I’m used to goat’s cheese featuring on a cheese board so I’m ashamed to admit that I have only recently been championing goat’s cheese as a versatile ingredient to cook with. It’s fast becoming my go-to ingredient for quick and tasty meals – baked in tarts, crumbled into salads or spread in sandwiches simply with a ripe avocado and a good turn of the pepper mill. Yum.
Enjoyed throughout the Mediterranean since 10,000 BC, the Romans ate small goat’s cheeses soaked in olive oil, accompanied by vine fruit. Today, this is still a popular way of eating the goat’s cheese throughout Europe, bringing me back to a trip visiting friends in Blois on the banks of the Loire Valley many years ago. The dusky summer nights were spent in the garden, sat around a long wooden table breaking huge, crusty baguettes dunked into the oil and herb soaked goat’s cheese. Washed down with delicious French wine, naturally.
Being the world’s biggest producer of goat’s milk and goat’s cheese, I’m giving French goat’s cheese a big nod, using lovely mini Crottin de chavignols for this recipe. This cheese has an airy, smooth texture and is easy to cut, ranging from smooth and creamy to dry and crumbly. Encased in a roasted nutty crust and paired with the bitterness of the rocket salad, sweetness of the pear and the tang of the caramelised red onions, this recipe shines. These ingredients work so well together and add a sparkle to a winter lunch or starter at a dinner party. This recipe serves two.
Baked hazelnut crumbed goat’s cheese with pear, rocket and caramelised red onion
1 cup, hazelnuts
1 cup, Panko crumbs
2 miniature French goat’s cheese, I used mini Crottin de chavignol
1 egg, beaten
2 handfuls, rocket
2 conference pears
For the caramelised onions
1 red onion
1 tblspn honey
1 tblspn Balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper
Mix the nuts with the panko crumbs. Coat the cheese in the egg, then the nut mixture.
Heat oven to 200C/gas 6. Place the cheese on a baking sheet on a baking tray and bake for 20 mins. Don’t worry if the cheese oozes slightly.
For the onions, heat the oil in a pan, then add the onions. Stir well and cook until softened and starting to turn golden. Add the balsamic vinegar and honey, season and stir over the heat until syrupy.
Arrange the salad leaves on plates and spoon the onions on top. Add the goat‘s cheese, drizzle with any juice from the onions.
Learn more about the wonders of French goat’s cheese here.