Cooking with Comté

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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

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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

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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

Fluffy Buttermilk Pancakes 

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Prep time:  10 minutes plus overnight refrigeration
Makes 6-8 medium sized pancakes  

Pancake day is right around the corner! So I felt it was only right to share with you a new pancake recipe I discovered at a pancake making workshop last week, these really are the best American style pancakes I’ve ever tried, and the secret seems to be in the buttermilk, as well as the fact that the batter should be refrigerated overnight before cooking. Yes, it’s a bit of a faff, but totally worth it when you taste the finished product. So get prepping tonight, ahead of the big day!

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Ingredients: 

  • 360g buttermilk
  • 180g whole milk
  • 6g vanilla essence
  • 380g self raising flour
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 12g baking powder
  • 3G bicarbonate of soda
  • 75g melted butter

Method: 

  1. Weigh out all of the wet ingredients (besides the butter) in a large mixing bowl, followed by the dry ingredients.
  2. Mix the wet and dry ingredients with a whisk until it’s not lumpy, then slowly add in the melted butter.
  3. Mix again until all combined and the batter is ready. Refrigerate overnight/at least for 2-3 hours.
  4. When you’re ready to cook, add a dash of oil to your pan (you don’t need a lot if you have a non-stick frying pan) and leave to heat up slowly.
  5. Once the pan is hot and the oil starts to sizzle, pour in your batter according to whatever size you’d like your pancakes to be. You can even buy one of these pancake rings if you’d like your pancakes to be perfectly round!!
  6. Once one side of your pancake has browned (you’ll be able to tell as it will lift off the pan with a spatula), flip it so the other side is cooked through.
  7. Stack and dress your pancakes with whatever toppings you like. My go to toppings are maple syrup and chocolate chips. But you could also try berries, whipped cream, Nutella, bananas, crushed nuts or even a savoury option like bacon.

Cold Brew Coffee Overnight Oats 

I recently jumped on the overnight oats bandwagon (a bit late, I know), but I think i’ve now found my favourite recipe, which lets you get your morning coffee and oatmeal all in one go.  The oats and chia seeds combo helps keep you full all morning, whilst the coffee provides your caffeine hit.  They’re also good as a mid-morning or pre-gym snack.

I am not exaggerating about the prep time.  It will take you no longer than TWO minutes to prepare.  So there’s really no excuse now to not start the day with a healthy breakfast every morning!! These should be prepared the night before in a mason jar, bowl, or tupperware box, so you can just quickly grab and go in the morning.  You can use your milk of choice, I personally prefer full fat milk as you end up with a nice creamy coffee. Feel free to leave out the honey if you normally don’t put sugar in your coffee!

Prep time: 2 minutes (overnight refrigeration required)
Serves 1

Ingredients:

  • 50g rolled oats
  • 3 tablespoons instant coffee (in liquid form)
  • 100ml milk of your choice
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds
  • Dash of honey (to taste)

Method:

  1. In your mason jar, mix your oats, milk, chia seeds and honey together.  Pour the coffee over the mixture and stir.
  2. Refrigerate overnight.

Honey Garlic Chicken Wings

These chicken wings are so good! They’re oven baked, and end up super tender, so are perfect for anyone trying to eat healthier in the new year.  They’re also so quick and easy to prepare, with very few ingredients required, so they are great for weekday dinners.
Warning: you will need a napkin after eating!

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Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour

Ingredients:

  • 50 chicken wings
  • 50g plain flour
  • 4 tablespoons soy sauce
  • Thumb sized piece of finely sliced ginger
  • 10 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 100ml water
  • 1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

Method:

  1. Preheat your oven to gas mark 6.  Coat each wing in flour, and shake off any excess, and place onto a baking tray.  Drizzle olive oil so all the wings are coated, you might want to toss them.
  2. Cook for 20 minutes and in the mean time prepare your honey garlic glaze.  Combine the soy sauce, water, chilli flakes, garlic and ginger over a low heat for 5-7 minutes.  You should notice the liquid reduce.
  3. After 20 minutes, flip your chicken wings over and cook for another 20 minutes.
  4. Drizzle your glaze over the chicken wings so they are fully covered and put in the oven for a final 20 minutes.

 

Chicken Soup – Three ways 

Chicken soup has long been recognised as one a health boosting dish, some even swear by it as a cold and flu remedy.  It can clear sinuses, and the lean protein in chicken and nutrients from added vegetables work to bolster your strength when your body is feeling drained of energy.  Its super warming in the colder months, and the chicken makes it more filling than other types of soups.  If you’re feeling run down and overstuffed after the Christmas indulgence like I do, these soups are great for detoxing.

My recipes are made from scratch, and are packed with loads of vegetables and nutritious herbs, making it extra healthy.  I’ve outlined my three favourite ways of making chicken soup, the thai style is great for asian food lovers, and the creamy chicken soup is really hearty and has similar flavours to a chicken pot pie. YUM.  All these soups can be made in a large batch and reheated, just keep them in the fridge for 3-5 days.  I usually take leftovers to work as a packed lunch!

Thai Style Chicken Noodle Soup

Prep time: 30 minutes
Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 1 litre chicken stock
  • 150g noodles (you can use rice or egg noodles)
  • 1 chicken breast, chopped into small chunks
  • Thumb sized piece of fresh ginger
  • 6 cloves of garlic
  • salt and pepper
  • 6 closed cup mushrooms, chopped
  • 3 carrots, chopped
  • 75g spinach leaves
  • 1 stick of lemongrass
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons paprika powder
  • 1 shallot (if you’re allergic to onions like me, you can sub this for half a leek!)
  • 1 leek
  • 4 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • juice and zest from 1 lime
  • 1 medium spiced green chilli, chopped
  • 1 pepper, chopped

Method:

  1. In a food processor, blitz your shallot, coriander, 1 tablespoon olive oil, turmeric, lime juice and zest, chilli, ginger, paprika, garlic and lemongrass until a paste forms.  This should take around 1 minute.
  2. For this next step, use a wok or deep pan as you don’t want your soup to overflow.  Pan fry your chicken breast chunks, leek, carrots, mushrooms, pepper for 5-7 minutes on a medium heat in the remaining olive oil until cooked through.  Add in your washed spinach leaves at the end as they only take a few minutes to cook.  Reduce to a low heat and mix in the salt and pepper.
  3. Prepare your chicken stock according to the instructions and pour into the pan over your chicken and vegetables.  Leave to simmer on a low heat for 5-10 minutes so all the flavours come together.
  4. Meanwhile, cook your noodles according to the packet instructions.  Once cooked through, add to your soup.

Traditional Chicken Soup

Prep time: 20 minutes
Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 1 litre chicken stock
  • 1 small chicken breast, chopped into small chunks
  • 100g orzo
  • 3 carrots, sliced
  • 6 closed cup mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 leek
  • 75g spinach leaves
  • salt and pepper
  • 6 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 sticks of celery, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Method:

  1. Use a wok or deep pan as you don’t want your soup to overflow.   Pan fry your chicken breast, carrots, mushrooms, leek, garlic and celery on a medium heat in olive oil for 5-7 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through. Add in your spinach leaves at the end as they only take 30 seconds to cook.  Add salt and pepper to taste.
  2. Prepare your chicken stock according to instructions and pour into the pan.
  3. Pour your orzo into the soup and leave to boil on a medium heat.

Creamy Chicken, Leek and Sweetcorn Soup

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Prep Time: 20 minutes
Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 1 small chicken breast, chopped into small chunks.
  • 75g double cream
  • 100g sweetcorn
  • 1 leek, chopped
  • 6 cloves of garlic
  • 1 litre chicken stock
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Method:

  1. Use a wok or deep pan as you don’t want your soup to overflow.   Pan fry your chicken breast, sweetcorn, leek and garlic for 5-7 minutes until the chicken is cooked through.  Add in salt and pepper.
  2. Prepare your chicken stock according to the instructions and pour into the pan.  Then, add your cream.
  3. Leave to simmer on a low heat so that the mixture thickens and the flavours blend together.

Christmassy Lemon and Lime Possets

Prep time: 10 minutes (requires 5 hours cooling time)
Serves 6


If you’re having a last minute panic about your Christmas menu this year, I have the ultimate dessert for you.  This was recommended to me by a friend, because it’s literally the easiest dessert you’ll ever make, but still looks super festive and impressive.  It’s also really refreshing and light, so goes down well after a large Christmas roast!

I’ve added little iced snowmen to my possets (which I actually just bought from Sainsburys!!) but you could sub this with any festive decoration.

Ingredients:

  • 600ml double cream
  • 200g caster sugar
  • zest and juice of 2 lemons and 1 lime
  • Iced snowmen (for decorating).  I bought mine from Sainsburys
  • 2 crushed ginger biscuits

Method:

  1. Heat your cream and sugar in a saucepan over a low heat and stir until all the sugar has melted.
  2. Bring the mixture to boil, stir in the zest and lemon and lime juice and turn off the heat.
  3. Pour into ramekins or glasses, cover, and leave to set in the fridge for at least 5 hours.
  4. Just before serving, crumble your crushed ginger biscuits on top of each posset and and add your snowmen decorations.

Healthy Hot Chocolate

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Serves 1

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Winter is all about snuggling up with a hot drink by the fire under a blanket.   I love hot chocolate, but the sugary versions full of melted chocolate normally leave me feeling a little bit sick afterwards! So I’ve come up with a version that is free from refined sugar, is super delicious, and is full of superfoods so it’s actually nutritious.  I personally think it tastes better than the sugary version and is very nourishing during the colder months because of the additional spices I’ve added. It can be made vegan friendly and dairy free by using a milk of your choice – I used almond milk for mine.

The main ingredient is raw cacao powder, which is the purest form of chocolate you can consume.  It’s unsweetened, and hasn’t undergone all the processing that we find in normal chocolate, meaning it’s packed with antioxidants (the things that are believed to help prevent ageing, cancer and all other sorts of diseases), and is also high in magnesium and calcium.  It can also act as a natural mood elevator and anti-depressant – so can hopefully help those suffering from the winter blues.

Ingredients:

  • 350ml milk of your choice (I use almond milk)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon raw cacao powder
  • 1 teaspoon honey (or natural sweetener of your choice – you could try date syrup, maple syrup or coconut sugar)
  • pinch of ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon almond butter

Method:

  1. Combine all the ingredients into a saucepan and heat over a low heat.
  2. Continually stir the mixture until all the ingredients are combined (this might take quite a lot of stirring!)
  3. Once the mixture starts to boil turn of the heat and pour into mugs.  If you have a milk frother you can use this to create a foamy top.

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