I’ve unfortunately inherited a trait from my maternal grandfather’s family. If a type of food appealed particularly to her palate, my great aunt would go all out. A slender and statuesque woman, she was known to devour eight-egg omelettes. This was followed by an extended fast. My grandfather had a particular penchant for icing: no cake was safe.
My grandmother would often return home to find the once painstakingly iced cake denuded, perfectly, as if the precision of the stripping technique would make up for the action. An entire crate of guavas went his way in one sitting, and his cupboard of chocolates had to be locked by him against himself.
Signs of this inherited characteristic were evident in me early on: for example, when I was seven, the target was a log of Chèvre which my mother had carelessly left unwrapped. I gorged though the rind, through the crumbly outer ring, right to its buttery heart until the waxy wrapping lay completely bare.
The Erysichthon gene (see below) is a curse, and one not to be made light of. It strikes, making foods seem so ambrosial to the cursed that consuming them becomes his or her sole focus.
But with the pleasure comes pain, because with the claws of the curse firmly embedded, one is forced to keep eating until what was once a source of unparalleled edible pleasure becomes one’s nemesis. The scent, sometimes the very thought, of the offending food makes bile rise in my throat. The only cure is time.
It has taken me fourteen years and one particularly outstanding meal to normalise my relationship with goat’s cheese. I went to Rabbit (review to ensue shortly) which won me over with a beetroot crisp, topped with whipped goat’s cheese, honey comb and marjoram. My knee-jerk reaction was to buy the recipe book of The Shed, Rabbit’s sister restaurant (on Amazon Prime - it was urgent).
With freshly unearthed enthusiasm for goat’s cheese, I pored over the book and found inspiration for this recipe. It works wonderfully as a starter or cheese course.
The pan frying makes the Chèvre golden and crisp on the outside, and gloriously molten on the inside. The balsamic vinegar and maple syrup caramelise together to form a sweet and sharp treacle which cuts through the saltiness and creaminess of the Chèvre, while the toasted hazelnuts add warmth and texture, and the thyme just leaves you coming back for more…and more…and more…
Ovid’s tale of King Erysichthon portrays him hubristically killing a nymph of Ceres, goddess of the harvest. His punishment was insatiable hunger which resulted in exhausting the wealth of his kingdom, selling his own daughter in exchange for food, and eventually devouring himself. Maybe there’s a lesson here for me. Click here for the whole tale, one of the best in the Metamorphoses (line 741-887).
300g log of Chevre goat’s cheese
2/3 tbsp Rapeseed oil (or enough to coat the bottom of a medium-sized non-stick frying pan)
100g hazelnuts (blanched if possible)
180ml balsamic vinegar
120ml maple syrup
60g unsalted butter
½ tsp salt
3 sprigs fresh thyme + 3 to sprinkle + 6 to serve
Serves 6 as a starter or cheese course
- Preheat an oven to 200˚C. Gently crush the hazelnuts into halves either in a pestle and mortar or place in a bag and whack with a rolling pin.
- Place crushed hazelnuts on a baking tray and allow them to toast in the oven for 5 minutes or until golden.
- Set a small pan over a high heat and pour in balsamic, maple syrup, butter, salt, the leaves of the 3 sprigs of thyme and the toasted hazelnuts. Once it begins to boil reduce heat to a low temperature and allow to simmer while you cook the goat’s cheese.
- Place a medium sized non-stick frying pan over a high heat and pour in the rapeseed oil and allow it to heat for half a minute. Cut off the rind covered ends of the goat’s cheese and slice the log into 12 discs. Place these carefully into the pan and fry on medium-high heat for 2 minutes on each side or until crisp and golden. Remove from heat and place two slices on each plate to serve.
- After 5 minutes simmering, the sauce ingredients should now have emulsified and turned more viscose (it will thicken further as it begins to cool). If it hasn’t reached this stage, turn up the heat and stir until glossy. Beware of over boiling it as it will turn to a jam like texture. You can retrieve it from this stage by thinning it with a few drops of balsamic.
- Drizzle the warm sauce over the hot goat’s cheese. Sprinkle with the leaves of the other 3 sprigs of thyme and then place one whole sprig over each portion to decorate.