The Perfect Partnership for Quality Cheese: Roasted Grape Puree and Caramelized White Onion Bread
There is nothing better than a good full bodied red wine and a deliciously fragrant cheese to enjoy on a cold lazy evening in front of the crackling fire surrounded by good company. I’m a cheese fanatic and love them creamy, pungent and runny! Stinking Bishop, Vacherin Montd’Or, Époisses and Oxford Isis are the kind of cheeses that I like.
However it can be an embarrassing time carrying them home. It happened to me once, when without regard I bought some weird and wonderful smelly cheeses in London and then had to make my way home on the train. Well all I need to say is that I had the seat all to myself for the whole journey. It was a bit of an embarrassing situation however once I tucked in this was soon forgotten as the pleasure and enjoyment took over.
There are plenty of cheese shops around but only a few that are run with passion and plenty of’ ‘cheesy’ knowledge. Two of my favourties cheesy establishments in London are Paxton and Whitfield and La Fromagerie. They both stock a wide selection of cheeses from mainland Europe and the United Kingdom. They are definitely the people in the know and are super passionate about cheese. They both have maturing rooms and dedicated cheese mongers who turn the cheeses daily and they would not release any products for sale unless they are absolutely perfect.
We consume a lot of cheese at home. I love cooking with it and sometimes it’s the perfect partner in crime when I’m simply in the need of doing nothing but relaxing and nibbling something savoury.
My mother used to have this thing about having bread in the house as she always says that if there is not a fresh loaf of bread in the bread bin, then there is no food to eat. I feel the same about cheese. My fridge can be bare but if I have some cheese, then I have food and I can create a wonderful filling and nutritious meal, a strange superstition!?
Serving cheese as an actual course sometimes is an after thought and some people might think that placing some cheese from the fridge on a plate with a few “tuc” crackers from the cupboard is a problem solved. Well I feel strongly about giving it plenty of thought. Planning the perfect cheese course to compliment your meal is not to be taken lightly. It’s important to choose the right accompaniments for your chosen cheese. Letting the cheese breathe and come to room temperature is another element in serving the perfect cheese course. Award-winning author Fiona Beckett wrote this wonderful book Fiona Beckett’s Cheese Course in which she tells you how to serve and enjoy all the various cheeses.
I think that the way a cheese course is put together says a million words about a host. For example if you plate the individual slithers of cheese, it could mean that the host is either in a rush to get rid of you or they are counting the pennies.If there is plenty of cheese and is presented on sharing plates it means that the host wants their guests to mingle, chat and be relaxed for hours to come.
Well then there is the debate about when to serve the cheese, before the pudding or after. My personal preference is after the pudding as I like to ponder over the cheese, relax and nibble at leisure.
Roasted Grape Puree
- 500g black seedless grapes
Preheat the oven to 180°C.
Wash the grapes and remove all the stalks.
Use a metal skewer or cocktail stick and make about 2/3 holes into each grape.
Place the grapes on a baking tray lined with parchment paper. If you dampen the paper and crumple it slightly, forming a cup shape it will help the juices to remain in the middle of the tray.
Roast the grapes in the preheated oven for 50 minutes until they are completely collapsed and nearly turned into a jam.
Puree the roasted grapes until very smooth and chill.
The roasted grape puree should be served chilled, keep refrigerated for up to one week in a clean sterilized jar.
Makes approximately 200ml
Caramelized Onion Breads
- 110g white onions, peeled and sliced
- 30g unsalted butter
- Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
- 200g strong white bread flour
- 15g fresh yeast or 7g of dried yeast
- 100ml water
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 25ml extra virgin olive oil
Preheat the oven to 200 °C and grease a mini cupcake tray with 12 holes.
First make the caramelized onions: Peel and slice the onions, heat the butter in a non-stick frying pan and sauté the onions with seasoning until golden brown. Begin with high heat and once the onions start to take on colour place a lid on the pan and reduce the heat to cook the onions through. Let the caramelized onions cool.
Make the bread dough: Weigh the flour and yeast into a mixing bowl, if you use fresh yeast use your fingers and rub it into the flour until resembles fine breadcrumbs.
Add the salt, oil and water and work the dough until it all comes together. Knead the dough for about 6 - 8 minutes until if feels silky and smooth.
Transfer the bread dough to a lightly greased bowl, cover with a clean dry tea towel and leave to prove until double in size.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured dusted work surface and roll the dough out into a oblong, spread the cooled caramelized onions over the dough and roll into a spiral shaped sausage. Cut the sausage into 12 pieces and place them,spiral up, into the greased mini muffin holes.
Cover the tray with a clean dry tea towel and leave to prove until the rolls have risen.
Bake the breads for 15 minutes in the preheated oven, turn them out onto a cooling rack and leave to cool.
Makes 12 mini rolls
Serve the roasted grape puree and warm caramelized onion rolls with cheese of your choice.
I served a less strong rind washed cheese, Cornish Soft, available from Paxton and Whitfield, andI let the cheese come to room temperature to bring out the full character of the cheese.