Sunday, 1 July 2012

R is for... Rachel, Red Chester Thomas, Reblochon and Roquefort served with rye bread and raisin relish


I didn't have time to go into town to visit the usual suspects - Paxton & Whitfield or Neal's Yard. Instead, I went to the end of my road to a recently opened little canopied delicatessen with no name. They sell all manner of freshly made breads, pastries, cakes, meringues and tarts and also sell a good range of cured meats and some nice cheeses. If you want to find this unnamed Streatham gem, look no further than Streatham Hill station. Literally. You'll have gone past it of you do. Or, if you're coming up from Brixton, jump off the bus outside the station and it's just across the road.

Rachel is a semi-hard goats milk cheese (top right in pic) from Somerset. It has a firm texture and, although quite subtle in its goatiness, it has a mild and lingering sourness.

Reblochon (bottom right) is a French cows milk cheese made in the Alps region of Haute-Savoie. It has a washed rind and is smear-ripened and is delightfully gooey with a slight nuttiness. Famous for its starring role on tartiflette (hold on to your hats, the recipe will be coming at you with the letter T. Watch this space.), it needs no potato to hold its hand to make a lasting impact on a cheeseboard.

"Red Chester Thomas" (bottom left) is what it read on the label, but it was a label that was sort of in between two cheeses - this one and another one. I asked for Red Chester Thomas, so I assume that's what it was, but I've looked up Red Chester Thomas and have found absolutely nothing to suggest it exists, not even a foot note. We thought it tasted exactly like Red Leicester and, now that I've googled Red Chester Thomas to within an inch of its life and have been left wanting, I think it probably was Red Leicester after all, or at least that Red Chester Thomas is pretty much unidentifiable from Red Leicester. 

Red Leicester is a hard cows milk cheese made in, er, Leicester. It's all right, but not one of my great favourites. If I'm honest, I've always thought of it as Cheddar's slightly less attractive cousin. I wouldn't turn my nose up at it, if it happened to be under it, but I probably wouldn't rush to replace it, once the last slice had been scoffed, either.

Roquefort (top left). Hmmm, Roquefort. I am particularly partial to a bit of blue, and this classic cheeseboard stalwart didn't let me down. Creamy, crumbly and tangy, this ewes milk semi-hard French cheese packs the perfect pongy punch.

Rye Bread

We didn't take a picture of this for some reason, but it was very nice. I'd make it again. And now, thanks to my pains in typing up the recipe, you can too. Good.

7g sachet of fast acting yeast
450-500ml lukewarm water
400g wholemeal rye flour
1 tsp salt

Pop the yeast and 100ml of the water in a large mixing bowl with 50g of the flour. Mix it all up, cover in cling film and leave in the airing cupboard, or somewhere warm, for 6-8 hours or overnight. Add the remaining flour and enough water to make a soft dough. Knead for a few minutes until soft and slightly sticky, then cover with cling film and pop back in the airing cupboard for an hour or until the dough has doubled in size.

Knock the air out of the dough by punching it. Knead again for a minute or so and work it into a nice shape - I just made a casual round lump of bread, but you can do as you like. Plonk it on a baking tray lined with baking parchment and cover it with a clean tea towel before popping it back in the airing cupboard for another hour.

Preheat the oven to 220°C (200°C Fan)

Dust the bread with flour and bake for 30 - 35 minutes, or until nicely golden with a hollow sounding bottom.

Raisin Relish

This is less a recipe and more a list of ingredients that I chucked in a saucepan with no particular thought for measurements or accuracy, before fiddling about with the balance of flavours until I was happy - too sweet, add more vinegar, etc. This had onion, grated apple, raisins (obviously), butter, soft brown sugar, salt and red wine vinegar in it, and that's about as specific as you're going to get out of me on this one, until I decide to make it again with closer attention to detail.

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