Cooking with Comté

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I was recently invited to a cooking class at L’atelier des chefs on comté cheese.  The class began with some wine and a little introduction to comté and it’s production methods. Comté is a French cheese originating in a fairly remote region in the mountains of Eastern France where there are over 2500 family farms dedicated to producing the raw milk that is used to create comté.  The cows used for producing the milk are only fed with natural feed and their milk has to be processed within 24 hours so it’s extremely fresh.  It is then taken to one of the 150 small village cheese dairies in France that specialise in producing comté, where it is looked after for at least 4 months, and is regularly turned, salted and rubbed in a cheese wheel with brine solution.

It’s a hard cheese that’s from a similar family to gruyère cheese and has over 83 natural flavours that can be detected when tasting it, making it a very versatile cheese that can be added to loads of dishes.

We then had the opportunity to taste three different ages of comté.  In general, the darker the cheese is, the older it probably is, and the older it is, the saltier it is.  Our cheese tasting was followed by a demonstration by chef Laura Pope, of two dishes that she has developed using comté.  First we had the freekeh salad with charred pears, rocket and comté and for the main she made bubble and squeak with melted comté and a fried egg (the recipes can be found below).  We then split off into groups and had a go at making (and eating!) the dishes ourselves.

Freekeh salad with Comté, charred pears & cinnamon, rocket & toasted pecans

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Prep time: 20 – 30 minutes
Serves 4

The freekeh salad was honestly one of the best salads I’ve ever tried! There are so many flavours and textures involved, the freekeh itself has a delicious smoky, earthy flavour, the pecans offer a crunch, the pears a sweet twinge and the lemon a citrusy element.

Freekeh originates in the middle east and is green durum wheat that has been roasted, rubbed and then cracked.  You can buy dried freekeh and prep it yourselves, but we actually cheated slightly and used ready made freekeh by Merchant Gourmet to save time.  It was really delicious and I’d probably buy it again in future because it cuts down prep time but still has a great flavour!  Laura mentioned that we could substitute the freekeh for bulgur wheat or quinoa if required.

Ingredients:

  • 250g freekeh (either ready made or cooked according to the packet instructions if cracked)
  • 2 to 4 just ripe pears (depending on size – you want about 400g in total)
  • 1 tablespoon light olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 50g rocket leaves
  • 100g pecan nuts (without shells)
  • Zest of ½ lemon and juice of 1 lemon
  • 45ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 200g 12-14 month aged Comté, cubed

Method:

  1. Toast the pecans: heat oven to 160℃ fan / 180℃ normal and lay the pecans out on a baking sheet, then toast for about 10 minutes, until they give off a rich aroma – but do not let them burn. Let them cool, remove a handful to leave whole and then roughly chop the rest.
  2. Add the freekeh to your salad bowl.
  3. If the skin of the pears is rough and thick, peel them – if not, you can leave it on. Cut them into eighths and cut out the cores. Toss the pears in the oil, cinnamon and a little salt and black pepper. Heat a griddle pan over a high heat for a few minutes and then char each side of the pears so that they have griddle lines and are warm all the way through – you don’t want to overcook them or they will fall apart. Chop half the pears into cubes and leave the rest for later.
  4. Mix the lemon zest, juice and olive oil together and season with salt and pepper. Mix this through the freekeh and mix in the rocket leaves, the chopped pecan nuts, the cubed pears and most of the Comté. Lay the pear slices on top and scatter over the remaining Comté and pecans.

Bubble & squeak with melted Comté and fried egg

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Prep time: 20 – 30 minutes (depending on whether you have leftover mashed potato)
Serves 4

Bubble and squeak is a great way to use up leftover potato and vegetables.  It’s also warming and comforting so is the perfect meal for winter (or most of the year if you live in the UK!!) We added cavolo nero and comté which tasted delicious melted! We topped the dish with a fried egg.

Ingredients:

  • 400g cavolo nero
  • 60g unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon sunflower oil, for frying
  • 900g cooked mashed potato
  • 8 spring onions, trimmed and finely sliced
  • 200g 18 to 24 month aged Comté, coarsely grated
  • 4 eggs

Method:

  1. Cut out the central rib of each leaf of cavolo nero and discard, then cut the leaves into wide strips. Melt 30g of the butter in a saucepan and add the cavolo nero, a splash of water and season with salt and black pepper. Turn heat up high and stir the cavolo nero to coat it in the butter, water and seasoning, then turn the heat down to medium, cover the pan and cook for about 3 minutes, until it is wilted, giving the pan a shake every now and then. Drain off any excess liquid.
  2. Heat the remaining 30g butter and about ½ tablespoon oil in a large non-stick frying pan over a high heat, then tip in the potato and spring onion and fry. As it cooks, you want it to brown and char slightly – make sure to spread it out over the base of the pan and keep breaking it up and scraping the bottom of the pan so that the lovely, crunchy brown bits are mixed in.
  3. Mix in the cavolo nero and then the Comté and turn the heat down to medium. When the Comté starts to melt, stop turning the mixture over – just press it down every now to flatten the surface and cook over a low heat until it is golden brown on the bottom.
  4. Meanwhile, in a separate frying pan, heat ½ tablespoon of oil and fry the eggs over a medium heat so that the whites are set but the yolks are still runny – season each egg with a little salt and black pepper as they are cooking. Place the four fried eggs on top of the bubble & squeak and serve in the frying pan for everyone to help themselves.

I was sent home with a slice of the comté cheese wheel and have been adding it to salads, pastas and several other dishes, it’s such a versatile cheese and I’m glad I discovered it!  If you want to get your hands on some comté, it is sold in several cheesemongers and supermarkets in the UK (such as Waitrose). See their website for more details at www.comtecheese.co.uk

Gourmet Night at The Hampton

I was lucky enough to be invited to one of the Hampton’s monthly Gourmet Nights in September by Geo, the Head Chef.  The Gourmet Nights occur on the second Saturday of every month and feature a three course meal accompanied by live jazz.

The interior is quite simple and bare, but don’t let that put you off – the food was delicious and the staff were friendly and helpful.  We were greeted with a glass of prosecco upon arrival and led to our table which was decorated with candles and flowers.

235

To start, we were served a selection of cheesy canapés, my favourite being the sun dried tomatoes with goats cheese.

236

This was followed by a halloumi salad dressed with balsamic vinegar (a slight cheese overload by this point!)  The ingredients tasted homely and the food was tasty without being overly rich.

237

For the main I opted for the vegetarian wellington which was definitely my favourite course of the evening – the butternut squash sauce complemented the chestnut mushrooms and winter veg in the wellington.  The portions were hearty and filling.

238

Every course was well presented, especially the dessert which featured a crystallised caramel decoration placed on top of the chocolate fondant.  The fondant itself was soft and delicate and worked really well with the coffee ice cream.

239

The staff were friendly and helpful, however there was some delay between courses.  It is clear that the team put a lot of effort into delivering high quality food and making the best of the venue and surroundings.   The pub is well suited to families, and The Hampton hosts various other themed evenings such as burger nights, pizza nights and open mic nights its worth keeping an eye out if you are ever in the area.

Restaurant Details:

The Avenue
Hampton TW12 3RA

Phone: 020 8979 6052

Email: gm@hamptonpub.co.uk

Monday to Thursday 11.00 AM – 11.00 PM
Friday 11.00 AM – 12.00 AM
Saturday 11.00 AM – 11.00 PM
Sunday 11.00 AM – 11.00 PM
Sunday Roast 11.00 AM – 04.00 PM

Website: www.hamptonpub.co.uk

Cinnamon Bun Tasting at the Nordic Bakery

I was lucky enough to be invited to the Nordic Bakery earlier this week for a cinnamon bun tasting event as part of their Cinnamon Bun Week celebrations!  Cinnamon bun day officially falls on 4th October, however, the Nordic Bakery have taken this a step further and will be celebrating throughout the whole week of 29th September to 4th October by unveiling a new flavoured bun every day of the week!

IMG_0256

We were asked to sample the 5 different cinnamon buns that would be on offer throughout the week and vote on which one we liked the most.  The flavours included: raisins & lemon glaze, chocolate button, apple, blueberries and custard & almond.

nordicbakery2

All the buns were delicious, it was extremely difficult to chose a favourite.  I would say the apple and chocolate buttons were particularly delectable.  They were soft on the inside and crispy on the outside, especially on the glazed areas.  The buns were sweet, but light a the same time.

FullSizeRender

nordicbakery1

nordicbakery7

The Nordic Bakery has several branches throughout London.  I visited the Marylebone branch on Dorset Street.  It is a quaint bakery with a cosy atmosphere.  They also have a cookbook featuring their recipes, including cinnamon bun recipes.  Downstairs, the restaurant has a small photography gallery featuring photographs taken by customers and their dining experiences.

IMG_0257

The evening was very enjoyable,  I had the opportunity to meet other food bloggers over some cinnamon buns! We even got a goodie bag with a cinnamon bun to-go, and a bottle of  blueberry cordial.  I’d definitely recommend heading over to the Nordic Bakery next week in celebration of cinnamon bun week!

nordicbakery6

nordicbakery3

nordicbakery4

nordicbakery8

Restaurant Details:

48 Dorset Street
London W1U 7NE

Tel: 020 7487 5877

Opening Times:

Monday – Friday: 8am – 6pm
Saturday & Sunday: 9am – 6pm

A Chocolate Tour of London

For chocolate lovers, Great British Tours’ Chocolate Tour of London would be a perfect day out! Earlier this month my friend Sarah and I undertook the walking tour that consists of visits to seven chocolatiers around Soho and Mayfair that can vary slightly from week to week.  Our tour guide, Ferry, was friendly, knowledgeable and very enthusiastic about all things chocolate.

We began our voyage at the Algerian Coffee Store; a vicinity with an overwhelming scent of coffee and cocoa to get you in ‘chocolate-mode’.  Here we were introduced to our tour group of approximately twenty people.  At each stop Ferry filled us in on a few chocolate facts specific to the place we were visiting.  The chocolate information was not excessive, but rather a set of fun facts to make the journey interesting.

SAM_0556

At each stop we sampled some chocolate and had a chance to browse their chocolate range.  The diversity of chocolate we tasted throughout the journey was extensive, ranging from a white chocolate ‘Eton Mess’ truffle at Hotel Chocolat, to a delectable plain chocolate truffle coated in cocoa powder at Prestat (my personal favourite), so there are treats available to suit all tastes.

SAM_0602
The amount of free samples we received were enough to give you a flavour of each chocolatier without leaving you in a ‘chocolate-coma’ and unable to walk, however, for serious chocoholics, all Great British Tourists recieve 10% off at each chocolatier.  If, like me, you have a small appetite and can’t quite handle seven chocolate tastings in a row, it would be a good idea to bring along a small box to keep some chocolate samples in to save for later!

SAM_0560
The chocolatiers were all fairly close together, at most a ten minute walk between each, however I would recommend comfortable walking shoes since you are on your feet for the entire tour.  Our tour fell on a particularly hot day, resulting in some slightly-melted chocolate purchases so remember to consider seasonal conditions when booking.  The tour lasted just over two hours with a small fifteen minute break in Fortnum and Mason’s to have a quick browse and refresh.   Watch out for Fortnum’s tea and coffee infused chocolates in the shape of teacups!

SAM_0588
Overall, I would definitely recommend the Great British Chocolate Tour as perhaps a fun day out, an occasion to meet new people and a chance to learn a bit about London’s greatest chocolatiers.  For tourists it is an added opportunity to explore London’s West End.  The tour is good value for money considering the free samples of high quality chocolate that you get to taste, and the discount you receive at each chocolatier.  The day was made entertaining by our tour guide, and would be a fun day out for chocolate lovers of all ages.

Chocolate Tour Information:

Website: http://www.greatbritishtours.com/gbt/the-chocolate-walking-tour-of-london.html

Price: £30