Make a meal of cheese, chilli and chocolate

It’s not every month that doing this column involves a rendezvous with a Sussex Charmer. Just my luck that this turns out to be a cheese, although admittedly a very fine cheese. Using high quality milk from a Jersey/Friesian cross herd in Rudgwick, West Sussex and combining the production methods of a traditional farmhouse Cheddar with that of Parmesan, Sussex Charmer has a creamy mature Cheddar taste followed by a zing of Parmesan.

But why ‘Charmer’ you ask? Well it’s just the combination of the ‘ch’ from Cheddar with the ‘arm’ from Parmesan. While it goes very well with apples, pears and pickles and is great melted over pasta and toast, I’m using it more like a Parmesan by shaving it into a delicious salad with pumpkin and walnuts.

From a cheesy starter to a meaty main course with a difference – chilli con carne with chocolate. I know what you’re thinking, but the addition of chocolate to this tasty chilli recipe really does give it a superb lift. The sweetness of the chocolate balances the acidity of the tomatoes; the bitterness of plain chocolate gives an extra angle to the flavour and the smoothness of the chocolate gives the chilli a velvety texture. The secret is to keep it subtle – while it won’t actually taste of chocolate its inclusion does make a difference.

Having used chocolate in the main course I thought I’d better not include it in the pudding so I’m stuffing peaches with an almond paste and baking them to serve with vanilla ice cream.

Peaches always remind me of my late grandmother who 60 years ago used to grow them against south-facing walls and then carefully pack them in wooden boxes between layers of cotton wool gauze before sending them off to London to be sold.
As the peach plants needed cross pollinating before the bees were out to do it for her she used to go from plant to plant with a rabbit’s tail attached to the end of a cane to ensure fertilisation. Knowing what my grandmother was like, I’m sure the rest of the rabbit wasn’t wasted either.

Pumpkin, Walnut and Cheese Salad
Serves 4

  • 450g (1lb) prepared weight of squash or pumpkin
  • 24 fresh walnuts (shelled)
  • 150g (5oz) Sussex Charmer cheese in the piece
  • 2 handfuls of mixed salad leaves
  • Salad dressing
  • Oil for frying
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cut the squash or pumpkin into thick strips, toss in a little oil and season. Roast in a hot oven until they are soft. Set aside. Arrange the salad leaves onto the plates and distribute the walnuts amongst the leaves. Pare the cheese into shavings with a peeler and arrange with the salad. Fry the pumpkin slices in a little oil until golden. To serve, dress the salad just prior to placing the pumpkin pieces in with the leaves.


choco chilli

Chilli Con Carne with Chocolate
Serves 4

  • 500g minced lean beef
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 50g (2oz) smoked streaky bacon, chopped
  • 110g (4oz) chestnut button mushrooms, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons Cajun spice mix
  • 1 tablespoon sweet chilli sauce
  • 1 tablespoon tomato puree
  • 1 x 400g can chopped tomatoes
  • 1 x 400g can red kidney beans
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons plain flour
  • 20g plain chocolate
  • Soured cream and rice to serve
  • If you like more spice, add a finely chopped red chilli when adding the tinned tomatoes


Fry together the onion, pepper, garlic, bacon and mushrooms in the oil until they start to cook. Put in the minced beef and continue cooking whilst you break up the mince with a wooden spoon. When the meat starts to brown sprinkle over the flour and the spice and stir in. Add the tomatoes, tomato puree, sweet chilli and the beans and season well with the salt and pepper. Bring to the boil and simmer for 45 minutes to one hour over a low heat or in the oven. Melt the chocolate into the chilli and serve. Delicious with a spoonful of soured cream on top and rice.


peaches baked

Baked Stuffed Peaches with Vanilla Ice Cream
Serves 4

  • 4 ripe peaches
  • 110g (4oz) ground almonds
  • 110g (4oz) icing sugar
  • Squeeze of lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon of Amaretto
  • 1 egg white
  • Juice of half an orange
  • 75g (3oz) caster sugar
  • Extra Amaretto
  • Good quality vanilla ice cream


Add together the ground almonds and the icing sugar. Add to this the lemon juice and the teaspoon of Amaretto and enough of the egg white to make a firm almond paste. Halve the peaches and remove the stone. Take pieces of almond paste about the size of a nutmeg and stuff the well of each peach half. Place the peaches, cut side up, in a shallow ovenproof dish and pour the orange juice around them. Scatter over the caster sugar and drizzle an extra bit of Amaretto around them. Cover with tin foil and bake in the oven (180C, 350F, Gas mark 4) until the peaches are cooked and soft, about 20 minutes. Serve warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.


For more recipes from Philippa Vine, head to the Farmlife Recipes home page.

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