It’s hard to resist the charms of cheese. I fall hard for it all; the lactic tang of a sharp cheddar, the alluring stretch of mozzarella, the saline crumble of a pungent pecorino. Cheese doesn’t really need a companion to be spectacular, but many dishes are improved by it. It adds texture, warmth, fragrance. And most of all, pleasure..
Potato and greens dauphinoise with fontina
If you make dauphinoise and potato gratins regularly, it’s worth investing in a mandoline so you can slice your potatoes uniformly thin. If you can’t find fontina, comte, taleggio or gruyere make great alternatives here.
Prep 20 min
Cook 40 min
800g large waxy potatoes (such as charlotte), peeled and very finely sliced
A knob of butter
1 large leek, washed and finely sliced
3 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
400g winter greens (I used a mixture of curly kale, cavolo nero and chard), roughly shredded, stalks and all
Sea salt and black pepper
Zest of 1 lemon
For the fontina sauce
75g fontina, grated
50g pecorino or parmesan, grated
50g unsalted butter, diced
50g plain flour
A large pinch of grated nutmeg
Heat the oven to 220C (200C fan)/425F/gas 7. Simmer the potatoes in salted boiling water for five minutes until just tender; drain.
Melt the butter in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Saute the leek until it is soft but not coloured, then add the garlic and cook until fragrant. Stir in the greens, cover and cook for six to eight minutes, until wilted and the stalks have softened a bit. Season, add the lemon zest and set aside.
Meanwhile, make the sauce. Mix the cheeses in a bowl. Melt the butter in a saucepan over a low heat, then add the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for three to four minutes until pale golden. Gradually whisk in the milk until you have a silky sauce. Heat, stirring, almost to a simmer, then take off the heat. Stir in the nutmeg and two-thirds of the cheese, and season to taste.
Lay half the potatoes in a 1.8-litre baking dish and cover with the greens mixture. Top with the remaining potatoes and pour over the sauce. Finish with the rest of the cheese and bake for 25 minutes until golden and bubbling. Serve immediately.
Curried cauliflower cheese pie
This is a love child of a Greek filo pie and cauliflower cheese – surely the ultimate comfort food.
Prep 20 min
Cook 55 min
12 filo pastry sheets
100g ghee, melted
30g flaked almonds
For the filling
1 tbsp ghee
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
30g ginger, peeled and finely grated
½ tsp ground turmeric
2 tbsp madras curry powder
A pinch of saffron
750g cauliflower, cut into small florets
Sea salt and black pepper
A big handful of chopped coriander
250g feta cheese, coarsely crumbled
Zest of 1 lemon, juice of ½
For the filling, heat the ghee in a casserole over a low-medium heat, add the onion and saute until soft and starting to colour.
Add the garlic and ginger, fry till fragrant, then add the powdered spices and saffron. Stir briefly, then add the cauliflower florets, season and mix well. Add a splash of water, cover and cook for 20–25 minutes, or until the cauliflower is very tender. Set aside to cool.
Next add the coriander, feta, lemon zest and juice and mix well.
Heat the oven to 190C (170C fan)/375F/gas 5. Brush a sheet of filo with melted ghee and put in a 22cm-diameter, 4cm-deep pie dish. Repeat with another five sheets, spacing each one slightly so that the dish is evenly covered, and the pastry is overhanging.
Spread the filling evenly into the dish, then fold over the overhanging pastry. Finally, brush the remaining filo sheets with ghee and place them over the top of the pie so the filling is completely covered. Trim the edges of the pastry if you need to and then tuck the ends into the pie dish – almost like you are making a bed. Brush the top with more ghee, scatter with almonds and bake for 30 minutes, turning the pan occasionally, until pastry is golden and crisp. Serve immediately.
Lime pickle chilli cheese toastie
Lime pickle cuts through the richness of the mozzarella here, which melts into the oozy stretch of your dreams.
Prep 5 min
Cook 5 min
25g lime pickle
2 slices sourdough bread
25g each mozzarella, mature cheddar, gruyere, all grated
Crush the lime pickle to a paste with a pestle and mortar. Lightly toast two slices of sourdough bread, cool slightly, then spread with butter on both sides.
Spread the lime pickle on one slice. Mix the cheeses and divide between the two slices. Heat a splash of olive oil in a cast-iron pan, for which you have a lid, over a medium heat.
Add both slices of bread, cheese-side up, then cover with the lid to help the cheese start to melt. After two minutes, remove the lid and continue frying until the underside of the bread is golden and the cheese looks melty.
Carefully and quickly, sandwich the two slices together, so all the cheeses are in the middle, then gently press down with a spatula and continue cooking until the cheese has melted and the bread is deep golden – it’s best to turn the sandwich every minute or so. Slice, then serve straight away.