ROAST BEETROOT, GOATS CHEESE AND COBNUT SALAD
1 bunch of fresh, uncooked, beetroot (about 250g without leaves)
200 g/8 oz soft, fresh goats’ cheese
Cobnuts (a couple of dozen)
Baby Beetroot or other leaves
For the dressing:
Salt and pepper
1 tsp honey
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
½ tbsp balsamic vinegar
5 tbsps cobnut oil
Remove the tops from the beetroot. It they are really fresh the leaves can be retained for the salad, if not substitute rocket or other leaves.
Wash the beetroot and double wrap them in foil. Place this foil parcel in the oven at 130˚C for about 2 hours (add or subtract half an hour depending on the size of the beetroot).
When the beetroot are cooked, but whilst still warm, remove the skin and toss, halved or quartered depending on size, in the dressing. You can either proceed with the salad immediately, whilst the beetroot are still warm, or keep, covered, in the refrigerator until required.
To finish the salad mix the beetroot with the leaves, crumble over the fresh goats’ cheese and top with roughly chopped cobnuts and chopped chives.
COBNUT AND HONEY TART
This tart really showcases the crisp yet milky texture of fresh cobnuts, but it will take patience to shell them.
Makes an 11″ tart (serves eight)
For the Shortbread case:
250g/9 oz plain flour
150g/6 oz butter
75g/3 oz caster sugar
For the filling:
225 ml/8 fl oz double cream
90g/3½ oz clear honey
2 tbsp demerara sugar
135g/5 oz whole cobnuts (shelled weight)
Preheat the oven to 200C/Gas 6.
This shortbread pastry is very easy to make and handle. Cream the butter and sugar until light (this can be done in a food processor). Sieve the flour and mix in to the creamed mixture (do not over process if using a processor).
Roll out and line the tart case(s). Prick well with a fork and bake blind for 20 minutes.
Beat together all of the filling ingredients, apart from the cobnuts, and pour into the partly baked pastry case. Return to the oven for a further 15 minutes.
Arrange the hazelnuts on top of the filling and cook for 5 minutes more.
Serve cold but not chilled dusted with icing sugar. Whipped cream flavoured with Frangelico liqueur is an ideal accompaniment.
HAZELNUT AND RASPBERRY CHOCOLATE BROWNIES
This recipe can be made with fresh cobnuts, but is also good made with toasted hazelnuts. It is based on a recipe from Adriana Rabinovich’s “The Little Red Barn Baking Book” as she makes the best brownies I have ever tasted. Her top tips for making great brownies are: bake in a square tin, do not over mix the filling, do not over bake the mixture (the most common cause of failure).
Makes 16 brownies
125g plain flour
½ tsp salt
110g plain chocolate (min 70% cocoa solids)
110g unsalted butter
150g dark soft brown sugar
150g caster sugar
110g toasted hazelnuts, chopped
150g raspberries (frozen are fine)
Butter and flour a 23 cm square cake tin. Preheat the oven to 170˚C/Gas Mark 3.
Sieve the flour and salt into a large bowl. Melt the chocolate with the butter in a bowl set over, a pan of hot water – the bowl must not be touching the water. If you have a microwave you probably know how to melt chocolate in this – one of the few things they are good for.
Remove from the heat, add the brown and caster sugars and let them dissolve in the heat of the chocolate, stirring to combine once the sugars have begun to dissolve. Now add the eggs, one at a time, and beat the mixture after each addition. The mixture should be nice and glossy at the end of this stage. Toast the hazelnuts lightly in a dry frying pan then chop them (a food processor is useful for this). Mix them with the sifted flour then fold into the chocolate mixture , remembering not to over mix.
Spread the mixture in the prepared tin and top with the raspberries. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, or until just set in the middle – a skewer inserted into the centre should come out with just a few moist crumbs on it.
Leave to cool in the pan for 30 minutes before attempting to cut into squares, but serve whilst still warm.
I love the way that, even in restaurants, Italians will offer just a bowl of fresh fruit or a single cheese at the end of a meal. Good ingredients speak for themselves and we would do well to emulate this restrained approach. Serve fresh cobnuts with a mature ewes milk cheese – Lord of the 100s, Spenwood and Berkswell are all good British Pecorino style cheeses. You should also find the first British pears ripening at around the same time as cobnuts. A Damson “cheese” is a very British accompaniment, or, taking further inspiration from Italy, try drizzling the cheese with honey. The Italian’s would use a Sweet Chestnut Honey, but as yet I haven’t found a British version. Heather Honey has a similarly intense, slightly bitter flavour and as 75% of the world’s remaining Heather Moorland is to be found in Britain, we should celebrate this at every opportunity.