but love for – spent quite a lot of time deliberating the ‘Perfect Jacket Potato’, baking, brining and massaging oil into a single spud. But on a chilly Monday evening there’s a lot to be said for keeping it simple.

Stab a potato repeatedly with a fork, and stick it in the microwave for 5 minutes or so…

Those whose mothers told them never to stand too close to the microwave will probably know that it’s because they cook things from the inside out – unlike an oven which works outside in. This is good news if you’re trying to accelerate the cooking of a potato. But obviously not so good if you still secretly harbour a fear that the microwave waves are also cooking you from the inside out if you stand too close.

Anyway, switch the oven on to 180C while the potato is whirring away. And then move the hot potatoes from the microwave to the oven for 20-30 minutes to crisp up nicely.

Stuff with butter and cheese. And serve with lashings of coleslaw. (About 75p for 180g, so just allowed to slip past Austerity Monday stringent guidelines.)

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When it comes to nasty things lurking in the fridge, a gnarldy piece of cheese ranks highly. Everyone’s got one. An old lump of Cathederal City, a pongy bit of Castello Blue, or a slippery piece of brie that keeps trying to escape whenever you open the door.

Well, those of you with a good memory may recall the wonderful cheese parcel that I received on 13 October. After initially gorging myself, I became increasingly frugal about eking out the rest of the cheese…which resulted in a sweaty piece of pont l’eveque creating a big old stink in the fridge. Two months later.

I don’t like binning things unless absolutely necessary. And it’s never really necessary to bin a piece of cheese—no matter how fluffy or sweaty.
Although it wasn’t really acceptable to eat the pont l’eveque on a biscuit anymore, it was the ultimate ingredient for a very cheesy, cheese sauce—the kind that gently stings the nostrils. Yum.

So, with a pre-prepared jug of cheese sauce in the fridge, and a corporate-entertainment-weary boyfriend, lastnight was the perfect opportunity to whip up some macaroni and cheese. The ultimate comfort food.

• Flour, butter and milk for a roux (ratio of 1 tablespoon of butter to 2 tablespoons of white flour and about half a pint of milk. Go full fat. You know you want to.)
• Cheese to flavour the roux. The smellier the better, and don’t feel constricted to one cheese—if you’ve got a few odds and ends in the fridge then chuck them all in.

• A couple of rashers of bacon per person (cooked ham is even better)
• A small handful of frozen broad beans per person
• Around 75 grams of macaroni per person

To make the cheese sauce, mix together the flour and butter in a medium-hot pan. Cook it gently until it turns a straw-like colour, and then slowly add milk, whisking thoroughly as you go.

Once you’ve achieved a panful of creamy, white sauce, then grate in the cheese (if it’s hard) or tear it into small pieces (if it’s soft), and add it to the hot sauce so it melts in.

To turn this into mac ‘n cheese, boil the macaroni in one saucepan, and then cut the bacon into strips and pop it into a frying pan.
Have both the pans going at the same time, because the bacon and pasta will both take about ten minutes to do.

When you think the pasta has just a few minutes left of cooking, chuck the broad beans (or peas) in with it. Strain the beans and pasta and tip them into a baking dish. Add the bacon to the dish, and then pour the hot cheese sauce all over everything—stir and season.

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When my friend Charlie moved to France to become an apple trader (!) he announced that he was going to try a different cheese each day.

This is Charlie. He knows a lot about apples.

I pointed out that this mightn’t be the healthiest approach to life on the continent. He acquiesced, and settled for a different cheese each week instead.

I jumped on the idea and appointed him as The Food I Eat’s foreign correspondent. The plan was that Charlie would photograph and write about each cheese, and I’d post it on the blog—a sort of cheese columnist, sending overseas news to the ‘office’ in Bethnal Green.

The main stumbling block in this plan was that Charlie never photographed the cheeses. He didn’t write about them either—though I do gather that he ate a lot, so he didn’t entirely diverge from the initial plan.

I began to grumble a bit about his lack of cheese posts, and tried to persuade him to restrain himself enough to photograph the cheese before wolfing it down, or to pen some notes before drifting into a cheese-induced stupor. But it’s hard to get boys to do what you want.

So, Charlie found his own solution to the problem, and turned up on my doorstep yesterday with four cheeses in his hand luggage. Well, it was hand luggage until he was made to check it into the hold—something to do with stinking out the cabin, or the fact that the centre of a Mont d’Or was technically over the 100ml liquid limit…

So, lastnight Charlie, Tom and I unleashed the cheeses, and had a little smackeral of each — two for starter, and two for pudding. By flying over the cheeses himself, I’ve let Charlie off the writing and photography, so here are the results of the long-awaited cheese tasting:

Petit Livarot

This cheese honked like a farmyard, and tasted a little bit of manure too…but a sweet, sweet manure—Tom announced that he loved it so much he’d like a Petit Livarot enema, but we ignored him because, frankly, that’s revolting.

The Normandy cheese is known as The Colonel because the reed strips that hold it together and stop it from escaping are (apparently) a little like uniform stripes…though to be honest, you’ve got to have eaten a hell of a lot of Petit Livarot before you reach such a cheese frenzy you start to notice its resemblance to army officers.

It’s made from cow’s milk, has ‘long legs’ (in the wine drinking sense), and tasted of dreams…and faintly of cows’ bottom. Highly recommended.

Sainte Maure de Touraine

This is Charlie’s local cheese, and was my favourite of the four. While a cheese connoisseur might deem a crumbly Tesco’s goat’s cheese an imposter on the cheeseboard, the Sainte Maure de Touraine bridges the gap between a goaty goat’s cheese and a high end cheeseboard cheese.

It’s faintly sticky on the outside, and has a straw in it—not a drinking straw to slurp up its cheesy goodness, but a piece of straw running through it to hold it all together.

Traditionally the Sainte Maure de Touraine is rolled into a 12” log. According to local legend, cheese eaters shouldn’t start with the narrow end of the log —apparently it’s like cutting off the udder of a goat which, of course, isn’t a good thing if you’re into goats’ cheese. The cheese itself was pleasantly nutty, and had a definite hint of the goat about it. Highly recommended.

Pont L’Eveque AOC

Charlie took a big whiff, announced that The Pont smelt like ammonia. To be fair, it did sting the nostrils.

Apparently this is the oldest Norman cheese still in production—dating back to the 12th century when it was made by monks. It smelt and tasted of the olden days, a bit like the Jorvik Viking Centre and battle reenactment societies.

It’s a meaty cheese—a meal in itself, with a long and bitter aftertaste. An acquired taste, but still a highly recommended cheese.

Mont d’Or

“I can feel it clogging my arteries” Tom said, “…in a good way”. Three biscuits in he clutched his chest and thought he was having a heart attack. But then I watched him snaffle a forth biscuit loaded with Mont d’Or when he thought I wasn’t looking.

This really is the cheese of dreams—more robust and nuttier than brie, and often eaten with a spoon, which is an excellent way to tackle such a more-ish cheese.

Mont d’Or is best enjoyed after a long, hard day of exercise because then you can polish off an entire pot without being quite so wracked with guilt. Highly recommended.

Doing biscuits the French way

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Cheese quiz

Rate yourself as a cheese connoisseur?

Wile away your lunchbreak with this cheesy quiz on the guardian website.

Share your score in the comments below. Cheese fail or cheese master?

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When a baby bird hatches from an egg, it decides that the first thing it sees is its mother. Well, when my friend Rob came round from general anesthetic, the first thing he saw was a pineapple. Really. His mum had put it on his bedside table.

It would be wrong to imply that this is where his pineapple fetish began—apparently Rob and pineapples go way, way back. Pineapples in curry, on baked potatoes, impaled on a cocktail stick with cheese, in lasagne….he did draw the line at pineapple in shepherd’s pie though: “that’s just stupid”.

It’s a mysterious fruit – neither a pine nor an apple. And one with such strong connotations. A pineapple ring on gammon steak harks back to the days when Toby Carvery was in its prime, a pineapple filled with piña colada belongs on Hawaiian sunset cruises…and cheese and pineapple on cocktail sticks jabbed into foil-wrapped melons are to be wolfed down by moustached men wearing all-in-one ski suits, firing up fondues and flinging their car keys in a dish.

Rarely do you come across a fruit that divides opinion like a pineapple. The uncompromising nature of a Hawiian pizza, the floaty chunks of pineapple which haunt a sweet and sour sauce, and the sickly sweetness of a Tiki cocktail.

What is the story of this peculiar fruit though? Some suggest that Christopher Columbus first stumbled across the pineapple on Guadeloupe in 1493, while others credit Magellan with the fruit’s discovery as he allegedly transported it from Brazil to England in 1519. Interestingly, it wasn’t until 1770 that Captain Cook introduced the pineapple to Hawaii—the island which it’s most strongly associated with now.

It was on the island of Hawaii that the pineapple’s story gets interesting. When Queen Lili’o‘kalani was overthrown in 1893, the island was governed by a certain Sanford B. Dole. Now, Dole’s 22-year old cousin John saved up enough money to emigrate to the island and buy a 64 acre estate where he started planting pineapples.
When things kicked off, he decided to start canning the fruit so it’d keep longer, and invested in a new machine that could peel and core 35 pineapples each minute. Just imagine. By 1921 the Dole Hawaiian Pineapple Company had grown so big, pineapples had become Hawaii’s largest crop and its biggest industry.

Today, the pineapples are the third most canned fruit (pipped to the crown by apple sauce and peaches!) but the real question is how to use pineapples in cooking in a way that doesn’t make everything taste of 1975. I’ve posted some photos which will firstly will prove the point that it’s hard to cook with pineapples in a sensible fashion, and secondly, will (I suspect) make Rob very happy.

This is the only pineapple recipe I’ve ever really liked. It’s a Jamie Oliver gem called pukka pineapple or something along those lines.
Other than this recipe, I think the only safe solution is to eat the fruit neat. If know of any decent pineapple recipes, please send them my way. Or if you think I’ve been harsh on the fruit leave me a note below which might convince me to be more tolerant of the poor old pineapple.

1 ripe pineapple
4 heaped teaspoons of caster sugar
1 handful of fresh mint
optional: yoghurt to serve

Cut the pineapple into quarters lengthways (having removed the core). Finely slice and arrange on a big plate.
Use a pestle and mortar to grind together the sugar and mint. The sugar will start to turn green, and it will smell so fresh and delicious. Sprinkle this over the pineapple, and serve with plain yoghurt.

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The City seems to goes through various stages of evolution. In the ‘80s it was all cocaine and prostitutes… now it’s all super-food salads and cycling to work.

In my mind, most modern day City dwellers fall into one of these two groups though – the ‘80s throwbacks, (Stringfellows/Abacus) or the twenty-first century traders (Chop’d/Chrussh Juice Bar). The weird thing is that my boyfriend falls into neither. He’s in his own nineteenth century bubble.

I’d only had lunch with him once in The City. It was a sunny day, but we went to The Swan – a Victorian pub where everything’s dark wood, swirly carpets and 38°c. It was crammed full of barking brokers crushed together in a pin-striped pack. We had a beef sandwich…but the businessmen were exuding extraordinary amounts of body heat, the mustard was luminous and everything was a bit…heady and Victorian. Not in a good way.

He relishes these smoggy, fusty pints though. He’s hot on tradition, real ale and whether or not to experiment with fob watches. When eulogising his sepia-tinted view of London, ‘Simpsons’ is sometimes brought into the conversation – the archetypal old school institution that’s still going strong in the twenty first century.
It’s a traditional tavern that didn’t admit women until 1916, still has hat stands for your bowler, and only serves battered cod on a Friday. Being the inquisitive type, it was just a matter of time until I persuaded him to take me there to check it out for myself..

As a bit of a cynic when it comes to most things to do with The City, I was expecting the worst. To sum up though, it was brilliant. It’s down a tiny alley off Cornhill, and has been there since 1757 – apparently Thomas More once lived in the same building before it was turned into a tavern. There are two levels in the restaurant, which are packed with booth seats – old boxes taken from Lloyds of London which cram in diners like pupils in a prep school refectory.

There’s no beating around the bush at Simpsons. The gist of the place is that it does meat, and it does it well. Not only does it do meat well, but it serves all meat dishes with an extra sausage just in case – old school carnivorous stuff.

We started off with the chump chop. It was cooked in an open kitchen, and brought to us by a lovely waitresses (with a sausage, of course). The meat was delicious and wonderfully cooked – my only sadness was that we didn’t go for the mixed grill where I would have got to experience an even wider variety of meaty treats than the lamb and sausage - apparently it’s an admirable selection.

We had four sides between three of us – mushrooms, spinach, chips and bubble and squeak (I said that it was old school stuff). Sure, the sides weren’t haute cuisine. When it says mushrooms on the menu, it really does mean mushrooms – no butter, garlic or herbs meddling about with bare mushroomy flavours. Same with the spinachy spinach and the standard chips.

The grand finale of the meal was the much anticipated ‘stewed cheese’ though….

There were two ‘old boys’ crammed into the box next to me wearing expensive suits with excellent facial hair. They ordered two stewed cheeses to finish, and two large glasses of claret at two o’clock in the afternoon. I got the feeling that they had been going there and ordering that for at least 80 years – now that’s really living. Inspirational.

Simpsons Tavern
36-38 Cornhill
City of London

(make sure you book in advance)

Roughly £20 per head


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The wrong end of Rupert Street amongst the sex shops, there is something very cool going on. It’s so cool that you can’t make reservations. It’s so cool that it doesn’t even have a phone number or website. It’s so cool I walked past it twice before I read the tiny ‘Spuntino’ lettering on the edgy, metal warehouse frontage of the building.

I do mean for the word ‘cool’ to be spat out a little in this context. It should be pronounced with a slight edge of resentment, because I’ve been trying to be cool for the past 24 years. Then this restaurant pops up, and within 2 weeks it’s far cooler than I will ever be.

Not only is it cool, but it reminds me how un-cool I am as I squirm about on the couple’s love-seat trying to assess whether both mine and my mother’s bottom will fit on this intimate chair, designed for two skinny lovers who don’t like eating without their elbows touching.

To make it even cringier, all this is done under the watchful gaze of a painfully cool waiter - all skinny jeans and designer tatts.

I scuttle into a pantry-sized alcove which offers a little more privacy than the seating at the bar, and look at the menu. Dreamy. While my mother and I discuss what plates we are going to order, the couples next to us start chirping in: ‘You’ve got to try the truffle egg toast – it’s divine.’

I’m not saying that I don’t like other diners giving food recommendations. In fact, I do like it. It’s very friendly. It’s just that…well, it’s not very cool. ‘Cool’ diners would be far too engrossed in conversations about synths or irony to feed a fellow diner snippets of recommendations.

The truth is that everyone in Supntino has a bit of the food-geek about them. It’s been a mecca for food bloggers…and I’m quite new to this game – but I’m sure that we’re not a very ‘cool’ breed…are we?

Anyway, onto the food. It was as good as everyone said it would be. The truffle egg toast was rich but delicate (which is quite a tricky combination if you think about it). The base of the zucchini, chilli and mint pizzetta was so light, and the cooked mint gave it memorable and intense flavours. The free popcorn not only got top marks because of the fact that it was free…but also because I couldn’t have dreamt how much a paprika topping would enhance something so simple.

As well as being exceedingly good, the dishes were all reasonably priced…very reasonably priced if you consider that the restaurant is flanked by theatres which often provides an excuse to double prices regardless of food costs.

As AA Gill pointed out in his review of Brawn the Sunday before last, for food to be really cool, it needs to be so understated, it’s almost inconsequential.

There’s far too much cooing for Spuntino to be that cool. But I’m glad it’s not. It’s a great homage to food geekery, and I’ll be returning very soon – when you fall asleep still thinking about your lunch, you know that you’ve been somewhere very … cool.

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