February 28th, 2010

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.

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21 Comments to “The Perfect Partnership for Quality Cheese: Roasted Grape Puree and Caramelized White Onion Bread”

  1. Eadwacer says:

    Your adventure with the cheese on the train sounds like J’s friend in Chapter IV of 3 Men in a Boat: “I took my ticket, and marched proudly up the platform, with my cheeses, the people falling back respectfully on either side.”

    It’s available free from Gutenberg:

  2. This is a great recipe… reminds me of the Tuscan grape bread I had years ago… it was great with cheese… Breaking it down into its component parts really would clarify the flavors. Thanks for the great post.

  3. [...] The Perfect Partnership for Quality Cheese: Roasted Grape Puree … [...]

  4. James says:

    Praise be to cheese – a day without cheese is a wasted day!

    Definitely have to try the grape puree. Discovered Oxford Isis last year at Cheeseworks in Cheltenham. Don’t often go into cheese shops though – unless it’scheese for a cheese wedding cake – go straight to the farm where it’s made or from farmers market. Blue Heaven is one of my new faves.

    Roasted grape puree doughnuts?

  5. arugulove says:

    This sounds AMAZING. Thanks so much!

  6. [...] The Perfect Partnership for Quality Cheese: Roasted Grape Puree … [...]

  7. what a great, interesting recipe!

  8. Maria says:

    I like the soudn of the cramelized breads. Looks amazing!

  9. Madalene says:

    HI Domestic Executive,
    Sorry for making you feel home sick. Thanks for the tip of the Oxford Blue and Gob-burner, it’s on my shopping list for my next visit to the cheese monger. I would like to encourage you to go and do a cheese course it will help you to fall in love with the cheese in your area, helps soothing home-sickness.
    All the best,

  10. Thanks Madalene, you’ve succeeded in making me totally homesick for the Oxford Cheese Company. We love Cheese and there was nothing better I liked on a weekend but visit the covered market in Oxford and try out their cheeses before bagging loads and taking them home to enjoy. I’m with you. Cheese needs to be savoured and enjoyed. We’re starting to get to grips with New Zealand cheese – so far these are the best cheese makers we’ve found. http://www.overthemoondairy.co.nz/index.php I am eyeing up one of their cheese courses in Wellington or Greytown.

    By the way – Oxford Blue and Gob-burner cheddar are some of the best.

  11. Madalene says:

    Hi Barry,
    I have a powerful Themomix, the worlds best blender (that cooks, weighs and do plenty of wonderful things) this machine purees my roasted grape skins smoothly and I get the most beautiful coloured puree. I must also say that the roasting does tenderizes the skin. It’s super yummy!
    Happy Cooking.

  12. Barry says:

    Hi.. like the cheese story.. can just imagine the cheese aroma around you.. nice in a fromagerie.. but not from a person…the onion bread is nice.. even nicer with brown flour.. another one is also with sun dried tomatoes , using the oil from the tomatoes…. what about the skins from the grapes.. do you leave them in the puree..as surely they would never puree down completely themselves.. does the puree not lose its colour with too much blending…thanks eadwacer for the link.. funny book

  13. Isabel says:

    Amen to thoughtful cheese-serving.

    Buy a box of Tuc crackers, lay them out on a cheese board, smash to a fine dust and promptly discard.

    Thank you for addressing the issue of modern cheese-course abuses (straight out of the fridge, etc.). It would be a shame to see this continue in a country with its varied traditional cheeses (I am American. We’ve got Cheddar and Cheez Whiz. I never take Stilton and nearby French cheeses for granted!).

  14. Ali says:

    This looks sensational. I am definitely going to make the grape jelly. My pet hate is going to a restaurant and being served cheese stone cold straight from the fridge. It totally ruins the moment for me. This on the other hands looks like heaven. a

  15. Emmeline says:

    For the art of cheese, I think a smelly ride on the train is definitely worth it! I’d prefer it over someone chewing on a greasy hamburger any day :)

    Love the photos here, they look absolutely amazing and mouthwatering. Will definitely try the roasted grape puree.

  16. Žiu says:

    The bread was delicious!

    I’ve adapted the recipe slightly by adding some goat’s cheese directly into the mini-breads and didn’t have enough patience to prove the dough properly, but they tasted divine!

    I hope you dont mind that I’ve posted about them in my blog (http://ziupsnelisdruskos.blogspot.com/2010/03/karamelizuotu-svogunu-duoniukai-su.html). I’ve added an active link to here. Yours is a beautiful blog – so eye-pleasing and inspiring – I think more people should know about it!

    Thank you!

  17. I’ve had exactly the same experience as you, Madelene, with cheese and trains. I once bought an unbelievably stinky cheese from Paxton and Whitfield and within 10 minutes of leaving the shop could tell that I was trailing the aroma behind me. I then had to cart it another 2 hours back to Bristol. Even when I wrapped it in a triple layer of wrapping and put it in a plastic box it still stank out the fridge. I had to get rid of it after a couple of days my husband complained so much.

    A lovely post with a stunning image and two very nice recipes. And thankyou for mentioning the book :)

  18. We most definitely share a love of cheese, and although I’ve never thought of it as you put it, indeed–if there is cheese in the fridge, all is right with the world :) The grape puree looks wonderful!

  19. Madalene says:

    Hi Claudia, I used a Thermomix which is a very powerful machine to puree the grapes and it’s cooked for a long time so the skins almost melts away and render down which makes it easy to puree. No I did not pass the puree at all, the picture is true to the recipe and is exactly as it cam out.

    Happy Cooking.

  20. Claudia says:

    Really great idea! One question: Did the puree come out like on the photo or did you put it in a strainer to have the skins removed?

  21. Indigo says:

    Just to let you know that I made a big batch of this (all the components – rolls, grape puree and cheeseboard) for a party the other weekend, and it was a massive hit – I should have made far more of the caramelised onion bread to be honest; it was absolutely inhaled. I wasn’t sure whether people would try the grape puree in a party situation but it was a massive hit too, and my family have taken care of the leftovers. Genius idea!

    Thank you so much!

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