Here’s an extremely simple recipe that comes together very quickly. It’s also a crowd pleaser and can be so easily customised that you can keep repeating it and yet never get bored (I have some suggestions for combinations at the end). It’s great as an appetiser to pair with a glass of wine, but, made larger, works very well as a starter, paired with a green salad.
The inspiration came from an event I did recently with my friend Sylvia Schlieder. We wanted something easy to eat, yet not too run-of-the-mill, and the idea for this combination of flavours floated into my head. I tried it, she loved it and so did our guests, which made me want to share it with you. I love the medley of flavours: a slightly salty note from the cheese, a touch of caramelised sweetness thanks to the honey, the freshness of the thyme and the woody earthiness of pepper. I love the nuances of Indian cuisine, how one dish brings so many flavours and textures together, and I find myself trying to bring this complexity and dimension to other dishes I cook, to make each bite an experience.
Goats’ Cheese Puffs with Thyme and Honey
Makes around 24 puffs, each about 4 cm in diameter
1 roll puff pastry
1 roll goats cheese (I used the brand Chavroux, quite commonly available in supermarkets here)
A few tablespoons of honey
A few sprigs of fresh thyme
A few grinds of pepper
Pre-heat the oven to 180°C. Remove the pastry from its packaging, but keep the waxed paper it is rolled in. Unroll the pastry (with waxed paper) onto a baking tray. I used the mouth of a wine glass my pastry cutter, selecting one that was slightly larger than the diameter of the goats cheese. Cut out as many circles as you can fit, then gently lift the remaining pastry off the tray so you're left with just the cut-out circles.
Slice the cheese into thin rounds, and place one on a pastry base. Create a little puddle of honey, top with a few thyme leaves and finish with a grind of fresh pepper. Repeat for all the other bases.
Bake for 10—12 minutes, on a middle rack, until the pastry is golden and the cheese bubbly and browned in places. Remove, and allow to cool slightly before serving.
Some ideas for combinations:
/ Red pesto, feta, basil
/ Caramelised onions, blue cheese, avocado, coriander (the last two added fresh)
/ Fresh tomato, mozzarella, basil
/ Blue cheese, pear, rocket
Images: Vatsala Murthy