Goat's cheese and olive aubergines
2 medium aubergines
6-8 tbsps olive oil
100g green or black olive paste
225g soft goat's cheese
2 tbsps grated Parmesan cheese
Wipe the aubergines and cut off the prickly stems. Slice each aubergine in half from stalk to thick end. Warm enough olive oil in a shallow pan to cover the base. Pop in the aubergines, cut side down, and cook over a low to moderate heat till the flesh is pale golden brown. As it soaks up the oil, add a little more. Turn the aubergines over and cook until tender to the point of a knife, about 7-10 minutes. Remove and drain on kitchen paper.
Get the grill hot; spoon the olive paste on to the cut side of each aubergine. Slice the cheese into 1cm rounds and place over the olive paste. Scatter the Parmesan over the top and place under the preheated grill till the goat's cheese softens and starts to melt and the Parmesan colours.
A salad of bitter leaves, blue cheese and walnuts
Piquant leaves are a bonus, but make this salad with whatever ones you have. Use one or a mixture of blue cheeses, and make sure, if the walnuts are from a packet, that they are fresh; they become rancid shortly after opening.
For 2 as a light lunch, supper or snack
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
50m groundnut oil
2 large handfuls per person of: chicory leaves, radicchio and frisee, torn into bite-sized pieces
100g blue cheese: Dolcelatte, Roquefort, Stilton or Beenleigh Blue
75g walnut pieces
Mix the mustard, vinegar and salt in a salad bowl, pour in the oil and stir until thick. Add the bitter leaves, crumble in the cheese and drop in the walnuts. Toss the leaves, cheese and nuts in the mustard dressing.
Fromage blanc with black-berries
A lovely, softly piquant cream of which I am particularly fond. Its soft consistency and gentle tartness could not be more flattering to fruits (I am thinking of summer berries here), though I am happy enough to indulge in a whole small bowl of it all to myself.
225g thick, Greek-style yoghurt
225ml double cream
3 egg whites
Put the yoghurt, which must be of the strained variety, in a large bowl. In another one, beat the cream with a hand or electric whisk, until it forms soft peaks. Fold the cream into the yoghurt gently and thoroughly with a metal spoon. Beat the egg whites till stiff. Fold them into the cream and yoghurt, then chill for 15 minutes. Grind a little nutmeg over the cream; a quite delightful addition. Put a few dark berries, such as blackberries or loganberries, into a serving bowl. Crush them lightly with a fork till they bleed purple juice, then spoon over some of the fromage blanc. Stir just enough to streak the cream with purple. Serve in small bowls with a little demerara sugar.
I have had a number of minor disasters with traditional recipes for this savoury little delicacy. This is not a particularly authentic version but it is the one that never fails for me, and is far quicker than the norm. The best flavour will come from cheeses that have some bite to them, though virtually anything will work. Stilton or a very mature Cheddar have enough of a tang to be interesting, Caerphilly or Wensleydale slightly less so.
For 2 as a snack
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp English mustard
2 tbsps beer
4 slices of toast
Grate or crumble the cheese and mix to a rough paste with the butter, Worcestershire sauce, mustard and beer. Spread over the toast and grill for a minute or so, till it singes in patches. If the toast is slightly charred at the edges then even better.
Chutney rabbit: Instead of butter, spread the toast under the cheese mixture with a thick layer of chutney.
Bacon or salami rabbit: Strips of bacon, grilled crisp, or slices from a salami can be laid on the toast before pouring on the cheese mixture.
Asparagus rabbit: The late food writer Jeremy Round made a version of this. It is almost the only use I can think of for tinned asparagus. Lay the spears over the buttered toast and top either with the Welsh rabbit mixture or just grate cheese, then grill till bubbling. You could add slices of pickled walnuts, chopped olives and anchovies or leftover ratatouille.
Baked feta with thyme
Even the most mundane of corner shops seem to stock plastic-wrapped planks of Feta cheese, more sophisticated stores may also sell Halumi, a similarly salty white cheese. They can be turned into a good supper with a little olive oil, some crusty white bread and a glass or three of red wine, as rough as you like.
200g block of Feta or Halumi cheese
1 tbsp olive oil
2 healthy sprigs of fresh thyme leaves
Cut the cheese into 2 thick slices using a large knife. Place each slice on a piece of kitchen foil, dribble over the olive oil and scatter over the thyme leaves. Put the cheese under a preheated hot grill or in a hot oven, 220oC/425oF (gas mark 7), very loosely wrapped round the foil, and cook until the cheese is warm and soft and slightly coloured here and there, 7-10 minutes. Eat with crusty bread and perhaps a tomato and cucumber salad.
The wine list
With the salad of bitter leaves, blue cheese and walnuts
2001 Fairview Viognier, Paarl (£8.99, Oddbins) Charles Back is one of the leading exponents of Mediterranean and Rh¿ne-style grapes in the Cape. This rich, creamy, hedonistic wine is a stunner.
Baked feta with thyme
2000 Château Montbrun de Gautherius, Corbières (£4.99, Safeway) I reckon you need a gutsy, southern French red to partner this dish, which makes this thyme and angostura bitters-like blend of Carignan, Syrah and Grenache ideal.
Welsh rabbit and different rabbits
2001 Peter Lehmann Semillon, Barossa Valley (£5.49, Unwins, Oddbins, Safeway, Sainsbury's) An Aussie wine from the Barossa Valley, this never fails to deliver in the glass, showing restrained, lemon and lime flavours and a zesty finish.
Goat's cheese and olive aubergines
2001 Shingle Peak Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough (£6.99, Sainsbury's) Goat's cheese and Sauvignon Blanc are a really good match. This piercingly aromatic, citrus fruit and gooseberry-like white is drier and much closer to Sancerre than most Kiwi interpretations of the grape.
Fromage blanc with blackberries
1999 Heimbourg Pinot Gris, Domaine Zind-Humbrecht (£19.99, Waitrose) Zind-Humbrecht make some of the most powerful, fruit intense wines in Alsace. This sumptuous, late-picked Pinot Gris is delicious.