Recipes: Cheese to pleaseby Lauraine Jacobs
There are more reasons than ever to celebrate a month devoted to New Zealand’s favourite dairy food.
October is New Zealand Cheese Month, so it’s a good time to cook with cheese, try newer styles made by artisans and remember old favourites, such as the classic cheddars. A full calendar of events and tastings is being planned around the country, as each district has its own special cheesemakers (see box, next page).
Last century, every rural town had a dairy factory that processed milk from local farms into our famous cheddar. In the second half of the century, cheesemaking was consolidated and production was controlled for the most part by big players. Today, they consist of Fonterra and a handful of others. A few immigrants from countries where cheese played an important part in the diet made varieties in their own style, and we now have a legacy of beautifully made Dutch-style cheeses that constantly win awards.
More recent immigrants have stamped their mark on cheeses, sourcing milk from sheep, goats and buffalos. Artisan producers are now making lots of new varieties, including Italian-style fresh mozzarella, fetas and other fresh white cheeses, sweet Swiss-style holey cheese, different blues and, of course, many good interpretations of the fine cheeses of Spain and France. New Zealand has become a cheese lovers’ world.
On a recent trip to St Petersburg, I quickly exhausted my appetite for beetroot and beef stroganoff, and the caviar was delicious, but pricey. So we headed to a casual Georgian restaurant, where excellent breads were made and baked in a large wood-fired oven in front of us. The best was a loaf generously garnished with cheese. Back home, I started making this easy bread on weekends.
Georgian Cheese Bread (Khachapuri)
1 tsp active dry yeast
¼ tsp sugar
²∕³ cup warm water
1 tbsp olive oil, plus more for greasing
200g flour, plus extra for dusting
1 tsp flaky sea salt
125g grated havarti cheese
125g crumbled feta cheese
2 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into tiny cubes
Combine the yeast, sugar and warm water in a bowl, then let it stand until it froths – about 10 minutes. Add the oil, flour and salt, mixing with a wooden spoon until a soft dough forms. Transfer to a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic – about 4 minutes. Transfer to a lightly greased bowl, then cover loosely with plastic wrap. Leave in a warm place until it has doubled in size – about 45 minutes.
Place a pizza stone on a rack in the lower third of the oven. Heat the oven to 220°C for 1 hour. Combine the cheeses in a bowl, then set aside.
Punch down the dough and divide in two. On a piece of lightly floured parchment paper, roll one half into a 20cm circle about 1cm thick. Spread a quarter of the cheese mixture over the dough, leaving a 10cm border. Tightly roll the dough about a quarter of the way towards the centre. Repeat with the other side. Pinch the open ends of the rolls together and twist to seal, creating a boat shape. Place another quarter of the cheese mixture in the centre. Use the remaining dough and cheese to make a second loaf.
Slide the loaves off the paper onto the pizza stone, leaving 10cm between them. Bake for 14-16 minutes or until golden brown. Spread half the butter on each. Serve warm.
Serves 4 as a snack or to accompany a simple meal
Scones can be made and served in under 30 minutes. A classic cheese scone, still warm and generously buttered, will always be a favourite for morning or afternoon tea.
Classic cheese scones
3 cups flour
5 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
100g butter, grated
½ cup grated tasty cheddar cheese
½ cup grated havarti cheese
1½ cups milk or buttermilk at room temperature
Preheat the oven to 220°C. Prepare an oven tray by lightly flouring the surface.
Sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl. Add the butter and rub in very gently with your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the cheeses, stirring through evenly with a fork. Pour in most of the milk, then mix quickly, adding extra milk if necessary, until a soft dough forms.
Turn the mixture onto a floured board and knead lightly to bring it together. Pat it out into a rectangle, then fold in half and pat out again to form a rectangle about 25cm x 15cm.
Cut the mixture into 12 even-sized pieces and place on the oven tray. Brush the tops with milk and scatter over some extra cheese. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until golden with crisp edges. Serve warm with butter.
NZ Cheese Month
The variety of activities offered in October will give turophiles (from the Greek tyros, meaning “cheese” and philos “loving”) the chance to try new cheeses and make their own under expert guidance.
- Wairarapa artisan deli C’est Cheese will be hosting Fabulous Featherston Fondue Fridays throughout October from 5.30-6.30pm.
- Based in the Marlborough Sounds, Cranky Goat will launch a new cheese called Linkwater Log. For every cheese sold, the company will donate 50c to Whole Lotta Life Foundation, which supports people aged 20-45 who have cancer (wholelottalife.org).
- Little Farm Cheese Co in Oxford, Canterbury, is running an amateur cheese competition on October 30 for home cheesemakers (details on the website below), and the Oxford Farmers Market is inviting home cheesemakers to bring their products to a tasting and informal judging by all the tasters.
- Puhoi Valley Cheese Company’s cafe will be the venue for a cheese appreciation evening with its head cheesemaker, Franck Beaurain, on October 27.
More events can be found at cheeselovers.co.nz or on Facebook.
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