Dear Dairy: Fall in love again with these time-honoured foods

Butter, yoghurt and kefir (not to mention proper cheese) are having a nutritional moment. Fall in love again with these fine time-honoured foods, says Annie Bell, in a stunning new book. 

Whipped flavoured butters – sweet


Spread chocolate nut butter on toasted panettone


My favourite instant culinary accessory! I like to keep one or two of these in the fridge ready to add to sweet or savoury dishes. Start with very soft and creamy butter at room temperature. For the basic quantity, work 50g softened butter in a small bowl until it is light and fluffy, then mix in your chosen flavourings (see the ideas below and on the savoury butters page below). For larger batches, use an electric whisk and whip until pale and moussey.




♥ Spread thickly on toasted bread, muffins, currant buns or panettone (as pictured).


♥ Put a knob or two on pancakes.


♥ Use to sauté fruit such as pears, peaches, plums and figs, or for baking apples and other autumnal fruits.


♥ Serve with warm crusty baguette and summer berries.


♥ Dot over a fruit and nut pudding, such as Christmas pud.






♥ Chocolate nut Fold in 20g finely chopped or grated dark chocolate (about 70 per cent) and 20g finely chopped roasted hazelnuts or brazils.


♥ Streaky honey Add 2 tsp set honey and combine to streak the butter.


♥ Double ginger Fold in 2 tsp finely chopped stem ginger from a jar and ¼ tsp ground ginger.


♥ Vanilla cinnamon Add and combine 1½ tsp vanilla extract and ¼ tsp ground cinnamon, then add 1 tsp maple or agave syrup and combine to streak the butter.


Halloumi burgers with lemon & mint


Easy midweek supper material. The seasonings balance the saltiness of the halloumi.




200g halloumi, drained and coarsely grated

2 spring onions, trimmed, halved lengthways and finely sliced

2 handfuls coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley

2 tbsp finely chopped mint

finely grated zest of 1 lemon, plus a squeeze of juice

200g courgette, coarsely grated

1 medium free-range egg, beaten

4 tsp good olive oil




6 warm small round pittas, slit

diced avocado

balsamic onion relish from a jar

quick tomato salsa (see method)


♥ Combine the halloumi, spring onions, herbs and lemon zest in a large bowl. You can do this a couple of hours in advance, in which case cover and chill.


♥ Add the courgette to the cheese mixture and mix well, then season with a little lemon juice and fold in the egg until combined. Using an 8cm plain biscuit cutter or ring, press 3 heaped tablespoons of the mixture at a time into the ring to make small burgers 2cm-3cm thick; you should get six in all.


♥ Heat 2 teaspoons of oil in a large nonstick frying pan over a medium-low heat and fry half the burgers at a time for 4-6 minutes on one side and about 3 minutes on the other side until golden and crusty, carefully lifting them with a spatula now and again to check, as they can darken quite quickly. Transfer to a plate and keep warm in a low oven while you cook the remainder, adding the remaining oil to the pan.


♥ Serve the burgers with the pittas, diced avocado, onion relish and quick tomato salsa.


FOR QUICK TOMATO SALSA About half an hour before you want to eat, halve 150g cherry tomatoes, sprinkle with sea salt and set aside. Prepare 1 heaped tsp finely sliced medium-hot red chilli and stir this in just before serving.


Roast cauliflower cheese with coriander


Roasted cauli with melted camembert: the essence of cauliflower cheese without the floury sauce.




1 x 250g camembert in its wooden box

500g small (2cm-3cm) cauliflower florets

1 red onion, peeled, halved and sliced across

3 tbsp good olive oil

1 tbsp lemon juice

sea salt

1 heaped tsp coriander seeds, coarsely ground

2 large handfuls rocket or watercress


♥ Preheat the oven to 210C/190C fan/gas 6½. To prepare the camembert for baking, remove any waxed paper around the cheese, place it back in its box, pop on the lid and tie a piece of string around the sides to secure it.


♥ Arrange the cauliflower in a single layer in a large roasting tin, then mix in the onion, separating out the strands. Drizzle over the olive oil and lemon juice and stir to coat, then season with salt and scatter over the coriander seeds. Roast the cauliflower for 15 minutes then give it a stir, return to the oven and place the boxed camembert alongside. Continue cooking for 15-20 minutes more, or until the cauliflower is golden at the edges and the cheese is melting (at this temperature, it might start oozing from the box a little).


♥ Transfer the cauliflower to serving plates or a platter. Take the camembert to the table and remove the wooden lid. Using a spoon, carefully peel back the surface rind of the cheese. Drizzle the molten cheese over the cauliflower and serve with rocket or watercress on the side.


Fig, gorgonzola & basil toasts

A chic canapé or quick starter at a barbecue or summer supper.




12 x 1cm-thick slices of baguette, lightly toasted

180g gorgonzola, cut into 12 thick slices

3 figs (about 150g total weight), stalks trimmed

good olive oil, for drizzling

3 tbsp runny honey

a few tiny basil leaves, cut into thin strips


♥ Preheat the grill to high. Spread each toast with a slice of gorgonzola, taking it just within the rim. Cut a small slice off each fig either side, discarding these, and then cut downwards into four slices. Lay a slice on each toast and arrange in a roasting pan.


♥ Drizzle over a little olive oil and the honey and grill until the toast surround is golden and the cheese is softened, without melting to a river. Scatter over the basil, then leave to cool for about 5 minutes before serving.



Buckwheat pancakes with salted butter and honey


These mini blini-style pancakes can take savoury toppings as well as sweet – notably smoked salmon and sour cream.


MAKES 24-25 (SERVES 6)


80g plain flour

80g buckwheat flour

2 tsp baking powder

pinch of golden caster sugar

pinch of fine sea salt

1 medium free-range egg, separated

300ml whole milk

2 tsp groundnut or vegetable oil for the pan

softened salted butter and honeycomb or honey to serve


♥ Sift the flours and baking powder into a large bowl and add the sugar and salt. Whisk the egg yolk and milk in another bowl until combined. Pour this mixture on to the sifted dry ingredients and whisk until smooth. Leave to stand for 10 minutes.

♥ Whisk the egg white until stiff in a medium bowl using an electric whisk and fold it into the pancake mixture.


♥ In the meantime, heat a cast-iron frying pan or flat griddle over a low heat for 10 minutes until evenly heated. Grease the hot pan or griddle with oil using a brush, then drop tablespoons of the mixture into the pan, spaced slightly apart.


♥ Cook for 1-2 minutes until the surface pits with bubbles, then carefully turn using a palette knife and cook for about 1 minute more until golden on the underside (one side will be smoother in appearance than the other). Repeat with remaining mixture, re-oiling the pan as necessary. They will keep warm covered with foil for up to 30 minutes.


♥ Alternatively make in advance, stack about six high, wrap in foil and reheat for 20 minutes at 180C/160C fan/gas 4. Serve with a dot of butter and a dab of honey on each one.


Slather tomato rose butter on sliced steamed romesco


My favourite instant culinary accessory! I like to keep one or two of these in the fridge ready to add to sweet or savoury dishes. Start with very soft and creamy butter at room temperature. For the basic quantity, work 50g softened butter in a small bowl until it is light and fluffy, then mix in your chosen flavourings (see the ideas below and the sweet butter page below). For larger batches, use an electric whisk and whip until pale and moussey.




♥ Dot over cooked green vegetables (and pop under the grill if you like, as pictured).


♥ Use for sautéeing veg (add a drop of olive oil) or for frying omelettes.


♥ Smear over or under the skin of a whole chicken before roasting.


♥ Spread on to crisp toasts or crackers for easy appetisers.


♥ Drop a teaspoon into a bowl of vegetable soup or use to enrich vegetable sauces.


♥ Replace a little of the butter in pastry for a flavoured crust.


♥ Stir into finished risotto or other cooked grains.






♥ Tomato and rose Add 2 tsp sun-dried tomato paste and ½ tsp finely chopped dried rose petals and combine to streak the butter.


♥ Streaky miso Add 20g miso paste and combine to streak the butter.


♥ Cayenne and lemon Fold in ¼ tsp cayenne pepper (or piment d’espelette if available), ½ tsp finely grated lemon zest and a squeeze of lemon juice.


 Spiced za’atar Fold in 1 level tsp za’atar seasoning and a squeeze of lemon juice.


Vanilla panna cotta


I prefer panna cotta made with yoghurt rather than cream. It’s ethereal to look at and tastes just as rich as the original.



2 gelatine leaves, cut into broad strips

3 tbsp boiling water

450g natural Greek yoghurt

75g white caster sugar

1 tsp vanilla paste

4 tbsp kirsch or fruit vodka

100g seedless black or red grapes, halved


♥ Place the gelatine strips in a medium bowl, cover with cold water, soak for 5 minutes, then drain. Pour the boiling water over the gelatine and stir to dissolve.


♥ Put the yoghurt and sugar in a small pan and gently heat until the sugar dissolves, stirring constantly and taking care not to boil, then remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla paste.


♥ Blend 3 tablespoons of the yoghurt into the gelatine, one at a time, and then stir this back in with the rest of the yoghurt.


♥ Divide the mixture among four 150ml ramekins or other pretty nonstick moulds equivalent in size. Cover and chill in the fridge for several hours or overnight until set. They will keep well for several days.


♥ Remove from the fridge a few minutes before serving, then turn them out on to plates. Pour a tablespoon of liqueur over each one and serve with the halved grapes on the side or scattered over.




Today’s recipes are from The Modern Dairy by Annie Bell, published by Kyle Books, price £16.99. 


Annie, an award-winning cookery writer with a Master of Science in Human Nutrition, writes regularly for YOU. Her new book rediscovers the appeal of an important food group (including milk, butter, cheese, yoghurt and cream), looking in depth at the science behind its benefits and offering recipes that celebrate dairy in healthy ways, reflecting modern nutritional concerns and how we eat today. Each recipe is calorie counted with a full nutrition profile (including fats, carbs, sugars, protein and salt, plus notable vitamins and minerals).


To order a copy for £11.04 (a 35 per cent discount) until 2 July, visit, or call 0844 571 0640; p&p is free on orders over £15.