Cheeses

When I wasn’t devouring chocolate in Tasmania, in both liquid and solid form, I was eating cheese. We visited two cheese factories while we were there, and bought an enormous amount of cheese from both places.

The first we visited was the Pyengana Cheese Factory, which is about 20 ks out of St Helens, and sells a few varieties of clothbound cheddar. After having a tasting, we bought a mature cheddar and a chive & onion flavoured cheddar, both of which were beautiful – we ate them with crackers as a prelude to a crayfish dinner that night. The following day we returned to the Cheese Factory to buy some cheese to take to the boyfriend’s sister – we got another mature cheddar and chive and onion, and I bought a sundried tomato flavoured cheese. Fortunately, his sister really liked the sundried tomato cheese, as I didn’t like it at all – it was a very bitter cheese. I expected the sundried tomatoes to give it a much sweeter flavour.

When we were based in Hobart, we drove out to the Grandvewe Cheesery, which specialises in sheep’s milk cheeses. We had a very informative tasting, although some of the flavours were way too strong for me – notably the blue cheese, and their version of pecorino. I ended up buying a primavera, which was delicious (on the left of the above photo), and a soft cheese wrapped in vine leaves called Ewe Beauty, which had an unbelieveably silky texture – it’s the round cheese in the photo. I also bought a cow’s milk cheese called Manchego, and a fermented mutton sausage, which in hindsight was a bit of a mistake – I discovered I don’t particularly like fermented meats.

Visiting both cheeseries was fun. Pyengana was much more reasonably priced than Grandvewe, but they are offering more mainstream cheese. If you’re really into cheese, I’d definitely recommend visiting Grandvewe if you’re heading out that way (although don’t go too crazy over the cheese, as I did – you do have to eat it all, remember!). If you’re in a rental car, as we were, there’s a short dirt road (about 1 k) out to the cheesery, but it’s in good condition. Seeing the sheep in the barn was fun, and I wish we had been there in a season where they did milking demonstrations. I still have quite a few chunks of cheese to finish up – I’m thinking of using some of the sheep’s cheese in a souffle, which might highlight the flavours nicely. They’re lovely just in sandwiches, but there’s only so many cheese sandwiches I can eat!

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Classic Cheese Souffle

Prior to baking this, I had actually never made or even eaten a souffle before, but for some reason I had written it down as one of the 25 things I wanted to do before I turned 25. I bought the souffle dish some time ago, in preparation for fulfilling this goal, but then it drifted out of my mind. Finally, on the spur of the moment, I grabbed a recipe out of Stephanie Alexander’s The Cook’s Companion and whipped up her Classic Cheese Souffle, which is a deliciously light eggy cheesy concoction. Stephanie writes, “Souffles are not nearly as fraught with danger as some cookery books would have you believe,” and she’s right. I was surprised at how easy this was. Mine rose, as you can see, and didn’t immediately sink down – it looked wonderfully appetising at the table, and when served was fluffy and airy. Perfect.

30 g butter
3 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons plain flour
1 cup milk
3 tablespoons freshly grated gruyere cheese
(I just used an aged cheddar)
4 eggs yolks
salt
pepper
5 eggs whites

Preheat the oven to 200C. Butter a 1 litre souffle dish well, and sprinkle in 1 tablespoon of the parmesan cheese to coat the sides and the base.

Melt 30g of butter in small saucepan. Stir in flour and cook over a moderate heat, stirring, for 2 minutes. Gradually add the milk, while stirring. Bring to a boil (mine was rather thick already), then reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in gruyere and remaining parmesan cheese, and then the egg yolks, one at a time. Transfer to a large mixing bowl (or mix it initially in a large saucepan.)

Whisk eggwhites until firm. Tip half on top of the cheese sauce, and using a metal spoon, lift and fold the whites through the mixture. Continue with the remaining egg whites. The mixture should look frothy and spongy.

Pour the mixture into the prepared dish, and gently run your thumb around the edge of the mixture – the souffle will rise within this flattened edge. Place souffle in oven and do not disturb for 25 minutes. The top should be well risen and browned. Touch gently – the souffle should yield, but not feel liquid.

Take the souffle to the table and serve immediately with a large serving spoon.