From mild and soft and with just about every texture and form you can think of, including hard-as-rock, eye-wateringly smelly with streaks of blue or green mould running through it, there is a cheese for every palette.
One of the oldest dairy foods known to man, and an excellent way of preserving milk for use in times of shortage, the art of cheese-making is thought, by some, to have been discovered by the ancient Egyptians.
Another school of thought — and one which makes perfect sense — is that cheese was accidentally invented by nomadic Mongol herdsmen who, when moving camp, transported milk, a product on which they were heavily dependent, in cured and stitched hides fastened to the saddles of their horses. The rhythmic movement of the travelling horses swishing the milk around until, during hot weather, it naturally formed first yoghurt and then — after a few more hours of travelling — a tangy kind of curd cheese.
Whichever cheese invention story happens to be true — the writer prefers the latter — cheese is a nutritious food that so many people swear they cannot live without. From cheddar to gorgonzola, edam to stilton, smoked cheese to processed burger cheese, if you are an enjoyer of cheese, playing around with the following recipes is sure to result in some utterly mouthwatering fun.
Playing around with and reinventing cheese dishes is not only a mouthwateringly delicious pastime. It has some amazing results too
Tangy Cheese Pate
250g strongly flavoured cheese, grated
100g full fat, soft cheese
75ml double cream
1 tsp garlic paste
50g fresh coriander leaves, finely chopped
50g fresh mint, finely chopped
Freshly ground black pepper and freshly ground
sea salt to taste
A few extra springs of coriander or mint to garnish
Put the grated cheese, soft cheese and double cream into a large bowl. Using a wooden spoon, beat the mixture until it is fully blended, thick and smooth. Add all remaining ingredients (except for the garnish) and mix well.
Spoon in to individual ramekin dishes or into just one larger bowl. Refrigerate for at least one hour before serving either in the bowls or turned out on to a serving platter. Garnish with fresh coriander/mint leaves immediately prior to putting on the table.
Excellent with fresh bread, saltish biscuits, crackers or toast.
You can vary the herbs used for flavouring. Alternatives include: basil, oregano, chives, garlic chives, rosemary, sage, thyme, lemon balm and dill.
Mediterranean Cheese Spread
250g cream cheese
3 tbsp mayonnaise or whipping cream or Greek
1 tsp crushed garlic
1 tbsp chives, chopped
3 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tbsp fresh basil, chopped
1 tbsp fresh coriander, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Put cream cheese and mayonnaise/whipping cream/Greek yoghurt in a bowl and, using a wooden spoon, blend together until a smooth paste is formed. Add rest of the ingredients and mix thoroughly. Turn into a bowl, cover and chill for at least 30 minutes, before serving on hot toast, with crackers, inside baked potatoes, with salad or however else strikes your fancy.
250g digestive or similar biscuits, crushed
100g butter, melted
250g soft cheese
Half tsp vanilla essence
150ml double cream, whipped
4 bananas or kiwi fruit or other fruit in slices
1 tbsp desiccated coconut
Pinch cinnamon powder
Melt butter in a small pan and mix in the biscuit crumbs. Press this mixture into the base of a 20.5cm cake tin. Bake in a medium to hot oven for 10 minutes and then allow to cool.
Mix together the cheese, sugar, eggs and vanilla. Pour on top of the butter-biscuit mix in the cake tin and bake in a medium oven for about 30 minutes or until firm to the touch. Allow to cool completely, remove from the tin and put on a plate.
Spread the whipped cream over the top. Slice the bananas, sprinkle the slices with lemon juice to stop browning. Arrange the banana slices or other fruit on top of the cream, sprinkle heavily with desiccated coconut and finish off with a light dusting of cinnamon powder.
Originally published in Dawn, EOS, May 23rd, 2021