Read My Cheese

The Brit­ish artist Stan­ley Spen­cer once said rather rue­fully that he wished ‘people would read my pic­tures.’ A book holds the reader in its own atmo­sphere, he argued, and ‘this same absorp­tion is pos­sible in pictures.’

This may take a little leap of faith and it’s alto­gether a more mundane, pos­sibly even banal example. But I would like you to read my cheese. Cheese is one of the old­est foods in the world, dat­ing back to before the Roman Empire. This dome of creamy deli­cious­ness holds everything within it that is good about food and cook­ing. And I’ve just made it for the first time. So thrilled was I when it emerged from the fridge that I needed to invent a new word for thrilled. Fro­ma­gic­ated seemed about right.

Ancient alchem­ists who tried to turn base metals into gold were crazy. I can’t under­stand why they weren’t sat­is­fied turn­ing yoghurt alchem­ic­ally into cheese. If I were to read my price­less cheese I would say that it is majestic, simple, exquis­ite, nour­ish­ing, sat­is­fy­ing, clever, ancient, unas­sum­ing, atmo­spheric, exotic, com­ical and his­toric. And the great thing about read­ing cheese is that you can eat it afterwards.

Fresh Cream Cheese

500g authen­tic Greek yoghurt

Three quar­ters tea­spoon fine sea salt

Stir the salt into the yoghurt, then turn the mix­ture into a small sieve lined with muslin. Allow the yoghurt to drip into a bowl in the fridge overnight and the next morn­ing you will have the most exquis­ite, creamy cheese as if by magic. That’s it. And this is what I did with it next.….

Home-Made Cheese, Ham and Peach Bruschetta

Toast slices of firm, chewy white bread. Spread thickly with cream cheese, lay a slice of Italian dry-cured, smoked ham on top, fol­lowed by thin slices of ripe peach and a hand­ful of rocket leaves. I’ve just bought black­berry vin­egar online from Womers­ley and once I’d reduced it a little in a pan, I spooned it over the bruschetta. The salt­i­ness of the cheese and ham, com­bined with the sweet, fruity peaches and vin­egar were sen­sa­tional. The cheese would also work well with my black gar­lic and beet­root bruschetta.

If you make this and then read your cheese, let me know what it says.

Black garlic — fashion faux pas or design classic

It amuses me to see fash­ion stores from Zara to Benetton to Top­shop packed with rails of mil­it­ary capes this sea­son. How did the cape sur­vive its first out­ing, let alone get resur­rec­ted? I remem­ber plead­ing for one as a teen­ager, along with a pair of white pull-on wet-look knee-length boots. I even­tu­ally got the cape — still wait­ing for the boots.

The first thing I learned about wear­ing a cape is that the restrict­ive slits give you instant Dalek-arms. In fact, the whole sil­hou­ette is start­lingly Dalek-like. So, no, I won’t be buy­ing a cape this time round.

The food equi­val­ent of the over-rated cape has to be foam. To my mind, eat­ing foam is no tastier than lying on the beach, swill­ing the frothy water’s edge around your pal­ate like a whale siev­ing plank­ton. I’m not 100% con­vinced by any­thing ‘en croute’ either, since it’s little more than a posh pie with a swanky name.

I’ve just been to a food fair and I bought what was described as ‘the next big thing in food’. It’s black gar­lic — stand­ard white gar­lic fer­men­ted for three weeks and dried for another week. Black gar­lic tastes like liquorice crossed with rais­ins with a back fla­vour of cooked gar­lic. It has a con­sist­ency that reminds me of chest­nuts or even fruit pas­tilles. It’s reputed to have none of that fierce, pun­gent after­taste that lingers. My daugh­ter ate a whole clove and pro­nounced it to be like ‘eat­ing a candy’. And it turns out the man­u­fac­tur­ers are telling the truth — there’s abso­lutely no lingering.

But is black gar­lic just a mil­it­ary cape in dis­guise, or is it pure Chanel — eleg­ant, time­less and exquisite?

This was my fash­ion experiment.….

The Recipe: Beet­root and Black Gar­lic Bruschetta With Goat’s Cheese and Walnuts

Enough for 4

1 beet­root

4 slices sour­dough bread, toasted

8 cloves black garlic

150g goat’s cheese — the soft, creamy kind

Bal­samic vin­egar — the syr­upy kind

Hand­ful of chives

Hand­ful of wal­nuts broken up with your hands

Cut the stalk off the beet­root and place in a pan of sim­mer­ing water. Boil for half an hour or until tender. Remove from the water and once cool enough to handle, peel the outer skin off. Slice the beet­root and put to one side while you toast the sour­dough bread.

Rub one clove of black gar­lic onto each slice of toasted bread. It will dis­in­teg­rate as you rub it in. Spread each toast with the goat’s cheese fol­lowed by the beet­root. Slice the remain­ing four cloves of black gar­lic and heap onto the beet­root. Add the wal­nuts, a trickle of bal­samic and a drift of chopped chives.

The Ver­dict

I would def­in­itely buy black gar­lic again and I would cer­tainly pre­pare it like this again. It’s still not quite Chanel, but Chanel wasn’t Chanel in the beginning.