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OISHII / Create simple, elegant hors d’oeuvres with Camembert cheese

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Clockwise from top left: Camembert topped with chanja and nori, crackers and fondue, nut sandwich

The Yomiuri ShimbunCamembert tsumami

In this column, chefs and cooking experts share recipes that are easy to prepare at home.

Camembert cheese can be used to make simple tsumami snacks to accompany drinks. Cooking expert Hatsue Shigenobu introduces three varieties: Camembert topped with chanja, fondue and a nut sandwich.

Each provides a different combination of tastes and textures, and goes well with wine, beer and other alcoholic drinks.

“Cheese can be widely used because it suits both Japanese and Western cuisines, both spicy and sweet foods,” Shigenobu said. She recommends Camembert cheeses, which are reasonably priced and tasty.

The first dish she presents is Camembert topped with chanja. Chanja is a South Korean fermented foodstuff, featuring codfish stomachs that are salted and then seasoned with chili peppers and other ingredients.

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  • The Yomiuri Shimbun

    Mixed nuts are put between slices of cheese like a sandwich.

  • The Yomiuri Shimbun

    Harissa goes well with various dishes.

The preparation is quite simple: Just place pieces of cheese and chunks of chanja on roasted nori (dried seaweed). The two fermented foodstuffs, chanja and cheese, produce such a rich flavor, it’s difficult to describe the taste.

The spiciness and texture of the chanja, and the texture and ocean aroma of the roasted nori, make it even more delicious.

Shigenobu’s second recommendation is fondue. Cover the bottom of a block of Camembert with aluminum foil and bake the cheese in a toaster oven. Hollow out part of the top and put harissa in the space. Harissa is a seasoning paste made of chili peppers, cumin and coriander, and is used mainly in northern Africa. Dip stick-shaped crackers in the cheese and harissa. The spicy taste of the harissa paste serves as an accent that will have people reaching for their glasses.

The nut sandwich is made by putting salted mixed nuts between slices of cheese. The nuts are dressed with maple syrup.

The sweetness of the syrup and salty taste of the nuts blend harmoniously, and the cheese brings together the whole dish.

You’ll also enjoy the combination of the sticky texture of the cheese and crispy texture of the nuts. Honey can be used in place of maple syrup, Shigenobu said.

Just a few extra steps give these snacks a luxurious feel. Enjoy them with your favorite drinks during the long autumn evenings.

Many uses of harissa paste

Harissa is becoming known in Japan as a seasoning used in couscous. Shigenobu recommends using harissa not only for snacks to accompany drinks, but also with daily meals. For example, you can use it instead of tobanjan Chinese chili paste for the spicy Chinese dish of tofu and ground meat mabo dofu, or instead of gochujang Korean red chilli paste for bulgogi, a Korean grilled beef dish. Shigenobu also recommends using it for goya chanpuru, a stir-fried goya dish, or in nabe hot pots.

Ingredients

(Easy-to-use quantities):

Camembert topped with chanja

100 grams Camembert cheese

1 sheet of nori dried seaweed

30 grams chanja (about 1½ tbsp)

Directions:

1. Cut the cheese radially into eight equal parts. Chop up chanja. Cut roasted nori into eight equal pieces.

2. Put each piece of cheese on a piece of nori, and put chanja on the cheese.

Fondue

1 block of Camembert cheese

1 tsp harissa

Suitable quantity of stick-shaped crackers

Directions:

1. Wrap the underside of the cheese with aluminium foil and bake it in a toaster oven for 6 to 7 minutes. Hollow out the top of the cheese and put harissa in the hole.

2. Dip the crackers in the cheese and harissa, and eat.

Nut sandwich

1 block of Camembert cheese

20 grams salted mixed nuts

1 tsp maple syrup or honey

Directions:

1. Cut the cheese in half horizontally. Chop up mixed nuts and dress with maple syrup.

2. Spread mixed nuts thinly on one half of the Camembert cheese, and put the other half on top. Push down lightly on the top half of the cheese sandwich, and then cut into bite-size chunks.

To find out more about Japan’s attractions, visit http://the-japan-news.com/news/d&dSpeech

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