I love cheese. Sometimes I think I love cheese even more than I love every movie starring Joseph Gordon Levitt, which says a lot, since I’m totally smitten with Joseph Gordon-Levitt and his brilliant film choices. However, Joseph Gordon-Levitt isn’t lying in my fridge on a daily basis, waiting for me to seek comfort in his hearty creaminess, pardon the metaphor. (What a bummer! I can only imagine the large window of possibilities when you’ve got some hot celebrities stacked in your fridge! 😉 ) So this is where the cheese comes in. Cheese is always there for me and it comes in so many different varieties and types, it is practically impossible to get bored of it. (Unlike some hot actors who always seem to play variations of the same role. I’m sorry, Channing Tatum!)
I guess I’m not the only one who utterly enjoys cheese. On the contrary, there are a lot of crazy cheese addicts out there, especially in Europe. Fresh cheeses, soft and unctuous cheeses, hard and matured cheeses, blue-veined cheeses, smelly cheeses,… there is literally a cheese for every taste and palate. That is why I don’t understand that some people don’t eat cheese. I mean, I understand if you’re vegan or lactose-intolerant, but I don’t trust people who don’t eat cheese because they just don’t like it. What’s up with that? Who doesn’t like cheese? (Oh yes, we could never live under the same roof!)
Given the fact that I try to eat as much vegetarian as possible, I often incorporate cheese in my dishes to make veggie meals more “filling”. Moreover, I like to give cheese centre stage, making it the star of the dish.
For once and for all, the following recipes illustrate that cheese can indeed be cast in a leading role. And believe me, these dishes are Oscar-winning material!
Manouri cheese and peach tart with lavender
This was truly one brilliant supper! The floral taste of the lavender gives a whole other dimension to the dish, creating the perfect setting for the cheese and fruit. Manouri is a Greek semi-soft white cheese with a mild and milky flavour; a bit like the modest version of feta cheese. If you haven’t tasted it so far, you’re definitely missing out on a food revelation!
Other cheese options would be: feta, goat’s cheese, camembert or a soft blue cheese
Ingredients (serves one)
• One 10cm square of puff pastry
• 1 peach, cut into thin slices
• 3 to 4 sprigs of fresh lavender
• Coarse sea salt
• 1 tbsp honey
• Manouri cheese
• To serve: some rocket salad with balsamic dressing
1. Preheat the oven to 200°C.
2. Place the puff pastry square onto a baking sheet and sprinkle with a little sea salt.
3. Cut out a round shape of manouri cheese and place into the middle of the pastry. Layer the peach slices around the cheese and sprinkle lavender over the top of your tart.
4. Drizzle over the honey and bake in the oven for 12-15 minutes.
Halloumi with seared watermelon and cherry tomato salad
This is the ultimate taste of summer! Succulent and refreshing watermelon, juicy and sweet cherry tomatoes and the bloomin’ brilliant character of halloumi cheese: these are possibly the best things this summer has to offer. I absolutely love halloumi because of its powerful salty flavour and distinctive layered texture (a bit like a firm mozzarella but with far more flavour!) This Cypriot cheese is made of sheep milk and has a high melting point and so can be easily fried or grilled! (excellent far a vegetarian BBQ!)
Other cheese options: feta, paneer, goat’s cheese, herby fresh cheese
Ingredients (serves 1)
• 125 gr halloumi, cut into slices
• Watermelon, cut into thick disks
• 150gr of cherry tomatoes, quartered
• 2 spring onions, finely chopped
• 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
• 1tbsp olive oil
• ½ tsp fennel seeds
• Greek yoghurt or tzatziki to serve
1. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a pan and fry the halloumi on both sides for a couple of minutes until nicely coloured.
2. On a high heat, fry the watermelon disks for one minute on each side to create a “hot on the outside, cold the inside” sensation.
3. Mix the tomatoes and spring onion together in a bowl with the fennel seeds, salt and pepper, olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
4. Put everything on a plate and put a dollop of tzatziki on each disk of watermelon
Grilled Halloumi with Mediterranean stew and garlicky mashed potatoes
This recipe illustrates that cheeses can also be used in comforting, hearty dishes, and isn’t just a good accompaniment for salads or light meals. The potato mash was flavoured with garlic, giving it a very aromatic aftertaste. Just throw 5 cloves of garlic into your bowl of cooking potatoes, and once your potatoes are cooked through, mash it all together with a good gluck of olive oil et voila! The salty flavours of halloumi marry perfectly with the variety of Mediterranean vegetables!
Other cheese options: mozzarella or scamorza (skip the grilling part, duh!), feta, paneer
For the stew (serves 4)
• 2 carrots, finely chopped
• ½ red pepper, finely chopped
• ½ yellow pepper, finely chopped
• ½ courgette, cut into 1 cm cubes
• 1 fennel, cut into 1cm cubes
• Handful of green olives
• 2 cloves of garlic
• 2 red onions, roughly chopped
• 500ml of passata
• 100ml red wine
• 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
• 1 tsp chilli powder
• ¼ tsp smoked paprika
• ¼ tsp cinnamon powder
• 1 tbsp fresh rosemary
• 2 bay leaves
1. Heat a tablespoon of oil in a large pot and add the onions and garlic. Stir for a couple of minutes.
2. Add all the other vegetables, herbs and spices. Season with salt and pepper and fry for 5 minutes
3. Add the red wine and let it reduce until it’s almost entirely evaporated.
4. Add the passata and balsamic vinegar. Let it simmer for half an hour.
5. Meanwhile make your garlic mash and grill your halloumi.