Tag Archives: cheese

Guest Chef: Onion Tartlets

Very exciting, as today’s recipe is not one of mine, but is something my mum made last time I was visiting up in Scotland. Just a couple of weeks ago, but we still had snow outside, so spent most of the time indoors trying to keep warm. The poor cat didn’t know what was happening – it’s been at the mercy of the white stuff since mid-November.

I digress. This is the classic pairing of sweet, caramelised onions with cheese. The onions as basically shredded (so a bit of weeping is likely), and cooked with a glug of olive oil and a little butter and sugar until they are caramelised. Finish with a glass of white wine and a squeeze of lemon juice, allow the liquid to evaporate, then bake in the oven with cheese. the key here is to go for something with a decent flavour – Gruyère is the usual pairing, but a sharp, tangy cheddar will work just as well. Or if you feel greedy, a bit of both. But the result is great, and really for minimal effort.

Minimal effort? But surely you made the pastry, and that’s a faff! Well…time for a little confession. When we made these, we decided to take the “relaxed” option of using pre-made cases. Making pastry is pretty easy, and something I can do quite happily, but you can also buy some good all-butter pastry cases, and so we did that. Minimal fuss, so rather than all that sift-rub-chill-roll-chill again business, we just had to take care of the onions. As all the cooking is on a gentle heat to allow the flavour of the onions to develop properly, you probably don’t need to spend more than 10 minutes actually working in the kitchen. Spend it with the cat, watching it chase a silver thing on a stick instead!

The result is impressive, tastes great, and you can still bask in the “oh-I-made-them-myself” glory, while saving ourselves quite a lot of the hard work. Just don’t tell the guests! Or if you feel guilty, make your own pastry.

We also thought about some adaptations that I have on my “to do” list – using red onions, replacing the dash of lemon juice with a little balsamic vinegar, and crumbling goats cheese on top before baking. I expect great things!

To make 6 onion tartlets:

• 7 large onions
• 1 tablespoon sugar
• 25g butter
• 3 tablespoons olive oil
• 1 glass white wine
• 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
• salt and pepper, to taste
• 6 pastry cases (8-10 cm diameter)

Peel the onions, cut in half, and slice very thinly. Place in a frying pan with the sugar, butter and olive oil, then cover and cook very gently for about an hour, stirring from time to time. The onions are ready once they are soft, translucent and starting to caramelise.

Set the oven to 180°C.

Add a glass of white wine and lemon juice to the onions, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir well, and cook off the liquid.

Divide the onions between the tartlet cases and sprinkle with the cheese. Bake for 10-15 minutes until the top of the cheese has melted and is slightly brown.

Serve warm.

Worth making? These were great little tartlets, wich a rich and flavourful filling. The basic recipe can be easily customised depending on which onions and which cheeses you have to hand. If you’re ambitious, you could easily adapt them into amuse-bouche for those fancy parties we all host these days.

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Filed under Guest chef, Recipe, Savoury

Three Cheese Fondue

I noticed that I seemed to be posting a lot of sweet things, so I vowed to feature more savoury dishes. Luckily, that doesn’t mean than becoming too healthy, so a dish that consists of mostly cheese is today’s post.

Cheese fondue is one of those dishes that I rarely eat, then at some point I think “it would be a really good idea to make cheese fondue” and make some. It is the sort of food that should be tricky to prepare, but actually it is quite straightforward if you can be a little bit organised. Then you eat it, and while it is always utterly delicious (cheese! in liquid form! on bread!), you think you might have actually overdosed on cheese and vow not to eat it again for a long, long time. Months later, I’ll see some Gruyère in a cheese shop, and the cycle starts all over again…

Think of fondue, and you think of Switzerland. Maybe they make it in other Alpine areas, but frankly, I like my fondue to consist of heroic quantities of the Swiss cheeses Gruyère and Emmental. I like it with a hint of garlic and pieces of celery, and a little mustard and cayenne pepper or paprika. The celery really is inspired – when I lived in Brussels, it was quite common to be able to order a portion of cheese which was served with celery salt, which was a great flavour combination. In the fondue, it just gives it that little extra something.

Another novelty factor around fondue is that you just never sit down to eat it on your own. It just has to be a communal meal. This feels right to me – eating so much cheese on you own might seem a bit naughty, but with friends it is just fun. London is also, rather helpfully, blessed with a Swiss restaurant which serves good fondue. It’s called St Moritz, and is a kitsch celebration of Alpine culture, and I absolutely love it. Always makes for a fun night out, even if all you want to do afterwards is settle down next to a log fire for a nice snooze.

St Moritz is also great because you can order huge pots of fondue as a main course. I remember being shocked at a New York cheese restaurant, Artisanal, where you could only order fondue as a starter. I guess they just don’t appreciate melted cheese as much as we do here in Europe!

To make cheese fondue (serve 4):

• 1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed
• 50g butter
• 2 celery sticks
• 300ml dry white wine
• 350g Emmental cheese, finely grated
• 400g Gruyère cheese, finely grated
• 75g Parmesan cheese, finely grated
• 1/8 teaspoon mustard
• pinch freshly grated nutmeg
• pinch of paprika
• 1 tablespoon cornflour
• 2 tablespoons kirsch or brandy
• 2 baguettes, cut into chunks

Rub the garlic around the inside of a fondue pot, and discard the garlic. Add the celery and butter, and sautée on a very gentle heat for around 10 minutes until the celery is very soft.

Add the wine, and heat gently. In the meantime, mix the cornflour and the kirsch/brandy, and set aside.

Once the wine is hot, add the cheeses, stirring constantly until they are melted. Add the mustard, nutmeg and paprika to taste and stir well. Pour the cornflour mixture into the fondue, stir well, bring to the boil and cook for 10 minutes, stirring all the time.

When the fondue is ready, move to the table and place over a burner to keep warm. Serve with the pieces of baguette to dip in the fondue.

Worth making? Fondue is undoubtedly a little fiddly to prepare, but if you are organised – and have the right pan – then it is well worth making next time you want a good, satisfying, sociable dinner with friends. Just be sure to have some sort of fresh salad to balance all that cheese. And don’t plan anything too physical afterwards.

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On Location: Tapas Brindisa (Borough Market, London)

It was a lovely sunny day and I was on my way with my friend N to London’s Bankside for a spot of culture at the Tate Modern. We got out of the tube, and decided we needed sustenance before continuing, and I remembered Tapas Brindisa – I’ve been to their restaurant in Soho a couple of times (and utterly loved it) but never managed to get into the one at Borough Market by London Bridge, as it was always way too busy. A good sign, I guess. Well, it was the middle of the afternoon following the lunchtime rush, and hey, there was a table by the window which looked just perfect for watching the world go by. We went for it.

The bad news was that we arrived five minutes too late to order anything  hot, so we settled for the selection of Spanish cheeses. When it came, it was presented nicely and I liked the variety  of the platter. Of the four, three came with some sort of fruit affair, and I diligently tried each with and without this little extra to see if it made a difference.

First I tried a goat cheese, Garrotxa, which I liked and which went well on their bread rubbed with olive oil. I must admit that I missed the grapes that this was served with, so can’t say if eating the two together would have made a difference (I suspect not). It was pleasant enough, but not something I think I must have again if I see it. Next was the inevitable sheeps cheese with quince. This was Zamorano extra matured sheeps cheese with quince paste. I was not in love with this, but I am not a huge fan of manchego with membrillo, so if there is an issue here, it lies with me, not Brindisa.

The farm house Mahón came with a tomato jam. On its own, this was nice and if anything rather creamy. But adding the tomato jam released other notes – a rich smokiness and almost a “meatiness” to the cheese, and it was really delicious and the enhancement to the flavour quite unexpected. I’ll have this again. The one I was most dubious about was a blue cheese called Picos de Europe which came with slivers of a fig and almond wheel. Dubious, because I’ve never had Spanish blue cheese before and didn’t think this sounded right. Anyway, on its own, this was a great cheese after all, but in the way that blue cheese is something I like and it usually always packs a punch. However, add the fig, and it cut through the sharpness and combined with the cheese to highlight its creaminess and rounded out the flavour. Again, a great combination where the partner ingredient really made a valuable contribution to the overall taste experience.

I’ll go back – I like the sister restaurant, and the atmosphere at Borough Market is friendly and relaxed. My aim was to try some new Spanish cheeses, and I am glad that Tapas Brindisa introduced me to a couple of new things that I really liked. I might just try to be a little more organised and make it in time for the hot tapas next time I go!

Tapas Brindisa, 18-20 Southwark Street, London SE1 1TJ. Tel: 020 7357 8880. Tube: London Bridge.

LondonEats locations map here.

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Filed under London, On Location