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Whenever I eat goat’s cheese, I am transported back to summer holidays in the south of France, where the hot sun would stale the baguettes by mid-afternoon, and yet they would still seem perfect. I have an indelible image in my mind of an entire table of impeccably displayed, handmade goat’s cheeses. They were beautifully finished in flowers and herbs, ash, spice, leaves and seeds. It was the colour, contrast and care their maker had taken over the presentation that I loved so much. I use slices of rinded goat’s cheese in this recipe – you can find it anywhere. However, you might have to look a little harder for the wonderfully distinctive herb lovage. It’s unbelievably delicious with rhubarb, and works so well with the cheese.
2 or 3 rhubarb sticks
50g (1¾oz) golden caster sugar
4 or 5 lovage leaves, finely chopped, plus a few whole leaves to serve
4 teaspoons runny honey
4 slices malted bread
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
200g (7oz) fresh, soft goat’s cheese, sliced
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Trim the papery bases from the rhubarb sticks, then gently wash the sticks. Cut each one into 3–4cm (1¼–1½in) pieces and place the pieces in a single layer, if possible, in a large heavy-based pan.
Scatter the sugar and the lovage leaves over the rhubarb, then drizzle over 2 teaspoons of the honey and 2 tablespoons of water. Shake the pan and place on the hob over a low–medium heat. Bring the mixture to a simmer, then cook for 3–4 minutes or until the rhubarb is just beginning to tenderize and the syrup is thickening slightly. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside.
Toast the bread slices on both sides, then place them on a grill pan and drizzle over the olive oil and the remaining honey. Top with an equal number of goat’s cheese slices and place the toast under a hot grill for about 4–6 minutes, until the cheese is lightly brown and bubbling. Carefully remove from the grill and place a slice of toast on each of four plates. Top each slice with some of the warm rhubarb mixture, dividing the mixture equally between each slice. Season with salt and pepper, then finish with a scattering of fresh lovage leaves to serve.