Friday, 28 December 2012

Baked Camembert

Hygge is an inspirational word. It is a Danish word that does not have a direct translation into English. I would love it for this reason alone, for its uniqueness, its layered complexity. I like the higgledy-piggledy way that languages cannot sit side by side; words can have nuances that cannot be neatly and easily defined in a bilingual dictionary. I also love the way that language is so intrinsically tied to a place, a culture and its people. I have never been a scholar of grammar beyond necessity, but am passionate about language as a path to the discovery of another culture. My love of languages stemmed from a curiosity about other cultures, and in turn this led to a love of food and its place within a culture. Hygge represents all that I love about language and food as an insight into the soul of a nation. It is part of Danish heritage; the art of creating a comforting and cosy experience to share with friends and family, particularly in the depths of winter. 

The beauty to be found in language is one of life's simple pleasures, along with delicious food the perfect way to lift my spirits. Is there a simpler or more pleasurable experience than plunging bread into sweet and unctuous melting cheese? When the air chills and the night's draw in my cravings for melted cheese begin, most often I figuratively and, if I am lucky enough, literally head for the melting dishes of the Alps: tartiflette; raclette; fondue. But for simplicity you cannot beat baked Camembert, a lazy fondue that is delicious baked cocooned in its wooden box but which can be enhanced with so many possibilities: slivers of garlic; a splash of wine; studded with dried figs, apricots or cranberries. My current favourite is a subtle flavouring of herbs and honey. Throw in some crusty bread,  a few slices of saucisson, cornichons and capers, a snuggly blanket, candlelight and someone to share it with by the fireside. Hyggelig.

Honey & Herb Baked Camembert

This is not a recipe. It is more a state of mind to lift the spirits and a serving suggestion.  

A whole boxed Camembert (Brie makes a good substitute)
A teaspoon of honey
A few slivers of garlic (optional)
A small handful of herbs; rosemary or thyme.

Remove the Camembert from the box and take off the waxed paper. Return the cheese to its box or a dish that fits the cheese snugly. Make a few slits in the top with a sharp knife and push in the garlic. Top with a spoon of honey and a sprinkling of herbs. Bake at 180°C for 20-25 minutes, until the cheese is molten. Serve with your choice of charcuterie, cornichons, capers, crusty bread, boiled potatoes or toasted brioche and for preference a small glass of sweet sherry.   

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