Soft cheese, hard cheese, crumbly cheese, melty cheese, processed cheese (honestly, I’m not even joking about my love of Dairylea – it is one of the few constants in my fridge for comfort eating days) – I love me some cheese. So when the team at Castello asked me if I wanted to try a new cheese, I may have actually punched the air with joy before calmly saying, oh, sure. OK, if I must. I have uber cool appearances to keep up, you see.
The cheese is the story so here’s a little bumpf from the press release.
“Castello is bringing Aged Havarti to the UK following strong demand from cheese lovers…. With buttery caramel flavours, Castello Aged Havarti is base on an authentic Danish recipe dating back to 1952 and matured for 12 months for a richer taste experience.”
Sounds delicious (although would be interested in learning how strong the strong demand was – given I work in PR, I spot a stat fudge when I see one!) The challenge set by the team was to create a pizza using this cheese – they’re working with the super talented Trine Hahnemann to develop recipes for it and provided one she’d created using quite Scandi flavours. They’d also put some stuff in about smorging but by this point I decided all I wanted to do was cut the cheese (ha ha ha) and eat the cheese.
The second food confession I need to make is my love of pizza. Honestly. it would probably be my death row meal (washed down with a side of KFC and my mum’s chicken curry). I love pizza. I have been known to have pizza at lunchtime and pizza for dinner (earning me the not so interesting but factually correct nickname, Vinnie-two-pizza – thanks Sarah!) I have made pizza at home before but usually I order in and when I say usually, I try to limit it to only when I’m hugely hungover, there’s no bread in the house and I want chicken wings. I know, I’m filth.
But now I’m approaching (two days to go) 40, I figured I need to stop spending my money on Papa John and start making pizzas for myself. It feels like something a proper grown up would do, and I figure that grown up malarkey is going to kick in on Monday and I’ll start wearing power suits and reading the FT.
So with my niece and nephew hanging out with me over half term and with a pizza stone provided by Castello, we decided to make five pizzas. One for each of us and one dessert pizza. Here’s a selection of toppings from our savoury pizza day. We ate a LOT of pizza.
You know how a good cheeseboard will feature fruit? Usually figs or apricots or grapes. After I’d tried the Havarti, I couldn’t get the idea out of my mind to make a herby, spicy jam (and definitely a jam, not a chutney) to use instead of a tomato sauce and with the cheese on top. And it worked really well – just that right combination of salt and sweet and the thyme and fennel brought the whole thing together. I’ve been fascinated by the combination of cheese and jam since we ordered scones in Cape Town and they provided a side of grated cheese and strawberry jam and it worked really (if weirdly) well. So here’s my take on a Cape Town classic, using lovely Havarti Aged Cheese.
(If you couldn’t already tell, this is a sponsored post but all opinions are my own. They haven’t made me lie about cheese, I love cheese.)
Roasted plum, thyme and fennel jam
- 12 plums, halved
- 1.5 cups of golden caster sugar
- 3-4 sprigs of thyme, cut into smaller pieces
- 2 tsps fennel seeds
- 1.5 lemons, zested and juiced
- 1.75 cups of water
Preheat your oven to gas mark 6. Place plum halves skinside down into a roasting tin – as you’ll see from the pic above, I didn’t bother to try and get out the pits, they come out easily after they’ve been baked.
Sprinkle over half a cup of sugar and the fennel seeds and place the thyme sprigs around the plums in the roasting tin.
Roast for approximately 25 mins until the tops are golden and the sugar is melted. Remove from the oven and leave to cool until you can handle them.
Remove and discard the pits. Scoop the flesh from the skins and put into a bowl. Put the skins and herbs and any juice from the roasting tin into a saucepan, add the lemon zest and juice. Taste at this stage to see if it’s got the right level of thyme/fennel for you and if not, add more – I put three more sprigs into the pan. Add 1/4 cup of water and bring to the boil over a low heat – you want to release the additional roasted flavours from the skins. Once the liquid has reduced by half, remove from the heat and strain. Add the liquid to the reserved plum flesh, along with the remaining sugar (1 cup) and water (1.5 cups), transfer to a saucepan and bring to the boil, then reduce to a gentle simmer until you get the consistency you want (check by doing the line test – drop a blob of jam onto a freezer cold plate and then drag the back of a spoon through it – if the line holds, your jam is set).
Put the jam into a sterilised jar – it should keep for a few weeks in the fridge.
Plum jam and Castello Aged Havarti Cheese pizza
I used the Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s pizza dough recipe which worked REALLY well and will become my go-to. You can find it by clicking on the link.
To make a jammy cheesy pizza, simply heat up your pizza stone (or baking tin) in the oven at the highest temperature, roll out your dough, transfer it to a baking sheet with no edges that has a light sprinkling of semolina on it (this’ll help it to slide off the tin and onto the stone in the oven). Smear 2-3 heaped tablespoons of jam over the base (as you would with tomato sauce). Sprinkle a tsp more fennel seeds and a a similar amount of thyme and then top with Castello Aged Havarti – we used a good 150g, because I love cheese (have I mentioned that before?). Transfer to the oven and bake for 8-10 minutes – the cheese cooks a lot faster than mozzarella and you may burn the jam if you leave it any longer. Allow to cool before eating. I had mine with Green and Black’s chocolate ice cream which may have taken the weird food couplings a smidge too far but wasn’t bad. Maybe a dollop of cream or creme fraiche would have worked better? Regardless, utterly delicious and definitely something I’ll be doing again. Thanks Castello!