Like a gentler, more subtle Gorgonzola, Dolcelatte is one of those creamy-sharp soft blue cheeses, but with a bit of sweetness that lets it be a flavour enhancer as well as a big main kick.
Still though – lentils with cheese? Yeah, I know, but stay with me on this one. It’s all about the creamy savoury.
There are plenty of dairy-backed lentil dishes, often sausage casseroles or general piggy constructions. In fact, there’s a sensational one in Pork and Sons. But I wanted something that would be a big veggie umami fest, with a sharp hit to go through what can otherwise be a bit of a cloying set of flavours.
You could think of it as a kind of cockeyed dal makhani, but then you could do a lot of things.
I’ve made this a few times, with a couple of variants, and it stands mixing up. If you don’t like blue cheese, you can use a soft goats’ cheese instead. A wheel of chevre of about the same mass ought to do it. The cauliflower, likewise, can be switched out. Chicken thighs, fried skin-on to crispy would be my bet.
- Puy lentils, 250g
- Cauliflower, a large head
- Onions, 1 medium
- Dolcelatte, about 120g
- Stock, 300ml (chicken or veg)
- Crème fraîche, 3tbsp
- Fresh thyme, a few sprigs
- Optional: light white wine, about 100ml
- Olive oil, salt, and pepper
Serves 4, but it’s heavy on the lentils.
Put the oven on at about 180c.
Rinse the lentils, and bring them to the boil in plenty of water. Add the leaves of a couple of sprigs of thyme. Reduce the heat and let them just simmer, covered, for about 20 minutes, or until just done. Strain and reserve.
While the lentils cook, deal with the cauliflower. Break it into large florets, toss it with some oil, salt, and pepper, and put it in the oven, also for about 20 minutes. Turn it periodically as it cooks – we’re looking for barely tender, with a bit of browning. The thick of the stems should just yield to the point of a sharp knife.
Finely dice the onion, and fry it gently on a low heat for 8-10 minutes until soft. Try not to let it colour much, but don’t really worry about that.
First, flash the cauliflower under a hot grill for a minute or two (or sear it in a skillet), to get some serious browning and bring out those crunchy umami flavours. Don’t worry about a little charring. But, you know, don’t incinerate the fucker either. When you’re happy, put it to one side.
Raise the heat under the onions a bit. Add most of the stock (about 200ml), a little more thyme, and the wine if you’re using it. Stir round to deglaze. Add the Crème fraîche, and ensure it’s well amalgamated. Get it all simmering, and add the cheese, crumbled into chunks. Stir as the cheese melts into the sauce, getting the consistency nice and smooth. It’ll thicken slightly. Add the lentils, again stirring gently, and simmer for a minute or two.
Here, if you find it’s thicker than you’d like (we’re shooting for around the consistency of double cream, maybe a little thicker) you can let it out gradually with a bit of the remaining stock.
Add the cauliflower (or chicken, or whatever you’re using) back in, work it together, and serve.
This is creamy, and it is a bit rich, but not overwhelmingly so. The blue doesn’t sit at the front, and it’s less salty than if you’d used Gorgonzola or Danish Blue. The seared cauliflower gives a little bitterness that works with the cheese’s faint sharpness. This structures it all to offset the cream. It’s a flying buttress of a palate, and no less ostentatious.
I’d stick with the dolcelatte if you’re doing it with cauliflower, but explore chicken or even lamb chops with the goat version. You can of course just make up the lentil mix and slop it over whatever. Or eat it on its own and really go to town on the cheese. I’d stop shy of doubling the quantity, or using Stilton, but otherwise: fill yer boots.