Friday, 6 September 2013

A Midsummer night's dairy dinner for The Grocer

Midnight Garden
Stuffed peppers with Boursin
The table set as the guests started to arrive
The cheese fondue burners lit. Cheese fondue is a lovely warming sharing dish. I'm going to do a bonfire night fondue supper club. Check my events page to book. 
I never realised what an important magazine The Grocer was until they featured my Underground Farmers' Market a couple of years ago. The reaction and feedback was far greater than that from more well-known publications. The Grocer is the food industry magazine, the one that supermarkets, suppliers and producers read. They have an annual supplement 'The Dairymen' and asked me to cook them a menu inspired by dairy products sent to me.
Every day couriers brought to me large chilled parcels of cheese, butter, cream and yoghurt. I had great fun playing around with the ingredients and tasting new things. Most of the products are British apart from the Swiss cheese. Britain now rivals France for cheeses: while De Gaulle famously complained about the difficulties of controlling a country that boasts 350 cheeses, Britain now has about 1, 200 cheeses. (Maybe that's why we have a coalition government.)

This is the menu I came up with:

Coupe de champagne 


Gougeres with Wyke farm cheddar and Zarpellon Grana Padano Parmesan (using KerryGold butter)

Pepperdew peppers stuffed with chive Boursin

Onion and cheese bhajis with Geetas chutney Red Leicester with coriander chutney


Wyke Farm Extra Mature Cheddar and sage soft pretzels (using Wyke farm unsalted butter)

Salmagundy crudités (herbs from my garden, heritage carrots, babysweetcorn, mangetout, home-grown tomatoes, cos lettuce, cucumber, celery) with Chobani yoghurt labné hung overnight with lemon zest and pink peppercorns, Boursin Muhamara dips

Halloumi wrapped in home-grown vine leaves

Main course:

Emmental, Gruyère Swiss cheese fondue accompanied by sourdough bread and mini potatoes baked on salt for dipping, pickles (pickled walnuts, green peppercorns, silverskin onions, cornichons)

Baby spinach salad with crumbled Joseph Heler Cheshire cheese and fresh cobnuts, mustard dressing


Lake District Dairy Quark cheese cake with blackberry and blackcurrant coulis from my garden
Dairy Pride whipped cream

Cheese plate:

Home-made quince jelly, La Fleur Tomme de vache cheese, Castello blue cheese, Castello pineapple halo, Turkish sultana grapes, fine oatcakes, home-made chocolate brazils

Coffee with Dairystix milk

Cheshire cheese, baby spinach, cobnut salad
Quark cheesecake was satisfyingly with great mouthfeel. This recipe, adapted from James Benson's cheesecake recipe, is going into my next book. 
The weather was so humid yesterday and it was certainly a tough day in the kitchen with a cranked-up Aga. I felt that eating cheese fondue indoors on one of the hottest days of the summer would have been a mistake, so we set up a long line of white-clothed tables in my garden. Lanterns flickered in the trees and the outdoor bathtub filled with pink petals and essential oils. The guests were cool and refreshed. Industry chat about dairy matters, laughter and clinking glasses filled the air. Who needs a standard corporate dinner on a night like last night? In the five years I've been running my supper club, it's rare that British weather is stable enough to eat outdoors, so this was a magical experience, especially as I used many of the plants we've been growing in the Secret Garden Club.
By this morning the weather had cooled, the sky had thickened to habitual grey, it had rained overnight. Was this the last of the summer nights? Oh but it has been a longed for glorious summer has it not?

Soft pretzels with cheese and sage

Sage and cheddar pretzels

I've made large soft pretzels several times now. I'm still working on the authenticity factor which is hard as I can't get hold of food grade lye. However mixed with sage leaves and good strong cheddar, this is very tasty.
Like bagels, you boil the dough before baking.
Makes 20.


1kg strong white flour

(if you have sourdough starter, add a cup of that too)

260ml milk

260ml water 

80g butter, melted 

1 tbsp malt extract 

2 tsp fast action dried yeast 
2 tbsp sea salt 
1 handful of sage leaves, finely chopped
250g grated strong cheddar cheese

1 or 2 litres boiling water
3-4 tbsp baking soda (unless you can get food-grade lye)

egg glaze (1 egg and a few drops of milk)
rock salt

Into a bowl, put 100g of flour, the yeast and the water (luke-warm, not hot). Cover with clingfilm and leave in a warm place for 3-5 hours. If you have a sourdough starter, add a cup of that also. 

Once your 'pre-ferment' is bubbly, add 900g flour, salt, milk, malt extract, melted butter, chopped up sage and grated cheese. Knead the mixture to make a firm but silky dough. 
Form the pretzel shapes by rolling the dough into 40cm sausages, make a circle, crossing over the ends and pressing them into the dough. 
Leave to rise for 1.5 hours on a baking tray covered with silicone paper or a silicone mat.
Pre-heat your oven to 200c.
Once they are risen, fill a deep baking tray with boiling water on your hob. Add the baking soda. 
Carefully place the shaped dough into the tray of boiling water for a few seconds until they float. Use a slotted spoon to scoop them out and lay them back on the baking tray. Brush the egg wash over them and sprinkle with sea salt. 
Bake the trays of pretzels for around 16 minutes, until a dark golden brown.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely on a wire rack. 
Serve with beer. 

Red Leicester chutney cheese and onion bhajis

4-5 onions, thinly sliced
200g gram flour
1 egg, beaten slightly
2 tblspns of curry powder (I make my own mix, recipe in my book Supper Club)
350g Geetas Red Leicester chutney cheese, grated
1 green chilli, thinly sliced
A large pinch of sea salt
A handful of chopped fresh coriander
Vegetable oil for frying

Fry the onions until soft then put most of them into a bowl, leaving the others to fry until crispy. Add the rest of the ingredients, mix, then add the crispy onions. 
Preheat your oven to 180ºc. Prepare your frying pan or deep fat fryer. 
Heat up the vegetable oil to 180ºc and use a tablespoon to scoop the mixture into the fryer.  Do a few at a time. When the outside is crispy and golden put them onto a baking tray, covered with a silicon mat or greaseproof paper.
Put the tray filled with bhajis into the oven and bake at 180ºc for 10 minutes.
Last night they were very popular, served with a chutney or mint/coriander/yoghurt sauce. You could use another cheese but this Red Leicester chutney cheese (Geetas) worked very well.


  1. This looks positively divine. The Grocer is a most important magazine indeed. Bet they loved your treats!

  2. You probably already know this but you are a genius. What a lovely menu

    1. Thank you Tansy....I'm not but I love you for saying it x

  3. Superb photos and such a gorgeous menu. Can't wait for your next book. Your first is already well-thumbed in our house - cherry clafoutis, winner. Sophie

    1. I so love cherries Sophie that I'm struggling not to put cherries in every recipe for cake! Thanks for buying my book...heartening!

  4. 1. Now I see what you mean about the tomatoes ;)
    2. I'm a quark convert - hadn't really used it much before.
    3. The whole night really did look amazing!
    4. You didn't wear your name badge.

    1. 1. I've got two more ripe tomatoes now so you are forgiven for taking my only one.
      2. Quark is great isn't it? We are apparently the only country that doesn't really eat Quark.
      3. Yes
      4. haha

  5. Looks perfect Kirsten. I love the photos, the light is wonderful.

    Elinor x

    1. thanks elinor. I bet you've had a lovely summer at your beach hut. I must come visit sometime!

  6. Top tip on the Dairymen supplement, I didn't know about it, but the articles look great!

    The peppers stuffed with Boursin look yum, will have to give them a go!

    1. Simple but yummy.
      The dairymen supplement is really interesting to read actually. I'll save you a copy?


I would love to hear what you think of this post! I try to reply to every comment (if there is a delay, I am probably away from an internet connection or abroad)