It is common for us and I am sure many others to stockpile a whole cheesemongers’ worth of parmesan, brie, goats’ cheeses, comtés, cheddars, camemberts, ricottas and mascarpones in the fridge over Christmas which even the most fervent cheese fiends would struggle to get through.
Although cheese generally lasts a long time, the hard ones at least, they do eventually succumb to mould and drying out until often they are thrown in the compost heap. We try our best to think of clever ways of using up all this cheese as best we can and if you are anything like us, the idea of spending January eating cheese is not such a terrible thing.
The indulgence of December doesn’t have to end in January, especially as there is a whole heap of leftovers to contend with. For us January is more of a cooling off period after Christmas. Yes, the out and- out gluttonous overgorging in December has to end somewhere but just going cold turkey (with a lot of cold turkey in the fridge) on January 1 and eating salads and drinking tea is unrealistic and frankly wasteful.
That’s what we keep telling ourselves anyway.
There are a lot of amazing things you can do with leftover cheese or softer cheeses which are reaching their expiration dates. In these three recipes we will show you how to use up loose bits of lovely hard cheeses like cheddar, comté and gruyere, what to do with the parmesan rinds instead of just tossing them away and also a useful recipe for ricotta which can be scaled up or down extremely easily to use up whatever you have in the fridge that might otherwise go out of date.
James isn’t a particularly avid fan of a toastie, usually creeping down to the kitchen Nigella-style at around 12am to indulge in a deliciously simple, cheesy toasty.
We have an old toasty maker which gets red hot when plugged in and makes a good toasted cheese sandwich in under two minutes which is great when you’re standing in the freezing kitchen, driven there with that manic hunger you can get sometimes in the middle of the night.
2 thick slices of good sourdough bread
Lots of butter
A pinch of chilli flakes
A few dashes of Worcester sauce
A couple good slices of leftover hard cheese, anything like cheddar, gruyere or comté will do and a mix of all three is even better
Optional relish of your choice
A few thin slices of jalapeños
Toast the bread lightly in a toaster and then butter both sides or each slice. On the bottom slice layer the cheese, sprinkle with chilli flakes and a dash or three of Worcester sauce. Some relish would do nicely if you like. Put the top slice on and press down lightly and place a few thin slices on top of the top slice. If using a toasty maker then do that, otherwise heat a frying pan up to medium high and place the sandwich on pressing it down with a spatula and flipping it over half way through until golden brown on the outside with the jalapenos well embedded in the bread and the cheese nice and melty. Cut in half and devour.
Brodo simply means broth in Italian and this dish is a resourceful way of using up old parmesan rinds. In Currabinny, this was always an after Christmas tradition where a whole tupperware box of old rinds, stored up over the month would be tipped out into a large pot of boiling water filled with herbs and garlic bulbs.
To make this stock, you need to allow it to simmer very gently for a good couple of hours for the flavours to properly leach out of the cheese, which will first melt and then dissolve into the broth slowly. You might also need to give it a good stir every so often at the start to untick any melted cheese from the bottom of the pot.
This broth is amazing for risottos, soups and stews and keeps well in the fridge and even better in the freezer. You don’t have to just stick with parmesan, the rinds of most hard cheeses and even dried-out bits of cheddar will work fine as well.
2 tbsp of olive oil
1 large onion, peeled and quartered
1 large head of garlic, cut horizontally in half
1 bunch of fresh thyme
A good bunch of curly parsley
8 black peppercorns
100ml of white wine
500g of leftover parmesan rinds and other cheesy bits
1 stick of celery
In a large pot or casserole, heat the olive oil on a medium high heat and add the garlic, onion and celery to the pan, moving them around until the cut ends of the garlic and onion are starting to brown. Add the peppercorns and herbs and season very lightly with a little salt. Add wine and simmer for around five minutes until the liquid has reduced and thickened. Add the rinds and around two litres of water. Bring to the boil and then reduce to a simmer, half cover with a lid and leave for 2-4 hours, stirring occasionally to untick any melted cheese from the bottom. When you are satisfied with the flavour and depth of the broth which should now have reduced by about half, strain through a fine mesh into a large bowl. Let cool, cover and chill.
Ricotta is about as simple and humble a cheese as one can find. It is barely brought together using leftover whey from the production of other cheeses and straining the liquid whey through a fine sieve, leaving just the curds behind.
This recipe is also an ode to simplicity, leftovers and humble eating. We usually eat this cold as a sort of pasta salad but it can also be eaten warm.
120g of good ricotta
1 garlic clove, crushed
Juice of ½ lemon
Zest of 1 lemon
Sea salt and black pepper
60g parmesan, grated
400g wholewheat pasta
60ml extra virgin olive oil
Cook the wholewheat pasta as per packet instructions in boiling salted water.
Line a baking tray with parchment, scatter over the walnuts and place in the oven for 5-10 minutes until slightly toasted but definitely no where near burned.
Turn them halfway through cooking. When toasted, take them out of the oven and leave to cool.
In a pestle and mortar, crush the walnuts with the garlic cloves, salt and pepper until well pulverised and becoming almost cream like. Scoop out of the mortar and in a bowl, vigorously combine the walnut/garlic mix with the ricotta, lemon juice, zest and olive oil.
Lastly mix in the parmesan and check the seasoning, a good crack of black pepper is always welcome. Combine with the wholewheat pasta, which can either be freshly cooked and hot or else left cold, this dish works well both ways. If you leave the pasta to cool, make sure you drizzle the pasta with olive oil to prevent sticking together.