Nigel Slater’s comforting cheese recipes (2024)

I like the idea of a small amount of full-flavoured cheese used more as a seasoning than a principal ingredient. A recipe where the cheese plays a supporting role to vegetables, cured meat or fruits. A vegetable tart perhaps, where sautéed roots – swede or parsnip – are layered with gruyere in a crumbly pastry crust; a fruit loaf made especially for eating not with butter, but with blue cheese; or possibly a buttery roast onion with a mild taleggio sauce trickling over its golden layers. The recipes that follow make use of mature, soft and fresh cheeses, working quietly in the background.

Beetroot, caerphilly and rosemary rarebit

I hold much store by cheesy-things-on-toast, especially those that are spiked with the heat of mustard or horseradish. Beetroot likes horseradish too, which is how this little delight came to be. A substantial snack, though, rather than full-blown dinner.

Makes 2 rounds
cooked beetroot 150g
cider vinegar 2 tsp
cornichons 6
horseradish 2 tsp, finely grated
rosemary sprigs 1
caerphilly 100g, coarsely grated
sourdough 2 large, thick slices
Heat the oven grill. Coarsely grate the beetroot into a bowl. Sprinkle over the cider vinegar and toss gently together. Slice the cornichons in half lengthways and add to the beetroot, then stir in the grated horseradish. Finely chop the rosemary needles and stir through the grated cheese.

Place the slices of bread side by side on a baking sheet and brown lightly on one side under the heated grill. Remove from the heat, turn the bread over and divide the grated, seasoned beetroot between the slices of toast, then scatter over the grated cheese, partially covering the beetroot.

Grill till the cheese is bubbling and serve immediately.

Baked onions, taleggio sauce

Nigel Slater’s comforting cheese recipes (1)

You could make all manner of complicated cheese sauces and use every pot, sieve and whisk in the kitchen, but I don’t think they come much better than those made by simply melting soft cheese in warm cream. OK, I have seasoned it with thyme and a little black pepper, but this is nevertheless a fine cheese sauce for spooning over soft, golden baked onions.

Serves 4
onions 8 medium
bay leaves 3
black peppercorns 12
olive oil 3 tbsp
butter 60g
thyme 8 sprigs
double cream 250ml
taleggio 200g

Bring a large, deep pan of water to the boil. Set the oven at 200C/gas mark 6. Peel the onions, keeping them whole. Add the bay leaves and peppercorns to the boiling water, then lower in the peeled onions. Leave them at a brisk simmer for about 30 minutes, until they are soft and yielding.

Lift out the softened onions with a draining spoon and place them in a baking dish. Pour a little olive oil over the onions, add the butter, the leaves from half of the thyme sprigs and a little black pepper, then bake for about 40 minutes, basting once or twice as they cook.

Warm the double cream in a small saucepan over a low heat. Cut the taleggio into small pieces, then leave to melt, without stirring, in the cream, adding the remaining sprigs of thyme.

Serve two onions per person together with some of the taleggio thyme sauce.

A tart of swede, gruyere and bacon

Nigel Slater’s comforting cheese recipes (2)

I like the informality of a free-form tart, baked without the restriction of a tart tin. It only works when the filling is firm rather than custard based, as in this case, where sautéed swede is layered with gruyere and bacon.

Serves 6
For the pastry
plain flour 200g
rye or wholemeal flour 100g
butter 150g
salt a pinch
thyme leaves 1 tbsp

For the filling
swede 450g
smoked streaky bacon 250g
olive oil 4 tbsp
gruyere 250g

To make the pastry, put all the flour in a large bowl, add the butter in small pieces and the salt, then rub the butter and flour together with your fingertips until you have a breadcrumb-like consistency. Introduce enough water to produce a soft, rollable dough. Turn out onto a floured work surface, pat into a ball, flatten the top then wrap in greaseproof paper and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

For the filling, peel the swede, cut in half lengthways and then each half into quarters. Cut each piece into thin slices.

Chop the bacon into roughly 3cm x 3cm squares, removing the rind as you go. Pour two tablespoons of the oil into a frying pan, add the bacon and cook till lightly crisp before removing to kitchen paper to drain. Set the oven at 200C/gas mark 6. Place an upturned baking sheet or pizza stone in the oven to heat up.

Cook the pieces of swede in the bacon fat, turning them as they brighten and soften, adding a little more oil as necessary. Grate the gruyere into a large bowl, then add the bacon and swede. Season generously with black pepper.

On the floured board, roll the pastry out into a large, rough-edged circle approximately 30cm in diameter, and transfer to a parchment-lined or flour-dusted baking sheet. Pile the filling in the centre of the pastry, leaving a wide gap of bare pastry around the edge. Fold the edges of the pastry over the filling leaving the middle open. Brush the edges of the pastry with beaten egg then place the whole baking sheet on top of the hot sheet or stone in the oven. Cook for 25 minutes till the pastry is pale gold and the filling has crisped on top. Leave to settle for 10 minutes before slicing.

Sticky, seeded fruit bread

Nigel Slater’s comforting cheese recipes (3)

A cold winter’s afternoon, almost dusk, is the time I need a slice of malt loaf. Cut thick and buttered, it is deliciously nostalgic. It occurred to me that the basic loaf could be embellished with seeds and more dried fruits, to give a treacly, almost cake-like bread suitable for eating with cheese, in the way fruit cake can be eaten with cheddar.

Makes 1 loaf
malt extract 150g
light muscovado sugar 100g
black treacle 2 tbsp
plain flour 250g
baking powder 1 tsp
salt a pinch
rolled oats 50g
prunes 100g, stoned weight
eggs 2
black tea 125ml
sultanas or raisins 100g
pumpkin seeds 5 tbsp
linseeds 4 tbsp

To finish
malt extract a little more
pumpkin seeds 1 tbsp
linseeds 1 tbsp
full-flavoured blue cheese to serve

You will need a deep, rectangular cake tin measuring 20cm x 9cm lined with baking paper.

Preheat the oven to 160C/gas mark 3. Gently warm the malt extract, muscovado sugar and black treacle in a small saucepan, without stirring, until the sugar has dissolved. Combine the flour, baking powder, salt and oats in a large mixing bowl. Cut the prunes into small pieces and stir them in. Make the tea. Break the eggs into a small bowl, beat lightly with a fork.

Pour the warm malt and sugar mixture into the flour together with the tea and the beaten eggs. Then fold the sultanas, pumpkin seeds and linseeds into the batter.

Scoop the mixture, which will be soft and runny, like a gingerbread batter, into the lined cake tin. Bake for 60-75 minutes until risen and lightly springy. Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin. While the cake cools, brush the surface with a little more malt extract and sprinkle with the extra pumpkin seeds and linseeds. Leave to thoroughly cool before slicing and serving with blue cheese.

Grilled panettone, ricotta and candied fruits

Nigel Slater’s comforting cheese recipes (4)

One of the joys of living near an Italian deli is the almost year-round supply of panettone. I adore its soft vanilla scent and the jewels of candied peel. Good though it is on its own, I like the soft, open-textured loaf spread with a mixture of ricotta and chopped candied fruits, of which there are still a few left from Christmas. A little melted chocolate adds a certain decadence that we deserve on a grey January afternoon.

Serves 4
crystalised or candied fruit 250g
double cream 250ml
ricotta 125g
icing sugar 2 tbsp
dark chocolate 50g
panettone 4 thick wedges

Roughly chop the crystalised fruits – I prefer the pieces quite small, no bigger than ½cm. Put the cream in a mixing bowl and beat till thick. Stop beating while it is still soft, like Mr Whippy ice-cream, long before it is thick enough to stand in peaks.

Gently fold the ricotta and then the icing sugar into the whipped cream. Scatter over the chopped fruit and lightly fold in.

Break the chocolate into pieces and melt in a small bowl suspended over simmering water. Toast the wedges of panettone, place a generous mound of the ricotta cream on each of four plates together a piece of toasted panettone, then spoon a little of the melted chocolate over the cream. It should set on contact.

Nigel Slater’s comforting cheese recipes (2024)
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