Just say cheese: Matthew Carver’s melt-in-the-mouth recipes for autumn

Lifestyle

Cropwell Bishop stilton-stuffed prunes
These fruity, cheesy, bacony snacks are hard to beat – think turbo-charged pigs in blankets.

Prep 10 min
Cook 12 min
Makes 5

10 dried prunes
50g stilton (we use Cropwell Bishop), cut into 5 x 10g pieces
3 rashers smoked streaky bacon, cut in half widthways
Olive oil

Split the prunes in half lengthways without separating them entirely, remove and discard the seeds, then sandwich each 10g piece of cheese between two split prunes.

Lay out the bacon slices on a board and wrap a piece securely around each prune and cheese “sandwich” (think pigs in blankets), rolling it around each prune one and a half times.

Heat the oven to 200C (180C fan)/390F/gas 6. Put a teaspoon of oil in a frying pan on a medium heat, then fry the wrapped prunes, rotating them regularly so they colour evenly all over, for about three minutes.

Transfer the prunes to an oven tray lined with greaseproof paper and bake for three to five minutes, until the cheese starts to ooze – keep an eye on them, because you don’t want all the cheese to escape. Remove, and serve hot.

Mrs Kirkham’s lancashire aligot
The perfect cheesy, potatoey accompaniment to some good pork, fennel and red wine sausages, and braised red cabbage.

Prep 10 min
Cook 40 min
Serves 2

For the confit garlic butter
125ml good olive oil
11-12 (65g) peeled garlic cloves
250g salted butter, at room temperature, diced

For the aligot
250g floury potatoes (king edward or maris piper for example), peeled and cut into small, even-sized pieces
Salt and white pepper
60ml milk
150g lancashire cheese (we use Mrs Kirkham’s), grated
100g low-moisture, grated cooking mozzarella (the type you use on pizza works well here)
60g confit garlic butter (see above and method)

First, confit the garlic. Put the oil and garlic in a pan and cook over a gentle heat for about 30 minutes, until the garlic is soft. Drain off the oil (save it for cooking) and leave the garlic to cool.

Crush the garlic in a medium bowl until it’s completely broken down, then add the butter and whip until smooth. You’ll need only 60g of the confit butter here – the excess will keep in the fridge for three or four days, or freeze for a month.

While the garlic is cooking, put the potatoes in a large pan of salted water, bring to a boil, cook until soft, then drain and leave to steam for a few minutes. Mash the potatoes until they’re as pureed and smooth as possible (use a mouli or ricer, if you have one). Put a serving bowl in a low oven to warm up. Put the mashed potatoes in a pan with 60g confit garlic butter and half the milk, and stir over a medium-high heat until hot. Beat in the grated lancashire until it melts – it will look lumpy at first, but as the mash gets hotter, the cheese will eventually melt and the mix will turn smooth. At this stage, the potato mix should be reasonably thick but still drop off a spoon, so if it’s too thick, add splashes of the remaining milk until it’s the right consistency. Stir in the grated mozzarella and beat thoroughly until the mix turns stringy – you want that Insta-worthy cheese pull. Season with salt and white pepper, decant into the warmed bowl, and serve immediately.

English pecorino squash spätzle
A nifty take on the classic south German dumplings.

Prep 10 min
Cook 1 hr 15 min
Serves 2 (or 3-4 as part of a meal)

For the squash puree
1 small butternut squash, cut in half lengthways and seeds scooped out
Salt and pepper

For the spätzle
85g butternut squash puree (see above and method)
2 medium eggs
110g plain flour
Vegetable oil

To finish
1¼ tbsp (10g) pine nuts
1½ tbsp (10g) pumpkin seeds
60g confit garlic butter (see aligot recipe above)
100g grated pecorino – an English one, ideally (there are a few around these days)
5 sage leaves

Heat the oven to 200C (180C fan)/390F/gas 6. Season the squash with salt, place in a deep oven dish filled with a couple of centimetres of water and wrap the lot in foil. Bake for 30-45 minutes, until soft, then remove and leave to cool. Scrape out the flesh and mash smooth. You’ll need 235g puree for this dish – any excess will keep in the fridge for up to three days, or freeze for two months.

Now to make the spätzle. Fill a medium pan with salted water and bring to a boil. Put 85g squash puree, the eggs and a teaspoon of salt in a bowl and mix to combine. Add the flour and mix to a smooth, thick batter. Take care not to overmix it and make sure you use the batter straight away.

Fill a bowl with cold water, ready for chilling the spätzle. Set a colander over the pan of boiling water and drop a ladle of batter into the centre. Slowly move the batter back and forth with the back of the ladle or with a spatula, so it drops through the holes into the hot water, leave to boil for two minutes and, when the spätzle rise to the surface, use a slotted spoon to transfer to the bowl of cold water. Repeat with the remaining spätzle batter, then drain them all and toss in a little vegetable oil, so the dumplings don’t stick together.

Heat the oven to 170C (150C fan)/325F/gas 3. Put the pine nuts and pumpkin seeds on a baking tray, roast for about five minutes, until golden, then remove and set aside.

Gently reheat the remaining 150g squash puree. Put the 60g confit garlic butter and sage in a frying pan over a low heat, until melted, then add the spätzle, and saute gently in the butter for a couple of minutes, tossing regularly to coat, until glossy and warmed through. Add the nuts and seeds for the final minute.

Spoon the warmed puree into a serving dish, top with the spätzle and a generous grating of pecorino, and serve.