About Me
I'm a Melbourne boy, hailing from St Kilda with one ex, one current wife and four kids. Love the outdoors and making new discoveries. I cook a lot at home (cheers from wife) and do some preserving, mostly jams, pickles and fruit liqueurs. This is the diary of a cooking journey.

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Monday, June 05, 2006
The Cheese Shop
Snuck down to the cheese shop on the weekend. I love standing in the cheese room, surrounded by all those great wheels of cheese. It's fantastic to stand there in the special temperature and humidity controlled room full of live cheeses in the piece, with the aroma that would instantly tell even Stevie Wonder where he was - though not all, especially young children, like the smell. I point at a wheel and even though I'm going to buy some, they always give me a taste. There was a bit of chat in the room about Australian Customs seizing another container of cheese leaving them a bit short of soft cheeses. Really, can't the government pull their head in? Why is it that we can buy cigarettes, which have the proven ability to kill us, but we have to be protected from the evils of unpastuerised cheese that has an e-coli reading probably less than the local takeaway shop?

Looking around, I saw the wheel of comte had been broached, so that was my first purchase. Comte is the French cousin of Swiss gruyere, but is not as strong with a sweet lactic flavour set of by a rich nuttiness. After that I was thinking about some roquefort, but spotted a wheel of ivory coloured blue cheese on the back counter. After enquiring it turned out to be a bleu de basque, a Spanish sheeps milk, semi hard, blue cheese. If roquefort is the in-your-face reporter wearing a loud red jacket, bleu de basque is your anchorman, all charm and sophistication in an elegant suit. The flavour is unmistakeably blue, but not over the top, it's all about depth and persistance.

Lastly I was thinking goat. There right in front of me was a wonderful looking ring of soft goat's cheese, locally made, but after a taste it seemed to lack for something, there was nothing wrong with it, but it didn't really sing. There were some French crottins, but I eventually plumped for an Australian semi-soft cheese from Holy Goat, an artisanal cheese maker from Sutton Grange near Daylesford. Then it was time to pay.

My wife D is always conflicted when I go cheese shopping. On the one hand she usually adores the cheeses I bring home, but hates the fact we have to take out a second mortgage to have them. With the price of most of the cheese hovering around Australian $65 to $75 a kilo, it's no cheap thing to be in love with good quality, hand made cheese, especially when you consider that industrially made cheese can be had for between Australian $5 and $10 dollars a kilo. But there is no doubt you get what you pay for. Then again, we do limit ourselves to a visit perhaps every one or two months, so the cheeses we bring home always feel special; it just doesn't help that we fall upon them like hungry locusts.

At this time of the year, while chestnuts are still in season, we like to pair them with a soft cheese style like brie or camembert, it makes a wonderful meal along with a good bottle of white wine. I first learned to do this in the country, where we roasted chestnuts over an open fire. The first time I did this it almost ended in disaster. Never having had chestnuts before, I threw some into a heavy cast iron pot with an equally heavy cast iron lid. Just like that. After about ten minutes there was an almighty explosion as the cast iron lid was blown off the pot by an exploding chestnut. Nobody wanted to go near the pot for fear of another explosion, but eventually we managed to get it off the fire with no more harm done and a lesson in the necessity of puncturing the shell prior to roasting.
  posted at 7:08 am

At 10:31 pm, Blogger pentacular said...

I wonder if Stevie can smell as well as you can taste tankedup. In-your-face, red shirt wearing cheeses, must be a hard sales force out in cheeseland. I wonder if you know how best to cook chestnuts in a normal oven? Is there anyway of telling a bad from a good chestnut at the market? Actually C has some in the fridge waiting to be roasted. Cant wait, but I think she's waiting to eat them when V is over.

At 7:37 am, Blogger neil said...

Hi pentacular, roast your chestnuts in a hot oven, say about 220 c for about 20 minutes, then check one, if not ready check every five minutes. Don't forget to slice open the hard outer shell, if you cut them with a cross they are a bit easier to peel later. There is no way to tell a good one from a rancid one, try to buy from a shop with a high turnover. Chestnuts turn rancid very quickly so don't wait, buy fresh ones when V comes over. They can be frozen fresh to have later, but in my experience only for a couple of months.

At 1:25 am, Blogger Kitchen Queen said...

Oh gosh, good cheese and chestnuts....I just had brunch but I'm hungry again!

At 5:38 pm, Blogger neil said...

Hi kitchen queen, you've made me hungry. Have just spotted your long promised enchiladas, yum!

At 3:25 pm, Blogger cnwb said...

May I ask which cheese shop(s) you visit?

At 7:19 am, Blogger neil said...

Hi cnwb, sure. My favourite is the Richmond Hill Larder & Cafe cheese room at 48-50 Bridge Rd, Richmond, followed by the French Shop at Queen Vic Market. When I don't want to travel far Pete & Rosie at Prahran Market is okay, and for a good selection of Swiss cheese there is Ormond Meat & Smallgoods, 634 North Rd, Ormond.


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