Champing for cheese
I’m over the moon. Having recently — rather reluctantly — shifted from Marlborough gourmet wine and food country to Cambridge, the home of horses, I was in need of some culinary stimulation. I discovered, to my delight, a deli dedicated to showcasing its own locally made cheeses. The ‘Over the Moon Dairy Company’ is a consistent winner in our NZ Champions of Cheese Awards. Recently its Volcano won the Champion Fresh Unripened Cheese award and the dynamic 19-year-old Loran Mathis, the Aspiring Cheesemaker award. Volcano is a soft buffalo milk fresh unripened cheese prepared with non-animal rennet. It has a crinkly skin reminiscent of a crater and is delicious with soft summer fruits on crostini.
Anther Waikato winner was Jeanne van Kuyk who was crowned New Zealand’s Champion Cheesemaker for Aroha Organic Goat Cheese. Jeanne, who started making cheese in 2004, is the first and only female artisan winner of this award. Aroha now boasts a range of 10 classic Dutch goat cheeses.
Dutch-style cheeses always feature strongly in the national awards with Mercer Extra Mature Gouda winning the Champion Artisan award for smaller producers. I love its nutty flavour and it is an excellent melting cheese for crostini and exotic toasted sandwiches.
But it was blue that came out tops. The overall Champion of Champions was Puhoi Kawau Blue (or Gorgonzola-style as it is known on retail shelves) and is the result of 30 years’ experience perfecting blues by Puhoi Valley’s head cheese maker Franck Beaurain. For me it’s as close as it gets to an Italian gorgonzola from Piedmont or Lombardy — melt-in-your mouth deliciousness with a ‘bitey’ aftertaste.
2 thin slices peeled root ginger
1 sprig rosemary
400g prepared gnocchi
2 tablespoons butter
125g gorgonzola-style cheese, crumbled
½ cup fresh breadcrumbs
3 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
- Place the cream, ginger and rosemary in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Place aside for about 30 minutes for the flavours to infuse.
- Preheat the oven to 200°C. Lightly butter a 20cm baking dish or 4 one-serving baking dishes.
- Cook the gnocchi in batches in a large saucepan of salted water until they float to the surface. Drain using a slotted spoon, transfer to the baking dish or dishes.
- Strain the cream over the gnocchi. Dot with the gorgonzola. Combine the breadcrumbs and parmesan and sprinkle over the top. Bake until bubbling and golden, 10-15 minutes.
1 tablespoon each: olive oil, butter
4-6 ripe peaches, halved, stoned and peeled
2 tablespoons maple syrup
3-4 tablespoons lemon juice
Flaky sea salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
8 slices baguette or ciabatta, lightly toasted
200g soft goat’s cheese
- Heat the oil and butter in a heavy frying pan. Pan-fry the peaches on medium-low heat, cut-side down, for 5 minutes.
- Add the maple syrup and lemon juice and continue cooking until soft, turning occasionally. Season.
- Spread the crostini with goat’s cheese and top with the warm peaches and juices.
1 large red capsicum
8 toast-thick slices sandwich bread
175g gouda, thinly sliced
2 cups baby rocket
50g butter, softened
- To prepare the capsicum, grill — turning occasionally — until the skin has blackened all over. Place in a plastic bag, until cool. Peel then thinly slice.
- Top 4 slices of the bread with the cheese, rocket and capsicum. Top with the remaining bread. Butter each sarnie on the outside.
- Pan-fry until golden on both sides and the cheese has started to melt.
Rocket and volcano salad
Serves 4 as a starter
100g baby rocket
8 semi-sundried tomatoes, drained, patted dry & sliced
8 pitted black Kalamata olives
125g fresh buffalo cheese, sliced
Shaved parmesan cheese to taste
2 tablespoons lemon juice
½ teaspoon finely grated lemon rind
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- Place the rocket on four serving plates. Top with the sundried tomatoes, olives, buffalo cheese and parmesan.
- Whisk the lemon juice, rind and sugar until well combined. Slowly whisk in the olive oil.
- Just before serving, sprinkle the salad with the dressing.