One man’s “Cow’s curd, Roscoff onions, Nigella seeds and Moscatel” is another man’s “cottage cheese, onion and chives”. Anon, July 2013.
Curd, whether ewe’s, goat’s or cow’s, is en vogue at the moment. You’ll see it on many menus. Which, as it is a curd, should theoretically mean that cottage cheese is back in fashion. I can’t see that happening any time soon, though. Shame: it is cheap, healthy and, I think, delicious. On the balmy days that we’re currently experiencing, it’s particularly good eaten fridge cold. Creamy versions from dairies and artisan cheese makers are lush, but, to be honest, a supermarket own brand does the job.
On the flip side, it is important to try and use posh ingredients for the second part of this dish. Both pink onions from Brittany (Oignon rosé de Bretagne) and AOC defined Roscoff onions are sweet and can basically be eaten raw; although, in this case we cut them in half lengthways and char the face of the onion for a two or three of minutes, before slipping the segments apart. To get the right onions, look for French people in striped t-shirts with a string of the pink beauties round their necks. Or, alternatively, buy them from good greengrocers like Andreas on Chelsea Green and Franco Natoora. Later in the summer and onwards will be better, but if you’re desperate to cook this now, there are oignons out there.
The plate is finished off with a few complimentary flavours. Chives and Nigella seeds are basically onion flavours and so add depth. Moscatel vinegar and cucumber are pretty much as good a pair as rhubarb and custard, strawberries and cream, and Will and Dot; match them with some nutty extra virgin rapeseed oil and spoon into the onions and over the
cow’s curd cottage cheese, and we’re onto a winner.
This dish could form part of a meze selection or works, along with a good hunk of toasted sourdough and a crisp green salad, as a simple light lunch or even lighter supper. Give it a go.
Cottage cheese and Roscoffs
- 2 Roscoff onions
- 150g cottage cheese
- 4cm of a cucumber
- 1/2 tsp Nigella seeds
- 5 chives
- 3 dessert spoon extra virgin rapeseed oil
- 1 dessert spoon moscatel vinegar (or sherry vinegar)
- Sea salt
I like to eat this when the onions are just warm. But you could serve them at room temperature and therefore prepare the components well in advance of eating.
First make a dressing. Peel the section of cucumber, cut into thin strips lengthways, remove the seeds and dice into 2mm cubes. Finely chop the chives. Mix the rapeseed oil and vinegar in a small bowl with a fork, small whisk or teaspoon. Add a pinch of salt, half the chives and the cucumber.
Put a frying pan on a high heat with a tablespoon of rapeseed or vegetable oil. Cut the onions in half from root to tip. Do not peel them. Place the onions in the pan ensuring that they’ve come into contact with the oil. Cook for about 3 minutes until the face of each onion is well browned. The pan and onions are likely to smoke during this process; we want them to be charred. Turn the onions onto their backs and let them sit on the heat for a minute longer. Remove the pan from the heat and 2 minutes later, the onions from the pan. Let them cool for 5 minutes.
Get the rest of your meal ready (toasted bread, green salad or other meze dishes) then, when the onions are cool enough to handle, separate the sections, pushing the leaves apart gently with your thumbs. Put a good dollop of cottage cheese on a small plate, sprinkle the Nigella seeds and the remainder of the chives over the top from a good height. Place the onion segments on the cheese. You’ll have more segments than in my picture – I suggest arranging like the petals of a flower. Give the dressing a second stir and spoon it into each segment, and a good drizzle of it over the top for luck.