This is one of my most relied-on, instant, starters. It’s quick and easy to do (you just have to defy distraction to avoid the brulée effect); it’s fresh and not too filling; and it’s a bit different and interesting.

This takes about three minutes to prepare (the preparation can be done ahead of time). Then tell your guests to get themselves seated and pour out wine etc while you cook – the cheese will need about five minutes under a hot grill – then serve it immediately.

If you have some interesting chutney – the saucy peach nearly-chutney would be good – that goes well.


Recipe for baby gem with goats’ cheese and toasted nuts


For four


  • 2 baby gem
  • 4 thick slices of goats’ cheese – you want the type that contains itself well within its skin – Riblaire St Varent would be a good choice.
  • ⅓ cup/40g/2oz chopped pecans – or walnuts, or pinenuts
  • 3 tbsp walnut oil
  • 4 sprigs of thyme
  • 1 tbsp (4 tsp) thick balsamic vinegar (or you could use reduced apple balsamic vinegar)
  • 2 tsp smoked salt
  • 16 generous grinds of Indonesian long pepper


  1. Cut the baby gem in half vertically and remove any tired looking leaves
  2. Put a slice of cheese on each half
  3. Top with the chopped nuts, the sprig of thyme, and the salt and pepper
  4. When you’re ready, warm your plates, and get the grill going
  5. Put the baby gems under the grill for about five minutes but keep an eye on them.
  6. When looking truly golden and wonderful, take out. Spoon a teaspoon of balsamic vinegar over each and serve PDQ



baby gem with goats' cheese recipe

As the cheese begins to melt… watch it like a hawk…

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