A baked cheese is a thing of comfort. Don’t splash out on high-end cheese here – this has a marvellously redemptive effect on the chalkiest supermarket camembert, so if you are one of those people with a constant eye out for reduced-price cheeses “for immediate use”, this is your moment! The only requirement is that the cheese is whole, so it will stay contained in its rind in the oven.
Baked Camembert with Chicory & Walnuts
1 whole camembert (or other white-rind soft cheese)
1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
a few sprigs of rosemary
handful of walnuts, lightly crushed
crusty bread, to serve
For the dijon vinaigrette
1 scant tsp dijon mustard
2 tsp red wine vinegar
25ml olive oil
Use a small knife to make 8-10 tiny slits in the top of the cheese and slide a slice of garlic into each one. Push them down some way, but it is ok if the garlic still sits partly above the surface of the camembert, like so many little sailing boats on a cheesy pond. If the cheese is fridge-cold, you might need to make some tiny wee divots with the tip of your knife to help you push the garlic in. Now use the stems of the rosemary to push little sprigs into the cheese, arranging them in between the garlic. And that’s the cheese ready.
About half an hour before you want to eat, preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/gas mark 6.
If you have, despite best advice, shelled out for a fancy camembert, it might well come in an all-wooden box suitable for baking it in. If so, set it directly on a baking tray. If not, no problem, just place our spiky round of cheese on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until checked with brown and molten inside.
Meanwhile, to make the dijon mustard vinaigrette, put the mustard in a small bowl with a pinch of salt. Slowly add the vinegar, while stirring with the back of a teaspoon. Once it’s smooth, slowly add the oil and keep going with the back of the spoon until you have everything combined into a creamy emulsion.
Separate the chicory leaves. Dress with as much of the vinaigrette as you like, then scatter with the walnuts. Serve the chicory and walnut salad alongside the ooey-gooey cheese, with plenty of crusty bread.
Make it gluten-free
For a gluten-free fest, skip the bread and the vinaigrette and just use a spoon to scoop the cheese straight onto the conveniently structural chicory leaves with half a walnut, then eat!
Extracted from Special Guest by Annabel Crabb and Wendy Sharpe (Murdoch Books, approx €22.50). Photography by Rob Palmer. Food Styling by Vanessa Austin.