Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Toasted Goats Cheese Salad with Red Onion Marmalade and a Creamy Vinaigrette

One of the best things about French food, is their love of the salad. On nearly every restaurant menu is a selection of different salads, all featuring local ingredients, and which are almost always served in huge portions. I love them all.

One day, I might fancy a salad with chicken livers, as I did in Langres; on another occasion I might fancy a selection of crudites, as I did in Kaysersberg. However, if I absolutely had to choose a death row salad (sorry - a bit of a contrived scenario, even for me), I would choose a good old salade de chevre chaud.

I don't know why goats cheese tastes so much better once it's had a bit of a heat-up under a grill, but it takes on a sort of souffle'd quality with added richness. I know - it's like eating a savoury cheesecake!

To cut the richness, I have added a red onion marmalade to each toasted cheese slice. I know it's a bit fiddly and a bit poncey to start smearing your own home-made jams onto bread before covering them with cheese and popping them under a grill, but I promise you, it is well worth it. The marmalade is only 3-4 ingredients anyway. Try it - you can also use it as a nice accompaniment to an after-dinner cheese board (another brilliant French invention) or as part of my Mozzarella, Sweet Red Onion, Garlic and Rosemary Foccacia recipe.

By the by, I watched a fantastic episode of Raymond Blanc's 'The Very Hungry Frenchman' the other day, which was set in Lyon. Not only was the cheese board creatively constructed out of a wooden packing crate (tres sauvage), but the episode reminded me of when Mrs Ribeye and I visited an authentic Lyonnaise bouchon to eat the local specialities of tripe and andouillette (intestine) sausage. I shall report back soon, of course - suffice to say that the not-easily-forgotten experience has left me with conflicting feelings of strange cravings/revulsion. An ex-girlfriend once described her feelings for me in a similar way.

Back to today's recipe: If I'm honest, I would have grilled the goats cheese a little more to really melt it down, but I was afraid that I would burn the bread (see how dark it is in the picture - oops). Next time, I'll turn up the heat on the grill to maximum and reduce the cooking time. I reckon that that'll do the trick.

A quick note on the vinaigrette dressing: I now add a little boiling water to my mix, which takes away the sharpness and aids in creating a smooth creamy emulsion - a tip I picked-up from a Marco Pierre White recipe. He's quite the chef, you know.

I served this dish as a main course, but you could halve the portion and serve it as a starter. Or do as Mrs Ribeye and I sometimes do: Don't halve the ingredients, and still serve it as a starter nonetheless. All-in, a large portion of this salad comes in at very reasonable £2 per serving.

Serves 2


1 small sourdough loaf, cut into 8 thick slices
1 portion of red onion marmalade
150g goats cheese log, cut into 8 slices
1 soft round lettuce, leaves torn
3 large tomatoes, cut into 1cm dice
1 large spring (salad) onion, finely chopped

Creamy Vinaigrette:

4 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons boiling water
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Large pinches of salt and pepper

Firstly, make the vinaigrette by blending the ingredients and setting the dressing aside until needed. Then, grill both sides of the bread - one side slightly less than the other. On the lighter sides, spread a spoonful of the onion marmalade, then top with a slice of goats cheese. Grill the goats cheese slices under a hot grill until bubbling (3-4 minutes approx). In the meantime, arrange the lettuce, tomato and onion on a serving plate, and dress with the vinaigrette. Top the salad with four goats cheese slices each. Serve immediately.

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