Books – River Cottage Handbook No.16: Cheese & Dairy by Steven Lamb

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Steven Lamb is a linchpin of the whole River Cottage operation and has been for a decade. He teaches on several courses at the Cookery School but specialises in curing and smoking meat. Steven appears in the TV series, regularly presents on the FoodTube channel and has written the award winning River Cottage Curing & Smoking Handbook. He works closely with founder Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and head chef Gill Meller to represent River Cottage both in the UK and abroad.

Beyond River Cottage, Steven’s extensive food knowledge and talent for live hosting has put him at the centre of many of the best food shows and festivals, either leading his own cookery demonstration or compering the live stage for emerging and celebrity chefs. 

He regularly teaches at other UK and International cookery schools, and also uses his experience to consult on food projects for individuals and large organisations. He guest writes on an array of subjects for print and online and has recently written the next River Cottage Handbook: Cheese & Dairy, two recipes from which we present below.

Steven will be appearing at the River Cottage Food Fair, held over the 26th and 27th May.


Baked Brie with truffle, hazelnuts and thyme

The only thing better than a ripe Brie, barely containing its creamy paste within the thin, white-bloomed shell, is a ripe Brie that has been baked and adorned with crushed hazelnuts, shavings of truffle and sprigs of thyme. All the textures and tastes meet and create a rich alchemy that gives you a feeling of utter wellbeing. You could also try topping the Brie with sweet caramelised onions or sharp fruits such as red berries or cranberries. I prefer to keep the cheese in the round wooden box it came in for baking.

Serves 2


A round of Brie, 250–300g, such as Lubborn

A handful of sprigs of thyme

8–10 hazelnuts

A small truffle

A baguette, to serve


Preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas mark 6.

Remove any wrapping from the Brie and return it to its wooden container, with the lid off. (If your Brie doesn’t have a box, you can buy a special-purpose Brie baking dish or use any ovenproof dish which will hold the cheese snugly.)

Scatter most of the thyme sprigs on top of the Brie and bake for about 10 minutes until the cheese is bubbling under the surface and slightly browning around the rim. Meanwhile, crush the hazelnuts, using a pestle and mortar.

Sprinkle the crushed hazelnuts over the hot Brie and shave the truffle thinly but generously on top, using a mandoline or a swivel vegetable peeler. Scatter over the remaining thyme sprigs and eat immediately, with a fresh, crusty baguette.


Cheese and onion tart

If there is a recipe that shouts more of the lost county of Lancashire than a cheese and onion tart, I will eat my proverbial flat cap – I would be discrediting my heritage if I did not include it! You have to resist the temptation to put bacon (or indeed potato) in this tart, and instead champion its simplicity. The addition of bacon would turn the tart into a quiche – which is a bit like calling Lancashire ‘Greater Manchester’. My recipe is inspired by one of Lancashire’s great chefs, Nigel Howarth, who helps to keep many of the region’s ingredients on the map.

Serves 6–8


For the pastry

200g plain flour, plus extra for dusting

A pinch of sea salt

100g butter, diced

2 medium eggs, beaten


For the filling

25g butter

2 large onions, peeled and thinly sliced

3 medium eggs

300ml crème fraîche

¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg

100g hard cheese (Lancashire of course!), grated

150g fresh goat’s curd cheese (see p.95)

Sea salt and freshly ground

white pepper


Special equipment

23cm loose-based tart tin


To make the pastry, sift the flour and salt into a bowl, then rub in the butter with your fingertips until it resembles fine crumbs. Add the beaten eggs and bring the dough together with your hands, adding a trickle of cold water if necessary. Knead the dough lightly until smooth and silky, then flatten to a disc, wrap in cling film and chill in the fridge for 20 minutes or so. Preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas mark 6.

Roll out the chilled dough on a lightly floured surface to about a 3mm thickness and use to line the tart tin; press the pastry into the corners and sides of the tin and make sure it extends above the rim by 5mm–1cm.

Line the pastry case with a sheet of baking parchment and add a layer of baking beans or dried pulses. Bake ‘blind’ for 15 minutes. Lift out the paper and beans and return the pastry case to the oven for about 5 minutes until the pastry is dry and lightly coloured. Remove from the oven and set aside.

Lower the oven setting to 180°C/Gas mark 4. Once the pastry has cooled a little, trim away the excess pastry from around the rim using a sharp knife.

To make the filling, melt the butter in a pan, add the sliced onions and sauté gently for 10–12 minutes until soft and lightly caramelised. In a bowl, mix the beaten eggs with the crème fraîche, nutmeg and some salt and white pepper.

Spoon the caramelised onions into the pastry case and scatter the grated cheese and goat’s cheese over them. Carefully pour on the egg mixture. Bake in the oven for 35–40 minutes or until the filling is set, with just a pleasing wobble.

Transfer the tart, still in its tin, to a wire rack and leave to cool for about 15 minutes before easing it out of the tin and serving warm.

Extract taken from River Cottage Handbook No.16 Cheese & Dairy by Steven Lamb (Bloomsbury, £16.99) out now

Photography © Gavin Kingcome