The basis of this recipe was one for a goats’ cheese gateaux or terrine or some such - there are many. Having been served large lumps of goats’ cheese in various guises as the ‘vegetarian option’ on fancy menus (even as a starter, we’re sometimes expected to put away four or five ounces of protein), the objective here was to break up the texture and richness of the cheese, as well as adding extra flavours. The tomatoes and pinenuts in the charlotte do this, but it is still a very rich dish, and the greens are an essential companion. If you don’t have beef tomatoes, any ripe tomatoes will do, but it’s hard to say how many - up to eight slices, or two tomatoes, per charlotte. As well as the lentils in basil oil, we usually serve these with grilled wedges of polenta - you would need only half a tray. Instead of individual ramekins you could cook the lot as one large charlotte, turn it out and cut slices off that.
FIRST ROAST THE TOMATOES. Cut them into thickish slices and remove the seeds. Lightly oil some oven trays, place the tomato slices on them, lightly brush them with olive oil and place in a medium oven. When cooked the tomatoes should be partly dried, beginning to crisp and caramelize a little. They may need to be turned once. Cook them in batches, if necessary, and don’t worry about doing too many, you’ll find a use or two for them. Yum.
Meanwhile, put the cheeses, garlic and whole eggs into a food processor. Blend to a smooth puree, then add in the egg whites, one at a time with the motor running. Transfer this custard to a bowl and stir in enough cream to give a (very) thick pouring consistency. Stir in the pinenuts, some chopped basil, if you’ve got it, and some black pepper.
While waiting for the charlottes to cook, boil the lentils in water until just tender, drain them and return them to the pan with the basil oil and the red onion. Add a splash of water and keep it warm or reheat just before serving.
Place some greens in the centre of each plate, with the lentils and polenta scattered around, then invert the charlottes on to the greens.
It is possible to reheat the charlottes by loosening them in their ramekins and then either returning them to the oven in a bain marie or inverting them onto a baking tray, with the ramekins covering them, and cooking them in a medium oven until just warmed through.
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