in praise of damien trench: baked camembert

baked camembert with garlic, rosemary and bacon
My favourite radio food writer, Damien Trench, is back. He returns on Radio 4 for another series of his superlative programme, In and Out of the Kitchen. I have so missed his wise, fulsome words and unflappable approach to food.

Damien Trench is the comic creation of Miles Jupp; a gentle parody of the most florid aspects of food writing. The programme is an absolute hoot.

A perfectionist, both priggish and fussy, Damien Trench has an unerring ability to make a bad situation worse. While Damien may have created a writing persona of calm, measured expertise, his personal life tends to unravel, largely of his own making.

The series purports to be the diaries of Damien Trench, a well-known cookery writer, who generally appeals to the aspirational cook, but who is trying to broaden his scope by branching out into television documentaries, (such as a programme for Sky Arts about the eating habits of famous poets called "Poets and their Palates") as well as writing for other media outlets. My particular favourite episode was from the first series where he tried to reconcile his conscience and scruples to writing an online cookery column for a well-known supermarket.

We learn about Damien's life and work through insights into his life with his partner, the long-suffering Anthony, his grotesque friend and agent, Ian, as well as family, friends and his builder, the ever-present Mr Mullaney, toether with recipes, complete with sound-effects. Damien believes that he is "unflinchingly capturing every angle of his life, 'no matter how grizzly or, indeed, how gristly.'" This rather sums up the quality of his jokes. He can, not to put too fine a point on it, be utterly fatuous. Staid and a bit stuffy and Pecksniffian. You can imagine that as a schoolboy, he always pulled up his socks and kept his shoes well-shined.

Recipes come with cosy, alliterative titles such as "comforting Cornish pasties," "the perfect pasta puttanesca," "cracking crepes Suzette," "marvellously moist muffins," and the curious "a tastebud tantalising, Beef Oxford." Which all sound perfectly reasonable, if a little twee. However, “something for the more experimental, 'pilchards al limone.'"should probably be avoided!

The next episode of In and Out of the Kitchen is on Monday at 11.30am. There will be a short series on BBC4 at some point this year too.

Damien Trench's recipe for baked Camembert can be found on the Radio 4 In and Out of the Kitchen website. Do check it out for his other recipes and for his fabulous annotations! Damien says of his baked Camembert that it is "p
erfect for a dinner party starter. (Simple, but gets the taste buds bouncing)"
Of the recipes themselves, Miles Jupp says that they are "probably be reasonably edible, if a little more expensive than they'd need to be."

baked Camembert in a box

Skill level: Easy

1 x Camembert, in its box (make sure it is at room-temperature)
1 x garlic clove, thinly sliced
a sprig of fresh rosemary (or a few sprigs of rosemary)
white wine
olive oil
bacon or pancetta, very finely chopped


  1. Make sure the Camembert is at room temperature as it will cook more quickly and evenly.
  2. Pre-heat the oven to 200C / Gas Mark 6.
  3. Cook the bacon in about 1 teaspoon of olive oil until crisp. Drain and set aside.
  4. If the cheese comes with a wooden box, make sure that it is the type that is glued together as the ones that are glued tend to come unstuck in the oven. Soak the box in cold water for 10 minutes before using.
  5. Remove the plastic wrap around the cheese.
  6. Wipe the cheese with a kitchen towel dipped in white wine.
  7. Either return the cheese straight back into the soaked box, or wrap the cheese in grease-proof paper and then place back in the box. If the box comes with a lid, you can dispense with it.
  8. Pierce the top of the Camembert with the tip of a very sharp knife. (Don't press down so hard that the tip breaks through the bottom of the cheese.) Insert a few slices of garlic and some of the herbs into the slits.
  9. Place the box with the cheese in it on a baking sheet. Bake for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until the cheese starts to melt. (It may take longer.) You can tell by gently pressing the top of the cheese. It will feel springy or as Damien says "wobbles pleasingly."
  10. Make a cross in the top of the cheese and peel back the rind. Sprinkle with the cooked bacon.
  11. Serve with bread, pickles, rolls of ham or cooked vegetables such as asparagus or baby new potatoes.

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