Melanie O’Reilly shares her delightful recipe for warm goat’s cheese salad with pancetta in honey
What you will need:
– A log of soft creamy goats cheese (soignon is the best for grilling available in Superquinn and on occasion Lidl/Aldi)
– Dried basil and thyme
– Olive oil
– Continental salad leaves (I recommend going to Fallon and Byrne and buying a large head of lettuce as not only is it excellent quality, but it is also cheaper than a lot of place and the large is actually gigantic. A lollo rosso and a green leafier variety would be perfect. Although you can always just pick up the pre-packed varieties available in supermarkets)
– A cucumber
– Red onion (finely chopped, or halve the onion and then slice to get rounds – they add a nice touch)
– Pancetta (or lardons – you can buy pancetta in most supermarkets but if you go to Lidl you can get two packs of lardons for a lot less and it gives the same result)
– Pine nuts (optional)
For the salad dressing:
– Wholegrain mustard
– Olive oil
– Balsamic vinegar
– Lemon juice
Pre-heat the grill to 160C (I vary it between 150-180 C – the key is to keep an eye on the cheese). Now to prepare the goat’s cheese. First, slice the log into rounds, then take some baking paper and place the rounds on the paper. Drizzle some olive oil over the goat’s cheese, then sprinkle dried basil and thyme over it. Pop the cheese onto the grill and remember to keep an eye on it while preparing the salad. It will be ready when the edges start to brown.
The salad dressing is terribly easy to prepare. Use any jar or container that has a lid. Add a tablespoon of honey and of wholegrain mustard, a good teaspoon of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and of lemon juice and then place the lid on the container and shake vigorously. Taste, and see if there is an adequate sweet versus bitter kick to the dressing. If not, add what you think may be missing – and presto.
Wash and spin your lettuce, and then roughly chop it. A red and a green leaf variety work best as they add different textures and flavours to the whole ensemble. If you have pre-packed salad then just arrange the salad nicely on plates. Wash the cucumber and tomatoes to remove any residue, then slice. Place them on the plates (not just on one side, but covering the whole dish). Add some sliced onion (not too much, though, you don’t want to overpower the salad). Then generously drizzle your salad dressing.
Heat up a frying pan on a medium to high heat. Do not add oil. Take the lardons/pancetta and pop the entire packet into the heated pan. Use a wooden spoon to stir while they cook. A minute or two into the cooking add a tablespoon (roughly) of honey. The honey should coat the meat and provide an interestingly sweet depth. Be careful not to add too much honey. Let the pancetta cook until it is browning and the honey starts to “bubble.” Take the pan off the heat and serve on top of the salad after drizzling with dressing (be generous – it is quite tasty).
Now for the final touch: take a spatula and place the goat’s cheese on the plates – in the centre is best. And enjoy.