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

Vietnamese Chicken Wrap

Prep time needed: 15 minutes 

Following on from my previous post this week on how much money we could save by making our own packed lunches and ditching boring Pret sandwiches… I have another great recipe for you to try. 

Now, this is a bold statement but, this is probably the best chicken wrap I’ve ever eaten! It’s full of flavour and spices and the rocket gives it some crunch. Plus, you know exactly what’s gone in it, so it’s much healthier than a store bought version. 

This recipe will make two wraps. It only takes around 15 minutes to prepare, so in that time you’ve made lunch for two days (and that will probably cost you less than £1!)

Ingredients:

  • 1 chicken breast, chopped into small chunks 
  • 2 tortilla wraps 
  • 4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • Thumb sized piece of fresh ginger, finely chopped 
  • Pinch of salt and pepper 
  • 1 tsp paprika powder
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder 
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil 
  • Juice of half a lemon 
  • Squirt of mayonnaise (I like to use Nandos’ perinaise which can be found in most supermarkets)
  • A handful of rocket leaves 

Method:

  1. Make your marinade by mixing your lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, ginger, turmeric, paprika and salt and pepper in a mixing bowl so that a paste forms. 
  2. Place your chopped chicken breast in the marinade and cover in the paste. Leave to set for a few minutes while you prepare your wrap.
  3. Spread your mayonnaise on the tortilla wrap and place the rocket on it too. 
  4. Pan fry your chicken on a medium heat for 5-7 minutes until cooked through. Then, place in the wrap and roll up. 

Pesto Pasta 5 ways

I recently read an article stating that the average Londoner spends £2,500 a year on work lunches (!!!!!) That is an awful lot of money spent largely on fairly boring sandwiches from Pret and overpriced sushi boxes from Itsu, which are also not particularly nutritious. I, personally, think this is a criminal amount of money spent on lunches, and pride myself on making tasty and cheap lunches for work that work out at no more than £1 a day (A total of £250 a year – so that’s a whopping £2250 saving annually.  To put that into perspective, that could probably get you TWO two week holidays to Bali, Thailand or New York).

Apparently the top reasons most people don’t bring their own packed lunches to work is because 1. they don’t have enough time to cook and 2. they don’t know what to make. So I’m on a quest to help people eat tastier, home-cooked lunches and save money.

The idea behind this is batch cooking. Yes, eating the same meal 5 days in a row can get a bit boring, that’s why I’ve come up with 5 different recipes with pesto pasta as the base, to reduce repetitiveness.  If you still can’t stand eating pasta for 5 days, you can make 5 meals, and freeze each portion for another day, or just give some to your other half to take to work.   The process of making these 5 meals should only take 30 minutes. (Highlighted in bold, because, I’m sure even the busiest of people can find 30 minutes a week). So these can be made on Sunday afternoon and stored in the fridge during the week.

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Ingredients for 5 meals = £5

  • 1 jar (190g) of pesto (98p from Asda – this brand is really tasty and good value)
  • 500g pasta (50p from most supermarkets)
  • A handful of spinach (approximately 10p worth of spinach)
  • 10 washed cherry tomatoes (5p worth of tomatoes)
  • 6 cloves of garlic (5p worth of garlic)
  • 50g smoked salmon (£1 worth of salmon)
  • 1 mackerel fillet (70p worth of mackerel)
  • 1 chicken breast (80p)
  • 5 slices of salami (50p worth of salami)
  • 100g grated cheddar cheese (30p worth of cheese)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

Top tip: if you need to buy larger amounts of the ingredients listed, you can freeze extras so they don’t go to waste (always check the storage instructions first).

Method:

  • Start by boiling your pasta in a saucepan according to the instructions. Whilst this is cooking, finely chop your garlic cloves and pan fry in the olive oil for 1 to 2 minutes until golden.
  • Once your pasta has cooked, drain and stir in your pesto and garlic.  This will act as your base for the rest of your dishes.  Separate your pasta mixture into 5 tupperware boxes (I like Lock and Lock because they’re totally leakproof).

1. The Veggie

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  • Panfry your cherry tomatoes and spinach for 2-3 minutes and add to box one.
  • You could also add leeks, onions, mushrooms or peppers according to taste.

2. The Chicken

  • Next, panfry your chopped chicken breast until cooked through and add into the second box.
  • Make sure you stir in thoroughly so the chicken breast is covered in pesto too.

3. The Salami
4. The Salmon
5. The Mackerel 

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  • The next three dishes are as simple as slicing up your salami, salmon and mackerel into small pieces and stirring through your pasta. (Note: if you are going to freeze these dishes, freeze without the salami as most can’t be frozen)
  • Grate your cheese and sprinkle on top of each portion. You could also add some black pepper.
  • Store in the fridge and take to work each morning!

So, it’s really as simple as that. 30 minutes, 5 meals, £1 each.  You’ll save money, and eat better…. and then you can go ahead and book that trip to Thailand!

Courgetti Bolognese 

Overall time needed: 1 hour 15 minutes 

I’ve been a bit naughty this weekend and may have overindulged in carbs and chocolate yesterday! (Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for a balanced diet and am a firm believer in the importance of carbohydrates… But 5 plates of pasta is probably too much!)  So today I’ve tried to make up for it by whipping up my Courgetti Bolognese. It’s packed with protein and loadsa veg and is a perfect Sunday night dinner. Plus any leftovers can be taken to work for lunch on Monday! I used lamb mince but this could be easily substituted with beef or turkey if you prefer.


To make this recipe you’ll need a spiralizer – one of the worlds greatest inventions!! It’s so useful, not just for courgetti, but for making vegetable crisps and also jazzing up boring salads. If you haven’t got one yet I’d wholeheartedly reccomend it. 


Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 250g lamb mince (this could be substituted for beef or turkey)
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and diced
  • 150g mushrooms, roughly chopped
  • 1 tbsp tomato purée
  • 1 red pepper 
  • 1 stick of celery 
  • 400g chopped tomatoes
  • 1 chicken stock cube (450ml boiling water)
  • Pinch of salt and crushed black pepper 
  • 2 courgettes
  • grated cheddar cheese, to serve 

Method:

1. Heat the olive oil in a pan and add the lamb mince. Fry until browned and then set aside in a bowl.

2. Fry the onion on a low heat for 5 minutes, then add the garlic, carrot, red pepper, celery and mushrooms and cook for another 5 minutes until softened. Re-add the mince to the pan. 

3. Add the tomato purée and the chopped tomatoes and stir so all the ingredients are mixed together. Add the salt and pepper. 

4. Add the chicken stock in boiling water and then lower the heat to simmer for around 45 minutes until the sauce has thickened. 

5. Whilst the sauce is brewing spiralize your courgettes using a spiralizer. 

6. When the sauce is ready, add your courgetti to the pan and cook for 3-4 minutes until lightly softened. 

7. Serve and top with some grated cheese. Enjoy!

Spicy Chicken and Chickpea Salad 


I am a firm believer of packed lunches, and spend most of my Sunday evenings meal-prepping for the week. Hence why I’m super excited to launch this new ‘packed lunch’ recipe section on my blog! I genuinely hate spending money on an overpriced salad or sandwich from a supermarket for lunch, plus home cooking is always healthier.
Also, on a side note, I love this lunchbox, which was a birthday gift from my lovely colleagues because I get so hungry that I usually end up eating my lunch by 11:30am!

Over the years I’ve come up with some great recipes which I can’t wait to share with you guys… Starting with my spicy chicken and chickpea salad! Now that the weather’s (finally) getting warmer I’m switching up my soups to salads. This salad is packed with protein meaning it’s actually filling and will keep you going throughout the day. I find it doesn’t really need a dressing because the seasoning on the chicken and the chickpeas ends up spreading and diffusing through the salad, but you can add a dressing of your choice if you prefer!

Prep time: 20 minutes 

Ingredients:

  • 1 chicken breast, chopped into small cubes 
  • 50g chickpeas 
  • 25g sweetcorn 
  • 3 sundried tomatoes, chopped into slices 
  • 25g mozzarella cheese, chopped into small chunks 
  • A handful of rocket leaves 
  • 10 olives 
  • 8 cherry tomatoes 
  • 25g cucumber, chopped into small cubes 
  • 2 teaspoons paprika 
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala 
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander 
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • Pinch of salt and pepper
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped

Method:

1. Fry the chicken cubes in olive oil on a medium heat for 5 minutes, or until cooked through. 

2. Add the chickpeas and sweetcorn to the pan. Then add the mustard seeds, garlic, paprika, garam masala, ground coriander and a pinch of salt and pepper to the pan and cook in the spices on a low heat and leave to simmer for 5 minutes. Leave to cool while you prepare the rest of the salad.

3. Add the rocket leaves, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, sundried tomatoes, olives and mozzarella to your lunch box and then add the cooked chicken and chickpea mix. Toss the salad so that all the ingredients are mixed together. 

4. Store in the fridge until ready to eat and then enjoy!