Good times, get cheesy – Latest Recipe From Chef Jonny Nicholson
Make things better with hot oozy melted cheese, says Jonny Nicholson, Chef-Proprietor of The Bell At Sax’
Don’t you find certain foods, perhaps a dish or an ingredient, take you back in time, for a moment or two of heart-warming nostalgia. Something that reminds you the first cake you made with mum, Grandma’s Sunday tea, school dinners, burning the pasta when you first left home as a student or that second date. For a lot of people it is either bad, think semolina and pink blancmange or good, perhaps bacon sandwiches or Angel Delight.
Homely comfort food is the stuff of the senses, like a favourite pair of slippers or a cosy blanket, those dishes which warm the heart and enrich the soul, usually eaten together with good friends or family. It just makes you feel great, leaving a sense that all is well with the world.
‘Melty cheese’ as my kids would say is one of those things. It doesn’t actually matter what it is on or in, a simple pizza, a big bowl of pasta, cheese on toast or posher spicy rarebit, a favourite side dish like mac’n’cheese or gratin dauphinoise, it’s just cheesy heaven…
This month’s recipe is based around a creamy garlicky cheesy potato bake with a few other tasty ingredients to make it into the base for a main course by itself. If you’re continental, posh or a foodie, you might know it as tartiflette, an Alpine winter favourite, great for after a long day in the icy wilds skiing or even just walking the windswept Suffolk coast. And yes it is a real warmer but actually it is best in spring or autumn as a ‘grey day’ standby if allowed to cool for a while, maybe half an hour out of the oven. You can just vary how warming it actually is by what you serve alongside – from a hot bubbling stew to some lovely smoked fish and dressed leaves, it is a flexible friend.
One of my favourite ingredients for this is the excellent Bungay-made Baron Bigod brie cheese. It is made with raw unpasteurised milk (so comes with a minor health warning) and has such a rich creamy texture and when ripe, that beautiful mushroomy grassy savoury flavour. Superb for a cheeseboard and even better when cooked, perfect ‘melty cheese’ I say! Do visit their Fen Farm Dairy and the self-serve vending machine full of their raw milk, cheese, butter etc to purchase – you’ll find it on the Flixton road just outside Bungay.
Jonny Nicholson, Chef – Owner, The Bell At Sax’, Saxmundham and The Sail Loft in Southwold
The Bell At Sax’, High Street, Saxmundham IP17 1AF
Relaxing neighbourhood restaurant-with-rooms with good food, lounge bar and two dining rooms.
Have you tried our new Sunday Lunch Carvery (just £11.95)…
W: www.thebellatsax.co.uk T: 01728 602331
The Sail Loft, Ferry Road, Southwold IP18 6HQ
Our beachside café-bar and restaurant, proudly using local, seasonal, Suffolk ingredients. Find us by Southwold’s dunes near the campsite and lifeboat station. How about booking for our luxurious afternoon tea…
W: www.sailloftsouthwold.uk T: 01502 725713
THE BEST CHEESY POTATO BAKE
(serves 4 generously)
The ingredients are easily changed here, chopped rashers instead of lardons for the bacon, raw or slow cooked garlic, left over cooked potatoes, cheddar or other local cheese, grated or sliced depending, instead of the Suffolk brie etc. Just mix it up and enjoy! Nb The brie skin is lovely in the final dish so I suggest leaving it on before cubing.
Approx. 800g cleaned, unpeeled potatoes cut into 2 cm rough chunks
Good slice of butter
200g smoked streaky bacon rashers, shredded
1 medium onion, peeled, halved and finely sliced
1 – 2 cloves raw garlic, peeled and finely chopped
Few sprigs thyme
Two bay leaves
200g Baron Bigod brie in 2cm cubes
1 – 2 tsp smooth mustard
Sea salt and black peppermill
250ml good double cream
Handful of breadcrumbs
Handful of grated parmesan or other hard cheese
Pre-heat the oven to 175c fan or equivalent.
Put the potatoes on to simmer, covered in salted water. Cook until just starting to go tender, approx. 10 – 15 minutes.
Meanwhile heat a glug of oil and the butter in a hot large ovenproof sauté pan over a medium heat and stir fry the bacon for a few minutes. Then add in the onions, cover, heat through, turn down to low-medium, and stirring regularly, cook until they start to brown at the edges. Stir in the garlic, the thyme and bay leaves. Cook for a couple more minutes over a low heat. Set aside to keep warm.
Drain the potatoes well and put back into their empty pan on the hot hob, heat turned off, and left uncovered to dry for a few minutes.
Fold the hot potatoes well into the warm bacon pan contents and nestle in the cheese. Whisk the mustard and seasoning into the cream before pouring over the pan. Mix the breadcrumbs with the parmesan and scatter over. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden, bubbling and hot throughout. Remove and allow to sit for at least 15 minutes before eating.