The French goats cheese challenge part 2: Beetroot, apple & French goats cheese tart with a cauliflower, walnut & cumin crust

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Wandering around the supermarket on Sunday, I was embarrassingly delighted to see the first harvest of cox apples had landed. When I was small, my mum used to take me and my brother to a little pick your own farm called Cuckoo’s Corner for the start of Autumn. We’d run wild there, through the orchards of gnarled, stubby apple trees, kicking up the newly-fallen leaves and sinking our milk teeth into the tawny skins of crispy fresh apples snatched straight from the low-hanging branches.

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So I didn’t take much convincing to use some of these red-tinged fruit in my second recipe for the Easy Cheesy Chèvre French goats cheese challenge; this time using the more punchy-flavoured Crottin de Chavignol, which is made from the raw milk of Alpine goats and is the most famous of all the Loire Valley goats cheeses.

“Creamy French goats cheese combined with beetroot, caramelised red onions and a hint of cumin is a warming ode to Autumn.”

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Recently I’ve been experimenting with using cauliflower instead of flour for things like pizza bases and pastry. It might not be as firm or crispy as ordinary shortcrust, but it’s gluten free, packed with nutrients and goes beautifully with an added edge of toasted nuts or spices.

Plus, fewer calories from butter means you can eat more or it, right?

Beetroot, apple & French goats cheese tart with a cauliflower, walnut & cumin crust

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Ingredients

2 rounds of Crottin de Chavignol
2 cox apples
4 bulbs of beetroot
3 dsp balsamic vinegar
2 large red onions
1 dsp caster sugar

for the base
1 large cauliflower
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp cumin
100g walnuts

Method
  • Start by baking the raw beetroot. Wrap each bulb in tin foil and put on a baking tray in a preheated oven at 180 degrees C for around two hours until they are soft and their skin peels off easily. Leave to cool for a bit before you slide the skins off and wear gloves as they’ll stain your fingers pink for days.
  • Next, make the caramelised red onions by slicing thinly and putting into a saucepan with the sugar, three dessert spoons of balsamic vinegar and 150ml of water. Cook on a low heat until the water has dissolved and the onions are soft and sticky.
  • To make the base, remove the leaves and cut the core from the cauliflower and blitz in a food processor to a breadcrumb consistency. Cover and cook in the microwave on high for six minutes then carefully tip it out onto a clean tea towel to cool.
  • Put the walnuts and cumin in a saucepan and gently toast for five minutes before blitzing to crumbs in the food processor.
  • Cauliflower holds a lot of water, this quick trick from BBC Good Food helps to squeeze most of it out so you can avoid the dreaded soggy bottom on your tart: when the cauliflower has cooled, gather the corners of the tea towel together and twist over the sink to squeeze as much water from the veg as possible.
  • Mix the drained cauliflower with the nuts and cumin crush and beat in the eggs. Push the mixture over the base and unto the edges of a 12-inch tart tin with a palette knife and bake at 180 degrees C for 20 minutes until it’s turned a golden, biscuitty shade.
  • Spoon over the cooked red onions and then slice your apple and beetroot into segments, arranging over the top with slices of Crottin de Chavignol.
  • Put the tart back into the oven for around 20 minutes until the apple is soft and the goats cheese is bubbling. You can spoon over a simple balsamic glaze to finish if you like – just heat balsamic vinegar with a spoonful of brown sugar in a pan until it turns thick and glossy like treacle. Serve with any leftover caramelised red onions.

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The French goats cheese challenge part 1: Honey-roasted pears & walnuts with French goats cheese ice cream & fig crisps

French goats cheese is one of those rare foods that has a strange, hypnotic sort of power over me. Whether I’m in a restaurant or wandering around the supermarket aisles, if my eyes happen to graze over even a mere mention of it, I’m overwhelmed by a sudden craving and have to have it there and then.

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I suppose I grew up with it really. My mother is a hardcore cheese fanatic and she used to give me slivers of the milk white stuff as a saturday afternoon snack, smushed onto salty crackers with a tall glass of milk.

Later, when I was a teenager, I remember eating huge wedges of it balanced on a bitter frisee salad in pubs when I was trying to order something sophisticated. The last time I had it, it had been transformed into a decadent dessert with olive oil cake and splodges of tomato and strawberry. It was sharp and rich and…interesting, but all I could think was how much nicer it would be with a hint of caramel from some warm honey, or with the buttery crunch of toasted nuts.

I’ve always wanted to try a dessert with, as Frances Quinn from The Great British Bake Off put it, “a hint of goat.” Something that shows off this punchy cheese in all it’s glory without hitting you around the face with it.

So I was rather pleased when Easy Cheesy Chèvre got in touch and asked me to create a recipe using their ridiculously good French goats cheese. Because it meant I had an excuse to experiment with turning one of my favourite lunchtime ingredients into a dinner-party worthy pudding.

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For this recipe, I plumped for the creamy, soft Valençay cheese. While the most pungent in odour (I was possibly the least popular person on the tube carting these badboys home mid-rush hour), and, with its greenish, zombie brain like exterior, the most unappetising to look at, it is actually one of the softly-flavoured goats cheeses that I’ve come across, which made it perfect for this pudding.

“Valençay cheese used to have a shape of perfect pyramid with a pointed top. But when Napoleon returned to the castle of Valencay after his unsuccessful expedition in Egypt, he saw the cheese, in a fit of rage drew his sword and cut of the top of cheese. Since then the cheese has always been made with a flattened top.”

Honey-roasted pears & walnuts with French goats cheese ice cream & fig crisps

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Ingredients

for the ice cream
1 tbs runny honey
3 egg yolks
100g soft goats cheese, scooped from its rind
500ml double cream
70g caster sugar
pinch of sea salt

for the dried fruit
4 figs, thinly sliced
1 ripe pear

for the roasted pears 
100g roughly chopped walnuts
4 tsp runny honey
30g softened butter
3/4 ripe pears

Method

Start by making your ice cream. This is the simplest recipe for ice cream I know. You can add the scraping from two fragrant vanilla pods if you want to make it vanilla-flavoured, too.

This simple recipe uses double cream, which means that the ice cream won’t form crystals as it freezes so you don’t have to keep stirring it – just whack it in the freezer until it’s set.

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  • Pour the cream and sugar into a saucepan and heat until the cream is boiling and the sugar has dissolved. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks, honey and crumbled goats cheese until you’ve made a smooth, butter-yellow paste.
  • Slowly add the hot cream, whipping as you do to avoid a scrambled egg texture and sprinkle over the pinch of sea salt – you’ll need that sharp edge here to counter the honeyed sweetness and bring out the tang of the goats cheese.
  • Pour the mixture into some tupperware and freeze until it’s set, which can take anything from two-four hours.
  • While the ice cream is freezing, thinly slice the figs and one of the pears (don’t worry about removing the core or the skin) into little slivers and lay them on a sheet of baking paper.
  • Let them dry out in an oven preheated to 100 degrees C. After about three hours you should have tender, slightly crispy little shards of fruit, which are perfect for decorating cakes or puddings.

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  • When you’ve made your dried fruit and the ice cream is set, make a start on the roasted pears. Halve some ripe varieties of pear such as conference or comice and scoop out the core with a spoon. Pop into an oven-proof dish and spoon over the butter, honey and sugar mixture. sprinkle over the chopped walnuts and cook in the oven at 180 degrees C for around 20-30 minutes.

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  • When the pears are bubbling and have turned a rich, golden-brown, take them out of the oven. Scoop out a generous dome of ice cream and set onto of a mound of cooked pears, leaving it to slowly melt over the hot fruit. Decorate with shards of fig and pear crisps and serve.

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Wine recommendation: with its sharp , cheesy tang and sweet, honey-rich finish, this beautifully juicy pudding needs a dessert wine tat’ll cut through that sugar yet compliment those savoury notes. I’ll be eating this with a glass of L’or du Ciron Sauternes, an oak-aged dessert wine with syrupy apricot notes and a fizzing, acidic edge.