French food to take home: Goat’s cheese
In her monthly column, Food blogger and Paris resident Clotilde Dusoulier shows how to use the produce that we buy from French markets. This year it’s goat’s cheese in the limelight
More than one hundred types of goat’s cheese are produced across France and their versatility of flavour and uses makes them widely appreciated.
The basic manufacturing process has remained much the same for centuries: fermenting agents and rennet are added to fresh milk so it will curdle; the solids are then drained, moulded into shapes and salted, to be sold fresh or aged in cellars.
Goat’s cheeses often come in rounds or logs, but you may also encounter tall cylinders (Chabichou du Poitou) and pyramids with a cut top (Pouligny-Saint-Pierre). Some producers mould the same batches of curdled milk into different shapes, and it is striking to see how this affects the flavour. They can also be dusted with ash (Selles-sur-Cher), wrapped in chestnut leaves (Banon from Provence) or coated with herbs and spices.
Because of their small size, goat’s cheeses age rapidly. From their fresh state, stark white and even-textured, they quickly become creamier, as their rind forms and becomes ivory. Within three to four weeks they are dry, sharp and brittle.
Goat’s cheese is an essential component of a harmonious platter of fromages and can also be served as a separate course, accompanied with fruit jam (especially black cherry or fig), a drizzle of honey or olive oil, or some walnuts. In the kitchen, goat’s cheese is the cook’s best friend, bringing savoury notes and a luscious texture to many dishes. Add shavings or crumbles to your salads, or pop a warm toast of grilled goat’s cheese on top of dressed lettuce and call it salade de chèvre chaud. Put it in quiche fillings and gratins, either in lumps or whisked to smoothness, fill miniature turnovers, garnish your omelettes, stir it into a bowl of soup, or bake delectable nibbles as an aperitif (see the sablé recipe below).
Few people think of cheese as a seasonal product, but that’s exactly what it is. Goats produce milk from March to October, so early spring to mid-autumn is really the only period when fresh goat’s cheese should be available.
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Any sold at other times of the year are either made from frozen milk, or from goats whose reproductive cycle has been shifted to accommodate ‘consumer demand’.Choose artisanal varieties made from unpasteurised milk and buy from the producer or a specialised cheese seller rather than a supermarket. Keep at the bottom of the fridge, wrapped in the original paper, and take out 30 minutes before serving.
RECIPE: GOAT’S CHEESE AND HERB SABLÉ
MAKES 4 DOZEN
• 230g fresh goat’s cheese
• 1tbsp mixed dried herbs
• 2tsp sea salt
• 1tsp honey
• 1/2tsp black pepper
• 60ml olive oil
• 2 organic egg yolks
• 200g flour
1. In a medium bowl, mash the goat’s cheese, herbs, salt, honey, pepper, oil and yolks until smooth.
2. Stir in the flour and knead gently until the dough becomes a smooth ball.
3. Divide into four pieces and roll into thin logs, 2-3cm in diameter. Wrap in parchment paper and place in the freezer for one hour.
4. Preheat the oven to 175°C/350°F/gas mark 4 and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
5. Slice the logs into 1.5cm slices and arrange on the baking sheet. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until golden. Allow to cool completely before serving.