A little slice of Pexommier cheese…

Sometimes the simplest things bring the greatest pleasure. This evening’s meal was based around local food: incredible fresh bread from the Height Top Barn Company, and gloriously melting Pexommier cheese from the Pextenement Cheese Company.

This is the latest offering from this local start-up producer, coming hot on the heels of their wonderfully fresh East Lee soft cheeses. Having sat at room temperature for some days, this cheese was just starting to ooze runnily when I cut it open: the mild aroma did little to alert me to the fantastically rich, smooth taste and texture. One might lazily start by comparing it to a good cambembert, though without the slightly ammonia-esque tang you might expect of that more matured cheese. However that comparison doesn’t aid in highlighting the slight sweetness of the cheese, the oh-so-soft skin and the harmonious pairing with some really good bread and local butter. All washed down with a great beer (in this case a Trippel from Chimay… the one with the white label).

Pextenement recommend aging it for four weeks after purchase… I managed ten days before the temptation became too much to bear. My excuse? Well, I’d not had it before and my anticipation was heightened after spending some time with the producers in my local the previous evening. Oh, and it was the perfect quick meal solution after a long day in the office. Sometimes the best fast food is really just slow food in disguise…

A little taste of Lancashire

Boiled Onions with Lancashire Cheese and Poached Egg

I bought Simon Hopkinson’s new book, ‘The Vegetarian Option‘ at the start of the year, in an attempt to broaden my culinary outlook and provide new dishes to keep my veggie friends happy. Well, that was part of the reason: Hopkinson’s one of my very favourite food writers, and the next best thing to sitting down with a warming meal in the winter is curling up with a great cookbook. Happily this is as good I as expected; chock-full of wonderfully simple recipes, evoking tastes and memories of warmer, more verdant seasons. That’s not to say he neglects winter staples in favour of summery salads: there are some rib-stickingly good sounding suggestions to tantalise the reader’s imagination.

One recipe in particular caught my eye: Boiled Onions with Cheese and Poached Egg. Aye, you read that right… it sounds like the kind of food you might feed an Edwardian invalid, but Hopkinson absolutely raves about it, and the photo next to the listing beckoned invitingly. He’d come by it via the Three Fishes in Mitton, a Lancashire pub with a fine reputation which has been on my ‘to-visit’ list for years. I’ve still not made it there, but tonight I made the dish, and it was everything I could’ve hoped for, and more. Rich, savory, silky and oh-so-comforting. You’ve got to try this.

  • 250g onion
  • 25g butter
  • 175ml water
  • 1 bay leaf
  • a good portion of cheese (preferably tasty or crumbly Lancashire)
  • generous pinch of sea salt
  • light pinch of pepper
  • curly parsley to garnish

Chop the onion into small, regular-sized pieces, then add it to the water, butter, seasoning and bay leaf in a saucepan. Bring this to the boil, then down to a gentle simmer, covering for 20-30 mins. When the onions are soft and silken, transfer them to a small dish, sprinkle the grated cheese on top and melt under a grill. Don’t let the cheese brown, just let it become molten and coalescent in the broth before garnishing with chopped parsley and a freshly poached egg. Eat while hot.

One last thing: the recipe calls for white-skinned onions and white pepper to keep a traditional appearance and texture. I had neither to hand, but it still tasted and looked great.

Breast is best… a plump woodpigeon starter

Pan-fried pigeon breast with air-dried ham and Brie de Meaux with truffles

Here’s a perfect woodpigeon breast, wrapped lovingly in locally artisan air-cured ham, and filled with a decadent slice of Brie de Meaux with a truffle centre. Flash fried and served simply on a bed of watercress and baby spinach, garnished with a Meaux mustard and balsamic vinaigrette. A rich but perfectly balanced starter… ideal for the Christmas feast.