Cheese platter with homemade fig and walnut bread

 

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Over the coming weeks I’m going to share with you the many facets of my biggest food obsession – cheese. Few things, culinary or otherwise, are more ubiquitous with the hexagon nation than fromage. You’d be surprised at how many varieties and subtleties of flavour exist and so I just couldn’t fit everything into one post. For today, I’ve started at the end, showing you a platter of a few of my favourites (at least from the selection we are able to purchase in Australia, but that’s another story.)

Now, it’s not just the cheese that matters on a cheese platter. What you eat your cheese with is equally important. A good quality crusty loaf of bread is a must and a touch of sweetness like a fig or quince paste can really enhance the flavour. I’ve combined the two in this delicious fig and walnut bread recipe that you can easily make at home and impress your guests with.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 kg baker’s flour
  • 100g fresh yeast (or 35g dried yeast)
  • 800mL luke warm water
  • 35g salt
  • 200g walnut kernel
  • 150g dried figs
  • 150g dried apricots (optional)

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Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees on fan force.
  2. Mix the yeast with a little bit of water, just enough to dilute it.
  3. Put all the dry ingredients into a big mixing bowl and give it a stir before you add the yeast. You don’t want the yeast to be in direct contact with the salt, as it would “kill” it.
  4. Roughly chop the walnuts, figs and apricots (if you are including them) and keep aside.
  5. Add the yeast to the dry ingredients then add the water. Knead the dough well for about 5 minutes, by hand or using an electric mixer with a hook attachment.
  6. Put the dough on a lightly floured bench, spread it a little bit and arrange the nuts and dried fruits in the middle. Knead well for a further 5 minutes by hand to make sure the garnish is evenly spread.
  7. Put the dough back in the mixing bowl and cover with a tea towel. Leave to proof until it doubles in size, then knock it back down with your fists (as if you’re punching it).
  8. Portion the dough in 300g balls and using the palm of your hands, form an oblong shape, kind of like a big Baguette.
  9. Cover the bread with a towel and leave to proof until nearly double in size.
  10. Bake the bread until golden and crunchy around the outside (about 15 minutes). To know when it’s ready, gently knock on the bottom of the loaf and if it sounds hollow, then it’s ready.

 

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I paired this wonderful bread with a cheese platter in which I used the following cheeses:

  1. Pico goats cheese : Perigord region, France. Soft ripened cheese
  2. Fourme D’ambert: Puy De Dome in Auvergne France. Semi Hard blue cheese
  3. Brebirousse d’argental: Lyon region, soft ripened bloomy rind sheep’s milk cheese
  4. truffled brie: Rouzaire Ile De France, soft cheese

I also used dried apricots, dried figs, grapes, crackers and moscatels on the platter

All those are available from feast in Hampton or Richmond café and Larder cheeses, you can also visit their website: www.rhcl.com.au

With this amazing cheese platter I recommend a Chateau “ Ollieux Romanis” Corbiere red available from www.airoldifinewines.com.au .

Two ways to cook Cabbage

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Cabbage is prepared and consumed in many ways. The simplest options include eating the vegetable raw or steaming it, though many cuisines pickle, stew, sautée or braise cabbage. Pickling is one of the most popular ways of preserving cabbage, creating dishes such as sauerkraut and kimchee, although kimchee is more often made from Chinese cabbage . Savoy cabbages are usually used in salads, while smooth-leaf types are utilized for both market sales and processing. While the British dish bubble and squeak is made primarily with salt beef and boiled cabbage. In Poland, cabbage is one of the main food crops, and it features prominently in Polish cuisine. Sauerkraut is a frequent dish, either eaten on its own or as a stuffing for other dishes such as golabki (stuffed cabbage) and pierogi (filled pasta). Other eastern European countries, such as Hungary and Romania, also have traditional dishes that feature cabbage as a main ingredient. In India and Ethiopia, cabbage is often included in spicy salads and braises. In the United States, cabbage is used primarily for the production of coleslaw, followed by market use and sauerkraut production.

 

Stuffed Cabbage leaves:

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 savoy cabbage
  • 200 beef mince (free range)
  • 200 g pork mince ( free range)
  • 1 bunch thyme
  • 3 shallots
  • 3 garlic
  • 2 field mushroom
  • 1 teaspoon chili flakes
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 100 ml white wine
  • 150 ml vegetables stock

 

Method: Carefully peel the leaves of the cabbage. Blanch (cook) them in salted boiling water for 1 ½ minutes, then refresh them in cold water. Place the cabbage leaves on kitchen paper to dry them.

Heat up a pot on medium heat with a little bit of butter and olive oil. Add the diced shallots and crushed garlic, cook for about 2 minutes• Add the diced mushroom, chili flakes, smoked paprika and thyme. Cook for about 3-4 minutes then add the white wine and vegetable stock, reduce the liquid by half.  Place the mix in the fridge to cool down. In a bowl mix both the minces and the garnish together, add 1 eggs, salt and pepper. Place a small amount of mince in the center of the cabbage leave and wrap the leaf around the mince making sure all sides are closed. Cook the stuffed cabbage in a pan on medium heat for about 5 minutes on one side, and then add 150 ml vegetable stock and cook for a further 5-6 minutes on the other side. My favorite way to enjoy stuffed cabbage is with braised or roasted vegetables, what’s yours?

Port sauce:

  • 100 ml port
  • 1 diced shallots
  • 1 garlic clove
  • ¼ bunch thyme
  • 150 ml vegetable stock

 

Method: Cook the diced shallots, garlic and thyme for about 5 minutes on a medium heat. Add the port and reduce by half, then add the vegetable stock. Reduce the sauce by half. To thicken it to your liking, mix some melted butter and flour into a paste and whisk a little bit into the sauce. Cook the sauce for a further 5 minutes.

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Braised cabbage :

Ingredients:

  • 1 savoy cabbage
  • 4 bacon rashers
  • 3 diced shallots
  • 2 cloves garlic ( crushed)
  • ½ bunch thyme
  • 150 ml white wine

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Method:  In a hot cooking pot, add a bit of olive oil and butter. Cook the diced shallots, bacon, garlic and chopped thyme for about 5 minutes. Add the cabbage, stir it and then add the white wine, turn the heat down, put the lid on and leave to cook for a good 10 minutes. Carefully take the lid off and season to taste. My favorite way to enjoy braised cabbage is to eat it with some delicious free range pork sausages. What’s yours?

 

To watch the how to video on my YouTube channel click on the following ling: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1JgL38Kwcfc

What Produce Is in Season in Winter

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Which fruits and Vegetables are in season in Winter?

Well winter is upon us once again, so it’s now time for slow cook roasts, warming soups, and hearty stews.

I believe in buying what’s in season and what’s organic wherever possible. Buying seasonal produce is a great way to support your local farmers and farmer’s markets. In season, local fruit and vegetables are often more nutritious and tasty simply because there’s less chance they’ve been in cold storage for a long period of time which can affect these things.  Also, having grown up helping on my Uncle’s farm in France, I find there’s something truly soul-satisfying about eating something that’s fresh from the earth!

Winter vegetables are more varied than people think (check out the full list at the end of this post). My favourite winter crops for cooking are pumpkins, leeks and potatoes, which are perfect for soup making as well as classic roasting, cabbages, silverbeet, and fennel, which are beautiful braised, and your classic root vegetables like parsnips, turnips and carrots which are the perfect complements to any winter oven roast. Roasted carrot and pumpkin also make for a delicious winter salad when paired with feta, spinach or rocket leaves, some toasted pine nuts and lemon zest.

Let’s not forget the winter fruits available on farmers market stalls! Lemons are common year round, but are often at their best in the colder months. They are perfect to add zest to everything from meat dishes and desserts to something as simple a glass of water. Another member of the citrus family is orange and one of my favourite winter salads is fresh orange segments and shaved raw fennel with just a splash of apple cider vinegar and olive oil to dress.

Look out for seasonal, ripe fruits and veggies at your next local farmers market (or supermarket) and be sure to pick ones that are bright in colour, firm to touch and plump.

To see my favourite winter harvests brought to life, check out my Winter Harvest Videos on my You Tube Channel. The first one features a classic French winter dish using the humble potato.

Bon Appétit!