Cheese recipes of the month: we’re going Italian

I have to admit to being a bit of a cheese lover. Easily able to turn down the prospect of pudding, I can rarely say no to a cheeseboard. Cheese is also great for cooking with and a great way to liven up vegetables (think cauliflower cheese, one of my favourites) or  bring another dimension to dishes.

So I was delighted when I was sent the new Italian cheese range from DIVO Cheeses selected by renowned Italian chef Aldo Zilli. There’s Gorgonzola, Ricotta and amazing Parmigiano to choose from. I’m concocting some new recipes as I write this (in my head!) but in the meantime, here’s some from Aldo himself. Particularly love the souffles!

Truffle and DIVO Parmigiano Reggiano souffles

The ultimate in indulgent souffles

The ultimate in indulgent souffles

Serves 4

2 tablespoons butter, plus extra for greasing

4 tablespoons breadcrumbs

4 tablespoons plain flour

75 ml milk

200g mozzarella cut into pieces

2 tablespoons DIVO grated heart of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

50 g fresh truffle, finely sliced, or use truffle paste

4 eggs, separated

4 tbsps truffle oil, to drizzle

Preheat the oven to 190°C.

Butter 4 ramekins and coat with the breadcumbs.

Mix together the flour and milk. Melt the butter in a pan and gradually stir in the milk mixture.

Continue stirring and cooking the sauce until it just reaches boiling point. Cook the sauce for 3 minutes, then add the mozzarella, DIVO Parmigiano Reggiano, seasoning, truffle and egg yolks.

In a large bowl, whisk the egg whites to stiff peaks. Gently fold the whites into the truffle mixture. Pour into the coated ramekins and cook for 23 mins.

Serve immediately.

Cannellini bean soup

Zesty soup with Parmesan

Zesty soup with Parmesan

Serves 4

1 onion, quartered

3 garlic cloves

40g fresh parsley

2 tbsps olive oil

2 x 400g cans cannellini beans

1.2 litres chicken stock

Juice of 1 lemon

DIVO Parmigiano Reggiano P.D.O. Extra, for grating over the top

Blend the onion, garlic and parsley in a food processor until finely chopped.

Heat the oil in a pan, add mixture and cook until the onion is soft. Add the cannellini beans and cook for two minutes. Pour over the stock, season and bring to the boil. Cover and cook for 15 mins until the beans are cooked.

Add the lemon juice and reheat gently before serving with the DIVO Parmigiano Reggiano Extra grated over the top

Aubergine Cannelloni

Aubergine cannelloni stuffed with silken ricotta

Aubergine cannelloni stuffed with silken ricotta

Serves 4

2 aubergines

300g DIVO ricotta

50g DIVO Parmigiano Reggiano Extra, grated (or for vegetarians DIVO Vegetarian Grated Italian Hard Cheese)

150g mozzarella, finely diced

15g fresh basil, torn into pieces, plus extra to garnish

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

200g cherry tomatoes

4 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil

Preheat the oven to 180°C

Cut the aubergines lengthways into 5 mm thick slices and grill on both sides until soft.

In a bowl, mix the DIVO ricotta with half the grated DIVO Parmigiano Reggiano (or for vegetarians, DIVO Vegetarian Grated Italian hard cheese) and the mozzarella. Add almost all the basil and seasonings.

Spread the ricotta mixture over each aubergine slice and roll up.

Arrange the aubergine rolls in a buttered roasting tin and sprinkle with the rest of the grated DIVO Parmigiano Reggiano/DIVO Vegetarian Grated Italian hard cheese. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, blend the cherry tomatoes with the olive oil and remaining basil leaves in a blender or food processor. Pour the sauce into a pan and heat through.

Serve the cannelloni, sprinkled with the extra basil, with the tomato sauce.

The DIVO range of cheeses are available from Ocado and Morrisons.

Big Cheese of the Month: British goat’s cheese

Goat’s cheese is really versatile, delicious on its own and crumbled over salads or pasta and is also easy to cook with. There are many different kinds with France producing by far the largest range. Fortunately there are now many different British versions, too.

Why not try these tasty recipes and see what you think? You can also try my biltong, butternut and goat’s cheese pasta. It’s truly delicious. Here’s the link.

http://eatingcoventgarden.com/2012/10/17/join-the-club-cook-with-biltong/

Courgette & goats’ cheese quiche 

Serves 6–8

Goats Cheese Quiche

350g short-crust pastry

1 tbsp corn or sunflower oil

1 onion, peeled and thinly sliced

1 courgette approx 175g, coarsely grated

3 large eggs, beaten

300ml milk

110g Cheddar cheese, grated

4 thin slices of mild goats’ cheese, approx 110g

6-7 cherry tomatoes, sliced

1 Roll pastry out thinly and line a 25cm fluted flan tin, trim and chill. Preheat oven to 220°C.

2 Heat oil in a large frying pan, add onion and courgette and cook gently until softened, but not browned. Allow to cool.

3 In a bowl, whisk together eggs and milk, season well and then mix Cheddar cheese, onion and courgette into milk.

4 Spoon filling into flan case and arrange sliced goats’ cheese and cherry tomatoes on top. Place quiche on a pre-heated baking tray and cook for 30-35 minutes, or until filling is golden and set. Serve immediately.

Goat’s Cheese and Aubergine Bake

This simple layered vegetarian dish makes the most of aubergines and fabulous British goat’s cheese.

Serves 4

aubergine bake

25g butter

25g plain flour

300ml milk

50g mature Cheddar cheese, grated

1 tsp wholegrain mustard

440g jar tomato pasta sauce

2 medium aubergines, sliced

4 large tomatoes, sliced

1 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary or thyme

100g British goat’s cheese (with rind), thinly sliced

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 Preheat the oven to 180°C. Grease a large baking dish with 1 tsp butter.

2 Put the remaining butter into a non-stick saucepan with the flour and milk. Bring to the boil, stirring constantly with a small whisk to make a smooth sauce. Remove from the heat and add the Cheddar and mustard, stirring until melted. Season.

3 In a large baking dish, arrange layers of half the pasta sauce, half the aubergine slices and half the tomatoes Sprinkle with the rosemary or thyme and a little salt and pepper, then repeat the layers. Pour the cheese sauce on top, then arrange the goat’s cheese over the surface.

4 Bake for 35-40 minutes, until golden brown.

Try experimenting with goat's cheese, there's lots you can do with it.

Try experimenting with goat’s cheese, there’s lots you can do with it.

Big Cheese of the month: Stilton

Continuing my series through the world of cheese and with recipes to try, here’s Big Cheese of the month number two: Stilton.

Stilton is really the King of English cheeses. It’s named after a village in Cambridgeshire but can only be produced in the counties of Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire. There are only six dairies in the world licensed to make Blue Stilton.

Stilton with crackers is the perfect end to dinner

It’s classically associated with Christmas when the beautiful crumbly rounds appear on many cheeseboard. But it shouldn’t be just for Christmas as it’s a lovely, veresatile cheese that’s really good for cooking with. Try these tasty recipes and see for yourself.

Creamy Spinach & Stilton Soup

Stilton gives this deliciously creamy soup a fabulous flavour.  It’s delicious served both hot or chilled until icy cold on a hot summer’s day.

Creamy Stilton and spinach soup

Serves 4

15g  butter

1 bunch spring onions, trimmed and finely chopped

1 x 250g bag fresh spinach, thoroughly washed

600ml vegetable stock

1 x 200g pack low-fat soft cheese

2 tablespoons cornflour

450ml milk

75g Blue Stilton, crumbled

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

4 tablespoons fresh soured cream or natural yoghurt

Chopped fresh spring onions and parsley, to garnish

1. Melt the butter in a large saucepan and sauté the spring onions for about 2 – 3 minutes until softened, but not browned.

2. Add the spinach and vegetable stock and heat until almost boiling.  Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 5 minutes.

3. Transfer the mixture to a blender or food processor and add the soft cheese.  Blend for about 15 – 20  until smooth and velvety.  Return to the saucepan.

4.  Blend the cornflour with 3 – 4 tablespoons of the milk and add to the soup with the remaining milk and most of the crumbled Stilton.  Bring up to the boil, stirring constantly until thickened.  Reduce the heat and cook gently for 2 minutes, then season to taste with salt and pepper.

5. If serving hot, ladle the soup into warmed bowls.  Serve at once, garnished with the soured cream or yoghurt, the reserved Stilton and chopped fresh spring onions and parsley.

Cook’s tips

If you’re serving the soup chilled, don’t add the milk until you have thickened the soup with the cornflour.  If you stir in the cold milk, the soup will cool much more quickly.  Be sure to serve it icy cold, so chill in the fridge for at least a couple of hours.

For a change, substitute two bunches or bags of watercress for the spinach.

Stilton, Asparagus and Cherry Tomato Tagliatelle

This easy recipe is perfect for a quick lunch or supper dish.

Stilton, asparagus and cherry tomato tagliatelle

 

Serves 4

350g (12oz) tagliatelle or linguine

150g (6oz) asparagus, cut into short lengths

2 tsp olive oil

6 spring onions, finely chopped

1 garlic clove, crushed

25g (1oz) dried breadcrumbs

12 cherry tomatoes, halved

1 tsp finely grated lemon zest

100g (4oz) half fat crème fraiche

100g (4oz) Stilton cheese, broken into small chunks

Freshly ground black pepper

Basil leaves, to garnish

1 Cook the tagliatelle or linguine in a large saucepan of boiling water for 10-12 minutes, or according to pack instructions, adding the asparagus for the final 2-3 minutes.

2 At the same time, heat the olive oil in a non-stick frying pan and add the spring onions and garlic. Cook over a low heat, stirring often, for 3-4 minutes. Add the breadcrumbs and stir over the heat for about 30 seconds. Set aside.

3 When the pasta and asparagus is cooked, drain it well, then return it to the saucepan and add the cherry tomatoes, lemon zest, crème fraiche and Stilton. Heat gently for 2-3 minutes, then share between 4 plates and sprinkle the breadcrumb mixture on top. Serve, seasoned with black pepper and garnished with basil.

Cook’s tip: If you like, add 1tsp chopped fresh red chilli with the garlic for a spicy hit.

To find more recipes with Stilton (as well as a whole lot of other cheeses) visit www.britishcheese.com

Big cheese of the month: Parmigiano Reggiano

Welcome to the start of a new series on one of my favourite foods…cheese. This month, in celebration of my trip in the summer to the wonderful Emilia-Romagna region of Italy, I’m starting with Parmesan.

In Parma and the surrounding area you’ll find Parmesan eaten as a starter, in a main course, and as dessert…it’s not just for grating over your pasta! And in some of the markets, the aroma of it is literally in the air! So amazing.

Parmigiano Reggiano (to use its full official name) was first made hundreds of years ago (around 1200) at the Benedictine monasteries in the area between the Po River and the Apennine mountains. It’s special because the milk is produced by cows fed according to strict regulations where certain foodstuffs are forbidden. The cows are milked twice a day and the milk is taken to the cheese house within two hours of each milking.

Then it becomes the responsibility of the cheesemaker – and it’s a serious business with techniques handed down through the centuries as a result of generations of experience.

And you need a lot of milk. 16 litres for 1kg of Parmigiano Reggiano. That’s 550 litres to make one of those big wheels you see. It’s made by hand and aged for a minimum of 12 months. The final result is delicious, creamy, crumbly Parmesan.

It’s a really versatile cheese – so why not be adventurous and try some of these lovely recipes.

Mouthwatering Parmigiano Reggiano

Parmigiano-Reggiano crisp canapés topped with lemon pepper cream and hot smoked salmon

Parmesan crisp canapes

Makes 10 canapés

15ml Crème fraiche

Finely grated zest of one lemon

Fennel seeds, chopped

Grated and shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, to serve

½ small fennel bulb

75g Hot smoked salmon, flaked

Salt and black pepper

Crisps

50g Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated

1 tbsp plain flour

Grease and line a large baking sheet with greaseproof paper

1 Mix Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and plain flour, along with a good pinch of black pepper.

2 Spoon teaspoon-sized rounds of this mixture onto the baking sheet and flatten slightly with the back of the spoon. The mixture should give 10 crisps, make sure there is plenty of space between each one, as the mixture will spread a little.

3 Place the rounds under a hot grill for 2-3 minutes until the cheese has melted to make a golden brown crisp.

4 Remove each crisp carefully using a pallet knife and leave to cool on greaseproof paper.

5 Mix crème fraiche together with lemon zest and season to taste.

6 To assemble,spoon a small amount of lemon crème fraiche on top of each crisp. Then sprinkle with a few fennel seeds, grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese  and finely chopped fennel, before topping with flakes of hot smoked salmon and black pepper.

7 Finally, garnish with sprigs of fresh fennel and serve

Cook’s tip: Make things easy for yourself and prepare ahead. Both the crisps and lemon cream can be made in the morning, just keep the crisps in an air-tight container and refrigerate the cream

Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and asparagus tart

Parmesan and asparagus tart

Serves 2

2 10x20cm puff pastry rectangles

1 egg, beaten

2 tbsp green pesto

30g shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus extra to serve

4 tbsp mascarpone cheese

6 asparagus spears

Finely grated zest of 1 lemon

2tbsp grated Parmgiano-Reggiano cheese

Torn basil leaves, to serve

Salt and black pepper

1 Preheat the oven to 200°C.

2 Place the pastry rectangles on a greased baking sheet and carefully score lines 1cm away from the pastry edges with a sharp knife. Prick the inner rectangle with a fork and brush with beaten egg.

3 Spread a thin layer of pesto all over the base of the inner rectangle and top with shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and small spoonfuls of mascarpone cheese.

4 Blanche the asparagus spears for 1 minute in boiling salted water, drain, and place 3 spears across each tart.

5 Sprinkle a little lemon zest and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano over each tart and bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes until the pastry is golden brown and risen.

6 Serve the tarts with shaved Parmgiano-Reggiano and freshly torn basil leaves.

Open lasagne of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, prawns and baby squid with lemon and basil pesto dressing

Open lasagne with Parmesan and seafood

Serves 2

100g raw tiger prawns

150g calamari rings and tentacles

Zest and juice of ½ lemon

1 tbsp olive oil

6 x 10cm2 sheets fresh lasagne

½ fennel bulb, finely chopped

Salt and black pepper

White sauce

50g butter

1 tbsp plain flour

300ml milk

1 tbsp crème fraiche

50g Parmigano-Reggiano cheese, grated

Finely grated zest of 1 lemon

Walnut and basil pesto dressing

2 tbsp roughly chopped basil

45g chopped walnuts

Finely grated zest of ½ lemon

4tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp roughly chopped parsley

1 garlic clove, crushed

25g grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

1 Marinate the seafood in the zest and juice of ½ lemon, 1 tbsp olive oil, salt and black pepper.

2 Meanwhile, blend together all the ingredients for the pesto and season well to taste.

3 For the sauce, melt the butter over a gentle heat and whisk in the flour. Gradually add the milk, whisking continuously until the sauce thickens. Whisk in the crème fraiche, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and lemon zest.  Season to taste.

4 Cook the lasagne sheets in boiling salted water for 2-3 minutes and then keep warm.

5 Place the seafood and fennel on a hot griddle for 2 minutes, or until cooked.

6 To assemble, spoon a little white sauce onto the centre of each plate and top with a sheet of lasagne. Add more white sauce and top with seafood and fennel, followed by some walnut pesto. Repeat this layering process with another sheet of lasagne. Finally, top with another sheet of lasagne and drizzle over more pesto and drizzle over a small amount of olive oil before serving