Thursday, 2 January 2014

Roasted Grapes with Blue Brie, and frozen grapes as a snack

Grapes are in high season here in South Africa, and for the past two weeks I've experimented with different ways of serving this glorious fruit.  Sure, the best way to demolish a bunch of grapes is to eat them very cold and fresh on a sweltering summer's day, but still I'd like to draw your attention to two lovely alternative ways of using grapes: slow-roasting them to a gentle collapse to draw out their perfumed juices, and freezing them to create crunchy little flavour bombs.

Oven-Roasted Grapes with Blue Camembert
Roasted Grapes with gorgeous Blue Brie from Dalewood Fromage. 

The recipe in the picture above - roasted grapes with blue brie - is inspired by a sublime dish of gently stewed sweet grapes with thick Greek yoghurt. My friends Michael and Michelle Karamanof, who own a house in Kythera, Greece, made this for me a few years back, and it's a dish that has stood out in my memory.

I've served this version with both the roasted grapes and cold fresh ones, for a pleasing contrast.

Oven-Roasted Grapes with Blue Camembert
Pressed Cheese with Roasted Grapes and Caramel-Dipped Fresh Grapes.
Plate by David Walters
In this second picture, above, I've whipped together crumbled blue cheese, mascarpone and chopped-up blue camembert, then pressed this sinful mixture over a layer of stewed grapes in a clingfilm-lined dish.The first time I made this, it was very tasty, but lacked texture, so in the second version I served it with fresh grapes dipped in a thin, brittle caramel. If I make this again, I will probably add some toasted macadamia nuts to either the cheese mixture or the caramel-dipped grapes.

Oven-Roasted Grapes with Blue Camembert
Frozen grapes: crunchy little flavour bombs. 
Finally, the frozen grapes. These have a wonderful, refreshing, sorbet-like texture, especially if you leave them to stand for five minutes after you take them out of the freezer. They are very good served piled on a platter alongside thin shavings of good Parmesan, or - if you are feeding children - with chips of dark chocolate.  This is an excellent way to preserve grapes for future fruit smoothies, and you can also use them instead of ice cubes to chill a glass of white wine in a hurry, without diluting the wine. In this picture I've rolled the grapes in sugar, because they were rather acidic, but this isn't necessary if you've chosen a nice sweet grape.

To roast grapes:

Heat the oven to 160 ÂșC. Place a few bunches of sweet seedless black or red table grapes on a sheet lined with two sheets of baking paper. Roast for 30-40 minutes, depending on the size of the grapes, or until they have just collapsed, are slightly shrunken, and the juices are running. Pick up the edges of the baking paper and tip the grapes and their juices onto a platter. Serve with cheese.

To freeze grapes:

Wash a few whole bunches of seedless grapes and set them aside until they're dry. Put them in a freezer bag or lidded plastic container and freeze for 3 hours, or until solid. Take them out of the freezer 5 minutes before you serve them, or they'll crack someone's teeth, but don't leave them on the counter for too long as they defrost and soften quickly. These keep well in the freezer for up to a month.

For the pressed cheese: 

Oven-Roasted Grapes with Blue Camembert

Wet a small mould and line it with a sheet of clingfilm, letting the edges drape down over the sides. Line the bottom of the mould with a single layer of roast grapes, and a little of their juice.  In a separate bowl, beat together equal quantities of mascarpone, crumbled blue cheese and finely chopped brie or camembert.

Season generously with black pepper and pack the mixture into the mould on top of the grapes. Flip the clingfilm edges over the top of the cheese and press down firmly to level the surface. Chill for an hour or two, or until firm.  If you'd like a (marginally) lighter mixture, use fat-free cream cheese instead of mascarpone.

For the caramel grapes:

Set a piece of baking paper on a board. Put a cup (250 ml) of caster sugar and a third of cup (80 ml) of water into a small, deep saucepan. If you have a saucepan with a white lining, use it, as this will allow you accurately to judge the colour. Bring gently to the boil, then turn the heat up a little and let the syrup bubble vigorously until it turns pale gold. At this point, watch it like a hawk, as caramel burns in an instant. Don't be tempted to stir - rather give the saucepan a gentle swirl. When the caramel is a beautiful rich golden colour, remove it from the heat. Don't wait too long: it will continue to darken by several shades after you take it off the heat, especially if you are using a thick-based saucepan that retains heat.

Stick a thin skewer deep into a grape, tilt the saucepan and dip the grape into the caramel. Now lift the grape high above the saucepan, allowing the caramel to run off and form a fine strand. Hold it there until the strand has hardened a little, then snip through it with a pair of kitchen scissors.  Place the grape on its side on the baking paper and repeat the process with the rest of the grapes.

If the caramel runs too reluctantly off the grape, you will need gently to rewarm it over a low flame. If it refuses to coat the grape or form a strand, you will need to cook the caramel for longer.

Serves 4-6 as a snack, with crackers

Oven-Roasted Grapes with Blue Camembert
Roasted Grapes with Pressed Cheese. 
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Jean Wandimi said...

That looks so sweet. i love your blog.

Jeanne said...

Every time I see a recipe with roasted grapes I make a mental note to roast some... but have not yet got that far LOL! Love the sound of this - would make the perfect alternative cheesboard :)

Kit said...

Frozen grapes - brilliant idea for after school snacks on a day like today. Resolve to try this as soon as I buy enough grapes not to have them all guzzled immediately on returning from the shops.