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Issue 69 - A myriad of flavours - Goat's cheese

Scotland Magazine Issue 69
June 2013

 

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A myriad of flavours - Goat's cheese

Sue Lawrence explores a whole world of goat's cheese

Goats’ cheese is one of those foods that, rather like rhubarb or peanut butter, people claim to either love or loathe; there is no in-between. But, when you consider the vast array of goats’ cheeses now on offer, it is rather short-sighted to decry the entire herd. For within the bounds of goats’ milk, there are a myriad flavours, producing anything from sweet and citrussy to just plain smelly. You would never compare mousetrap Cheddar with Camembert, so why assume that all goats’ cheese will taste the same: overpoweringly rank and well, goaty?

Because of the very nature of the beast, there are many nuances of flavour in any one goats’ cheese. For, as those of us whose coat hem or shoe lace has been nibbled by a frisky goat down on the farm know, they will eat almost anything. They forage about for their food more than cows, which is why some cheeses have pronounced herby or floral overtones. According to cheese guru Iain Mellis, goats forage less these days, kept in a more controlled environment, as the flavour of the cheese can become too pungent, depending on what they eat.

At a tasting session of different cheeses, I was fascinated to discover that the length of flavour of all goats cheeses, whether three weeks or three months old comes primarily not from age but from pasteurisation. Or rather, lack of it: unpasteurised cheese have far more character and a flavour that lingers on and on. There are excellent English and Scottish cheeses to discover. If you happen to go on holiday to France, every market town will have stalls of local farmers selling fresh goats cheese, often rolled in ash or vine leaves and with flavours ranging from sweet and floral to strong and positively stinky!

Usually sold in France in three stages (fresh, half-ripe and aged), the cheeses change in flavour and texture as they age. The most popular for the classic grilled goats’ cheese salad is Crottin de Chavignol, sold from three weeks to three months. When fully mature, the taste intensifies and the texture dries out. Any fresh soft cheese can be dried in the fridge by unwrapping and leaving uncovered for two to four weeks, by which time it will have reduced in size and become drier and chalkier in texture.

Since kids are born in this country in January and February, the traditional goats’ cheese season runs from April to December, although most producers use frozen milk to ensure supplies all year. As fat globules are smaller in goats’ milk than cows’ milk, most people with lactose intolerance can eat goats’ cheese. If you are a newcomer, begin with young, fresh goats cheese - spread on bread and top with rocket or tomatoes or roasted peppers. More mature ones are firmer and can be crumbled over pasta or soup, or grilled and served on a walnut oil-dressed salad.

As for wine to match goats cheese, although red wine is often served with cheese, wine experts often recommend a white wine with floral overtones such as sauvignon blanc, to accompany goats cheese. But it is important to match the cheese with region, for example a Crottin de Chavignol works wonderfully with a Sancerre.

In Britain, think cider or ale to go with a local goats cheese or a white wine from one of England’s up and coming vineyards.

For the best selection of Scottish cheese go to
http://www.mellischeese.co.uk.

Raspberry and Goat's Cheese Brulée
Serves 4
This sounds like a bizarre combination, but believe me, it is delicious. But do use a soft, mild cheese not a mature one.

Though it needs last minute grilling, you can prepare it in advance and have it ready in the fridge to whip out and grill just before dessert is to be served.

300g / 10 oz raspberries
2 tbsp Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise OR
1 tbsp Kirsch
300 g / 10 oz mild, fresh goats cheese
3 tsp runny honey
2 tbsp crème fraiche
100 g / 4 oz light muscovado sugar


Mix the raspberries and wine, leave for an hour then tip into a flat gratin dish.
Beat the cheese until soft, add the honey and crème fraiche and beat well together.
Carefully spoon over the berries, trying to cover all the fruit. Smooth the surface.
Sprinkle the sugar over the top, taking care that it forms an even layer.
Place under a preheated hot grill and grill for 2 - 3 minutes, or until the sugar has caramelised completely.
Serve at once, while bubbling and hot.


Goat’s cheese omelette
Serves 1
Add sautéed mushrooms or roasted red pepper for added colour and flavour

3 large free-range eggs
15g / ½oz butter
50g / 2 oz soft goats cheese, chopped


Lightly beat the eggs with salt and pepper.
Heat the butter in a heavy frying pan (don’t use non-stick for omelettes if you want a good crust.). Once sizzling, tip in the eggs, leave for 1 minute then place the cheese ( and mushrooms or peppers, if using) on one side.
Flip over the other half. Continue to cook for 1 - 2 minutes until ready : the eggs should be almost set, still slightly liquid. Serve on a warm plate.


Salmon with goat’s cheese
Serves 4
This simple dish is delicious served with new potatoes and stir-fried kale or pakchoi or steamed spinach

4 salmon escalopes, skinned
olive oil
4 thin slices of semi-hard / hard goat’s cheese


Place the salmon on a lightly oiled baking sheet. Season, place in a preheated oven ( 220C / 425F / Gas7) for 5 minutes. Remove, place the goat’s cheese on top. Return to the oven for a further 2 - 3 minutes, depending on thickness, until done. Test it is cooked by prodding with the tip of a knife. Serve on warmed plates with vegetables.