~ Saint Marcellin Cheese, Tomatoes and Basil ~
A Delectable Random Recipe from Nigel Slater
The French summer continues to be hot and sunny, and although the evenings are quite cool now, there is still a need to eat simply, outdoors of course, in a delightfully cool and shady spot at the bottom of the garden, under the cherry tree. Cooking and baking has been relegated to once or twice a week, and the barbecue and La Plancha are our preferred modes of cooking, both of them outside and near the terrace, as well as in the shade of the old fruit trees. Trips to the local farmer’s markets are frequent, but are made early in the morning, combined with shopping for essentials at the supermarkets nearby too. It’s a well-planned schedule that allows for maximum time to “lounge and luxuriate” in the garden or on the nearby beaches; there are the occasional spurts of activity, such as preserving and bottling, but the general order of the day is one of near laziness and summer idleness. So, recipes are created and picked with care, in order that optimum time can be spent in idle pursuits, as well as eating and drinking.
Being a huge cheese addict, I am always on the lookout for different cheeses to try; and when in France I try to buy and try at least two to three new cheeses a week……from soft and salty goat’s cheeses to ash layered cow’s cheese. Then there are the wheels of nutty sheep’s milk (Brebis) cheeses from the Pyrénées, always a favourite of mine on the cheeseboard. My latest addiction is for the soft and pungent discs of cheese known as Saint Marcellin from Dauphiné region of France – these cheeses are fabulous for melting and have an almost wrinkled appearance with a yeasty fruity flavour. They are made with goat and cow’s milk, mainly the latter and are often sold in little crocks ready for baking. I bought three discs of this lovely cheese recently, especially for a Nigel Slater recipe I was making, St Marcellin with tomatoes and basil, a perfect dish for a “blazing summer’s day” as Nigel says. My home-grown tomatoes were plump and ripe, there was fresh Greek basil in the garden, and I had just been sent some amazing olive oil, so all that was needed was a trip to the local “fromagerie” to buy some Saint Marcellin.
I had bookmarked this recipe last year, it comes from The Kitchen Diaries by Nigel Slater, and it was added to a list of must make recipes some time ago. But, how I came to make this delectable dish this week was due to serendipity; whilst running around my kitchen thinking which book I would grab if I had to leave the house suddenly, I grabbed The Kitchen Diaries, mainly because it is often left out on the kitchen table for recipe inspiration. The “Grab and Run” idea is Dom’s latest challenge for Random Recipes, and although I LOVE this book, there are several other books I would have grabbed had I had the chance, such as my collection of Be-Ro cookbooks, Delia Smith’s Complete Cookery Course or the Complete Farmhouse Cookbook. But, it was Nigel’s diary of recipes taken over one year that I grabbed. I randomly open it and the page fell open at 237, which was much fingered with a slip of paper acting as a bookmark. The first recipe on that page was for St Marcellin with tomatoes and basil, serendipity as I said before!
The dainty dish was prepared and devoured in the middle of a blazing hot day; it was washed down with a glass of chilled Valencay wine whilst the juices were mopped up with ubiquitous chunks of crusty bread, then postprandial naps were taken as is the custom in SW France. The air was hot, the light was intense and the food was perfect for a lazy summer lunch…..and, I was left with two discs of cheese for future “melted cheese” projects. The recipe for this delightful summer dish can be found here: Every dish has its day, and in The Kitchen Dairies of course. I am also entering this cheesy number into Janice and Sue’s monthly Dish of the Month challenge, where any Nigel Slater recipe can be entered. DO try this recipe, it may be simple, but it is as beguiling as a hot summer’s day in SW France……with the clink of ice in frosted glasses, the fragrance of lavender fields drifting soothingly into gardens and the gentle thud of boule on boule……..Bon Appetite! Karen