Towpath is a café perched along the Regent's Canal in London which regularly features our cheeses in their highly seasonal recipes. Co-proprietors Lori De Mori and Laura Jackson have published their first cookbook "Towpath: Recipes and Stories," which follows their ever-changing menu and inspirations throughout the year. They have kindly agreed to share a recipe from the book below for a wonderful spring gratin. Corra Linn and Spenwood would also work well with this dish, or try Centosettanta.
To purchase a copy of the cookbook for yourself, visit www.towpathlondon.com.
FENNEL AND BERKSWELL GRATIN
"You will see through the book that I love to use things up and not waste anything. This is the perfect dish for doing so. Berkswell is a raw sheep’s milk cheese that is not dissimilar in taste to Parmesan and in texture to Manchego. I often have Berkswell on the menu and so I end up with lots of bits and pieces. Melting them in a gratin is the perfect solution.
You can prepare this in advance and leave in the fridge until you are ready to cook. It is quite robust and can easily be reheated – it is lovely served the next day and will also last 2-3 days.
200g/7oz unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 onions, sliced
8 heads fennel, thinly sliced or shaved on a mandoline
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 bay leaves
2 sprigs thyme
75 ml/3fl oz white wine
75ml/ 3fl oz full-fat milk
75ml/3fl oz double cream
250g/9oz Berkswell cheese, grated
½ lemon, juiced
Salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 210°C fan/450°F/gas mark 8.
Melt the butter and olive oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat.
Add the onions and sweat down until softened but not coloured – about 10 minutes.
Add the fennel, garlic, bay leaves and thyme. Cook for 5-10 minutes on a low heat to start softening the fennel, but don’t soften too much as the gratin will be cooked again in the oven. It’s just a lovely way to start the cooking process and get all the different flavours to know one another.
Now add the white wine and bring to the boil. Cook for a few minutes.
Add the milk and cream and bring to the boil so the milk and cream start to reduce and thicken. You want the liquid to be quite thick.
Once the liquid has reduced, season with salt and pepper, take off the heat and add a couple of handfuls of the grated Berkswell. Stir in the lemon juice. Check the seasoning again.
Take a 30 x 20 x 6cm / 12 x 8 x 2½ in rectangular roasting tray and put in a layer of the fennel mix. Season and sprinkle over a layer of Berkswell.
Keep on layering until the tray is full and all the mix is used up. Finish with Berkswell so it will go brown and crispy on top.
Bake for around 40 minutes, until the fennel is completely cooked. If it looks like it is getting too brown, turn down the heat.
Serve with a crisp, fresh lemony salad. "