For Christmas, and knowing I like to muck about in the kitchen, my aunt gave me a packaged crash course in jellies, blancmanges, and matters retro-wobbly. There were two packs of robust gelatine, the wonderfully faux-archaic Jellies and Their Moulds, and its arch postmodern cousin, Bompas & Parr’s Jelly. I’ll be honest, it felt like a dare.
From there, and via the well-mapped topology of my cheeseular brainwrong, an outcome of “yeah, but with stilton, right?” was pretty much a foregone conclusion.
Jelly has some fun stuff in it, and even some of the more intricate ideas are actually pretty simple to pull off. But having never exactly skewed to desserts, a starter seemed like a neat idea. This is an attempt to bring the cheese course round to the front of dinner: stilton, port, and oatcake, a handful of walnuts – splendid stuff. And all set off with an unsettling wobble!
- Milk, 300ml
- Cream, 150 ml
- Gelatine, 4 leaves
- Stilton, 100-120g
- Black pepper, a good grating
- Thyme, a pinch
- Oat biscuits, a couple
- Walnut halves, a handful
- Red wine
- A clove or two
Serves about 3-4? See below.
I initially made these in little 250ml tumblers because they had a nice neat shape. Now, however much I protest that “no, it’s actually nice, and stop making that face”, 250ml of rich stilton blancmange is too much.
I’d suggest a serving of 120-150ml per person, with extra walnuts, maybe even a blend of ordinary, pickled and candied ones. Maybe a sliver of prosciutto?
For the reduction I winged it, doping up some leftover Beaujolais with a sturdy glug of port, and a bit of stock, then boiling it down to a couple of tablespoons with a clove and some sugar, whisking the butter through at the end for gloss. Do something a bit like that, basically.
The blancmange is equally simple. The magic ratio, it turns out, is more or less 1 sheet of gelatine to 100ml of liquid. The rest is just picking your liquids.
In a small pan, add the pepper and thyme to the cream. Warm it to nearly boiling (It doesn’t matter if it boils slightly, but don’t let it go for long), and slowly melt in the stilton, stirring or whisking as you go. Keeping it warm, gradually add in the rest of the milk, also whisking to ensure it’s well amalgamated. Set to one side to cool a little.
Break the gelatine into bits, and put it in a small heatproof bowl with a little water. Leave it for a few minutes to soften. Set some water boiling in a pan, and rest the gelatine bowl on top, so it heats gently. Whisk the softened gelatine as it warms, until it’s all well dissolved in the water. Then whisk that into the cooling milk.
Let it come down to room temperature, then pour it into moulds. If you don’t want to buy anything fancy (and goodness knows I didn’t) then small glasses or generous espresso cups work well.
Gently crumble some oatcake into each one, and stir just slightly so it mixes through a little. Crumble a little more on top to form a bit of a base layer when it turns out, and put them in the fridge until they set. That’s going to be at least 4 hours, probably 6.
To get them out of the moulds, dunk each mould in warm water for a few seconds. This melts the blancmange away from the edges. Pop a plate on top, then flip it all over and give it a shake. The whole terrifying thing should slither out of the mould with a satisfying squelch. Dress with walnuts and the port reduction, and spring it as a surprise on the unwary.
I won’t lie, it tastes a bit odd. The stilton is quite intense, but the thyme smooths it out a bit. It’s rich and creamy, and the oatcake gives a bit of variety to the texture, as well as these little semi-sweet contrast bursts that back up the port reduction. It’s good, but a large one is overpowering. It’s also enjoyably jiggly. I think we can all get behind that.