Alice’s Cook Book and Passionfruit Slice

As you know, I don’t usually do brunches, but when there is something special to entice me, I can make the exception.

Brunch with Alice Hart at La Fromagerie is that sort of exception.

Alice seemed a little nervous, in front of this small group, but was sweet, warm, friendly and seemed driven by the thoughts of an environmental, food enthusiast.

Alice’s Cook Book is really not any old ordinary cookbook, but a part of the New Voice In Food series from Quadrille Publishing, supporting new talent in the food world.

I wasn’t sure about the format of the book when I first saw it but the titles of the recipes drew me in. I soon began to enjoy the arrangement of the recipes into picnics, camper vans, seasonal Sunday lunches etc. It began to be a story and I could see that Alice had put alot of herself into this book.

Alice demonstrated a few recipes from the book, discussed her inspiration and enthusiasm for her first cookbook.

The first offering was Blueberry and Granola Muffins. A light muffin made on a wholemeal/plain flour mix, yoghurt, granola and berries. Easy enough and tasty too.

Alice then demonstrated her Roast Courgette and Butternut Agrodolce with Stuffed Courgette Flowers. She really made each dish look easy to do. The courgette and butternut mix was brought together by the agrodolce (sour/sweet), beautifully balanced flavours of sugar and red wine vinegar . La Fromagerie had, of course, supplied an amazing fresh goats cheese with a distinctive citrus flavour. This balanced the dish very well.
Our next brunch treat was something which had caught my eye in her book too. Beetroot-Cured Side of Salmon with Aioli and Shaved Fennel Salad. It is a really beautiful dish. Curing the salmon is an incredibly easy preparation. Aioli, sounds difficult but only requires one strong hand and one gently pouring one (or a food processor!). La Fromagerie had added some borage flowers which had a delicate cucumber taste. A great dish for a party of friends on a summers day.
Our final taste from Alice’s Cook Book was a Mocha Affogato. A complete hit of chocolate icecream, from The Ivy House, with the signature La Fromagerie coffee, Le Piantagioni,  poured hot over the top.

We have a much loved family recipe from my late paternal grandmother for Passionfruit slice. She kept it a secret and all the women were trying to coax it out of my Aunt after her passing. I think my sister now has a copy.

So I was curious to try this version to see how it stands up.

Passionfruit Slice

For the Base:

200g digestive biscuits

60g unsalted butter, melted

For the cheesecake:

600g cream cheese

2 free-range eggs, lightly beaten

2 free-range egg yolks

1tbsp cornflour, sifted

250g caster sugar

200ml fresh passionfruit juice (the sieved pulp from about 12 fruits, depending on size)

seeds scraped from a vanilla pod, or 1 tsp vanilla extract

For the Topping:

3 gelatine leaves

200ml freshly squeezed orange juice

25g caster sugar

50ml passionfruit pulp or juice

mango or pineapple to serve.


Preheat oven to 160*C. Line 20x30cm, 6mm deep, tin or dish, with parchment paper.

Place the biscuits in a food processor until finely crushed. Add the melted butter and pulse briefly, then press into the tin. Bake for 10mins and set aside.

Beat cream cheese in a large bowl until smooth. beat in eggs, yolks and cornflour, then the sugar and passionfruit juice and vanilla. Don’t over mix, as too much air will cause the cooked cheesecake to crack.

Pour over biscuit base and smooth the top. bake for about 30 mins, until wobbly in the centre but not brown on top. Turn off the oven and leave to cool with the door open for 15 mins ( to minimise cracking). remove from oven and set aside to cool completely before chilling in the fridge for at least an hr.

To make the topping, soak gelatine in cold water to soften. Heat 4 tblp of the orange juice with the sugar until simmering. Remove from heat and stir in the gelatine sheets. Add the remaining orange juice and passionfruit pulp or juice.

Chill for 20mins, then pour over cheesecake and return to fridge for at least 4 hrs, preferably overnight.

Beautifully creamy and delicate passionfruit, it’s as kitsch as you can get but, of course, it didn’t have a scratch on my Nan’s. 🙂

Thanks to Quadrille Publishing for providing Alice’s Cook Book.

Summer Cheese Tasting with Patricia Michelson

I love La Fromagerie!! A shop dedicated to the love of artisan cheese and good produce. If you have ever heard Patricia Michelson speak you will understand what I mean. She is madly passionate about her cheese and the produce in her shop.

It all started, for Patricia, when she was skiing in Meribel, France, got lost on the mountain and by the time she found her way to the bottom, had worked up quite an appetite. She bought a slice of Beaufort Chalet d’Alpage cheese, with the little she had in her pockets, and continued to nibble away at it while she walked back to her chalet. From that moment on her life changed and she knew she had to bring good cheese to London.

First to open was the little Highbury Park shop in September 1992, then Moxon st, Marylebone in November 2002.

This was a seated tasting, the first to commemorate the release of her second book, CHEESE.

When I arrived I was shown to a more secluded area in the shop where I was presented with a glass of Cremant d’Alsace Rose. Then came the La Fromagerie  ‘signature event nibbles’, gougeres and Parmesan twists. The gougeres were amazing, as usual, although the cayenne hit to the twists was a bit strong for me. After a top up, I strolled around the shop.

The tables, which usually seat a high turn over of hungry people, were being prepared for our evenings tasting.

The first plate to be presented to us was a selection of ‘summer cheeses’.

INNES BUTTONS, Statfold, Stafforshire:  a prize winning, light mousse-like goats cheese, where the goats are played classical music whilst being milked.

SAINT TOLA, Co. Clare: fresh crumbly texture, made with organic milk. When aged has a more citrus taste. These goats are rested for 3 months after Christmas when the cheese is unavailable.

TICKLEMORE, Totnes, Devon: one of my favourites!! semi-soft, using unpasteurised goats milk. This cheese is fresh and gentle. In autumn and winter layer it with celeriac and potatoes for an amazing  gratin.

WIGMORE, Riseley, Berks: an unpasteurised sheep’s milk cheese using vegetable rennet. This cheese is from a cheese maker intent on keeping there cheese Artisian and not overproducing.

WATERLOO, Riseley, Berks: THE TABLE WINNER! a semi-soft cows cheese, made with vegetable rennet. It was rich, bold and very buttery, with a gentle earthy aroma.

KIRKHAM’S LANCASHIRE, Goosnargh, Lancashire: probably my least favourite. A semi-hard unpasteurised cloth bound cow’s milk cheese. This type of cheese has been made for hundreds of years. Patricia feels that it hold all the signs to pre-date Ossau cheeses of the Pyrenees.

Wine Pairing: Chateau Le Roc Cotes du Frontonnais, SW France. 50% Colombard and 50% Ugni Blanc. A wine made south west of Toulouse. A light zest wine giving an intense aroma of grapefruit and orange whilst tasting lovely and fresh with a long fruity palate. What a perfect match to the cheese Patricia had chosen.


As an interlude to the cheeses, we were served Asparagus with buttered breadcrumbs and Berkswell.  The green and white asparagus were a welcome relief but the breadcrumbs were soaked in too much butter for my liking and I left most of them.

Our next plate was a surprising Irish selection.

MILLENS, Eyeries, Nr Castletownbere, Co. Cork: rustic earthy cheese made with pasteurised cows milk.

ARDRAHAN, Co.Cork: Favourite on the plate! a semi-soft washed rind cows milk cheese made with vegetable rennet. Style similar to a French Munster or Livarot. It was earthy, rustic and nutty.

ST. GALL, Fermoy, Co. Cork: brine washed cows cheese with a earthy creaminess.

Wine Pairing: Chateau Beaulieu, Marmande, Lot et Garonne, nr Bordeaux. A Blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and a local grape, Abouriou. We all thought it worked perfectly with the cheeses and very enjoyable to drink.


The Blues

Crozier Blue, Co. Tipperary: lovely sharp flavoured, soft textured sheeps milk cheese

Devon Blues, Totnes, Devon: we LOVED this, rich and creamy unpasteurised cows milk cheese. Buttery and gently earthy….delicious!

Harbourne Blue, Totnes, Devon: made with goats milk, this is an unusual blue. You seldom find goats blue as it takes alot of goats to get enough milk to make a large wheel. It was very full, sharp and fruity.

Colston Bassett Stilton, Nottinghamshire: made with pasteurised cows milk using traditional rennet. The makers allow the cheese to mature for 3 months before introducing the blue. It is nutty and rich, a more complex blue.

Bellingham Blue, Castlebellingham, Co. Louth: this cows milk blue will ‘knock your head off’. It is the strongest blue I have EVER tasted. It is sharp and salty (wait for autumn I think).

Wine Pairing: Quinta de la Rosa Tawny Tonel No. 12: delicate, soft with caramel and honey aromas. Perfect.

It was a hot night, and I left, to make my way home in the cool summer breeze with a tummy full of cheese and a happy feeling that I had been well looked after. Patricia was the perfect hostess. Thank you.