Just add Jean takes in­spi­ra­tion from an award-win­ning cheese and ex­per­i­ments with a touch of choco­late.

NZ Lifestyle Block - - Farmhouse Kitchen -

Once the NZ Cham­pi­ons of Cheese Awards were over for this year, I got time to start de­vel­op­ing more recipes. Judg­ing at the awards is al­ways in­spir­ing and this year a stand­out cheese – Wang­peka Fam­ily Farm’s Matariki – had me crav­ing the time when I could get back to my own cheese­mak­ing.

Judges get to view, smell, taste and feel the cheeses, but we can only guess at the in­gre­di­ents and tech­niques used to craft them. We are told what type of milk and what class the cheese will be en­tered into, but recre­at­ing a cheese from that in­for­ma­tion is im­pos­si­ble. At best, all you can do is an ap­prox­i­ma­tion, your own spe­cial in­ter­pre­ta­tion. It’s great fun.

One of my goals was to make a sim­i­lar hard tex­tured cow’s milk cheese with an in­tense flavour and an al­most choco­late coat­ing. I could try to sim­u­late the ex­ter­nal look and even an ap­prox­i­ma­tion of the paste (the in­side of the cheese) but the fudgy, spicy, notes of the rind would be my imag­i­na­tion gone a bit crazy.

I started with my parme­san recipe, mi­nus the li­pase (the en­zyme that gives parme­san its tangy taste) as it’s pretty much fool-proof, then added a wash of choco­late and pep­per that I hope will make the taste sing.

A hard tex­tured cheese like this will take at least sev­eral months to ma­ture but part of the en­joy­ment is in the ex­pec­ta­tion of what will de­velop.

Wan­gapeka’s cheese was a 2kg round and a cheese that big uses about 20 litres of milk. Since this was a first ex­per­i­ment, I used 5-litres of milk and made a 500g cheese. Next time, I will make a much larger cheese so while I’m shar­ing the 5-litre recipe with you, you can suc­cess­fully dou­ble it for a 1kg cheese or quadru­ple it for a 2kg cheese.

If you de­cide to do a 2kg round, I would sug­gest mak­ing it in two 10-litre pots as it’s too dif­fi­cult to heat a 20-litre pot on the stove, and it would be too heavy for most peo­ple to move eas­ily. All you do is com­bine the two pots of drained curds just prior to mould­ing up.

I love to see large cheeses ma­tur­ing in my cheese fridge. Maybe it ap­peases some sur­vival­ist need to store food for the win­ter, but what­ever the rea­son, it gives me great plea­sure. Even more pleas­ing is all those months later, cut­ting into a large wheel and ex­pos­ing the beau­ti­ful cheese in­side, then shar­ing the bounty with friends and fam­ily.

Last night I stuffed some chicken breasts with slices of a parme­san I made last year, along with spring onions and herbs from Dave’s gar­den. Once rolled in bread­crumbs and baked, the cheese and greens lifted the chicken into gourmet sta­tus, part of the magic of hav­ing a se­lec­tion of great cheeses on hand. Dave dug new pota­toes from the gar­den (he doesn’t know what type as he planted some left­over sprouted ones from the veg­etable bin) and cut a broc­coli that had gone a bit wild too. We sat and ate a din­ner mostly har­vested from our own land, and what could be bet­ter than the fresh­ness and flavour that home-grown gives you.

1Warm milk in a bain-marie to 33°C over 5 min­utes, then add the ther­mophilic starter (I use Chris­tian Hansen’s ST-B01). Stir gen­tly for 1 minute, then cover and leave to ripen for 30 min­utes, main­tain­ing the tem­per­a­ture at 33°C.

25 min­utes and then test it again. When suc­cess­ful, cut the curds into 5mm cubes, then leave to set­tle for 5 min­utes.


Grat­ing beet­root is al­ways messy. It doesn't mat­ter if I wear gloves or care­fully grate beets into a large bowl, some­how it seems to find its sneaky way onto what­ever white piece of fab­ric hap­pens to be ly­ing around. Not to men­tion my stained hands, cut­ting board and dish cloth.

It’s def­i­nitely not the sort of veg­etable you’d in­vite to a wed­ding un­less it has been made into wine, which is when it's al­most ac­cept­able to spill it down the front of a nice white shirt, dress or blouse.

My rec­om­men­da­tion is if you are go­ing to have a go at mak­ing one of these recipes, why not make both and get the stains done all in one day.

Beet­root seems to be a veg­etable that peo­ple ei­ther love or hate, like mush­rooms or Brussels sprouts. One way – for some peo­ple, the only way – to con­sume beet­root is as a liq­uid. I have juiced beet­root for years, mainly be­cause it is very high in vi­ta­min C and tends to be abun­dant and cheaper in au­tumn and win­ter.

A shot of this bril­liant pur­ple liq­uid is ex­actly what I need to keep me healthy, and I read re­cently that you de­stroy more than half the vi­ta­min C con­tent in beet­root by cook­ing it, so it seems that eat­ing it fresh in sal­ads (in­ci­den­tally, the recipe at right is my ab­so­lute favourite) or drink­ing it as fresh, raw juice is the way to go. I freeze the fi­brous ma­te­rial from juic­ing beet­root and car­rots for mak­ing semi-raw crack­ers so ev­ery bit has a use. I'm still ex­per­i­ment­ing with these but I prom­ise when I'm ready, I'll share my suc­cesses.

My mum grew loads of beet­root, both round and cylin­dri­cal, and as far as I can re­mem­ber we never ate them raw. She al­ways cooked them whole for about half an hour, with the skin in­tact, not even cut­ting off the wee 'tails' that stuck out the bot­tom. Then she would skin them (easy once cooked, al­though they can squirt juice out all over you so again, avoid wear­ing white), slice them very thinly, sprin­kle brown sugar and le­mon juice in be­tween and over the slices and that would be part of our din­ner. For­tu­nately our son Theo likes them this way but for­get raw and grated. Eat­ing them that way may wait un­til he is an adult (or maybe not). When it came time to choose a beet­root recipe to share with you, I looked no fur­ther than my ka­sundi–ob­sessed com­mu­nity. We had the first an­nual chut­ney com­pe­ti­tion in Waitaria Bay a cou­ple of months ago, along­side the ones for beer, cider, wine, cheese and non-al­co­holic drinks. It was an ab­so­lute hoot and a very suc­cess­ful fundraiser for our lo­cal school. There was a bar and we served nib­bles as peo­ple

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