MINDFOOD GRAND GOURMAND ’Tis the season for plenty of cheese consumptio­n!

The festive season traditiona­lly marks the apex of national cheese consumptio­n. Cheese producers scramble to increase their volumes in order to meet demand and cheese retailers cannot fill their shelves quickly enough. Huge blocks of cheese used for office and school lunches soon become a memory of the past and their status on the weekly shopping list changes from a staple to a replenishm­ent on the weekend prior to returning to work or school after the holidays.

This shift of consumer behaviour does not happen overnight, but it becomes noticeable in the shopping basket around the end of October, when barbecues are maintained and fired up again after the winter dormancy, decks and patios are oiled or water-blasted and outdoor furniture is rearranged ready for family al fresco dining and social cheese and wine feasting.

Cheese boards and cheese platters will decorate tables as edible centrepiec­es, and explosion of flavours and adventurou­s pairings become the order of the day. A few tips will make this seasonal cheese affair a better experience.

Spring is the best season for fresh-style cheeses. Livestock is back on dry open paddocks and new grass tastes the best, bringing a lot of floral notes to the milk. Cheeses like fresh cow burrata, buffalo ricotta, chèvre, brie and camembert are of superb quality when purchased before December. The same rule applies to blue vein cheese: with their slightly longer maturation time and if made in early spring, they can be a stunning addition to the festive season table.

Hard and hard cooked cheeses like Cantal, Gouda or Asiago, even if made with early winter milk from last year (they may take up to 12 months to mature), are not susceptibl­e to seasonal milk variation and always taste consistent. A long shelf life and possibly a vacuum-packed packaging format mean they can be purchased well in advance and kept in the refrigerat­or for ‘cheese emergencie­s’, e.g. a cheese board to be assembled in a hurry when friends show up uninvited, an impromptu picnic at the beach or a last-minute ‘bring something’ to a barbecue next door.

What if you are in charge of making the Christmas lunch dessert? Easy, try a cheese version of the classic pavlova. Simply replace the meringue base with a standard, wellripene­d brie wheel, spread fresh whipped cream and mascarpone, and decorate with berries, cherries or ‘drunken raisins’.


Baked Eggs in Filo Pastry with Saganaki Cheese is one of the starring dishes among these irresistib­le Christmas breakfast and brunch ideas. mindfood.com/christmasb­reakfast-brunch

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