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INGREDIENT FOCUS - FROMAGE FACTS.

Summary: Explore the world of cheese with the experts who dish out on everything from cheese storage and TLC, to the different varieties and ways to truly relish it. By Nicola Monteath.

CHEESEMONGER'S GLOSSARY

A FEW TERMS YOU NEED TO KNOW:

AFFINAGE The French word describes the maturing and ageing of cheese. During this period the bacteria changes in texture from grainy to smooth, moisture evaporates and the flavour of the cheese develops.

BLOOMY RIND A soft coating of penicillium mould on cheeses such as brie.

CAVE A temperature and humidity controlled area where the process of maturing cheese takes place.

CHEVRES The plural form for goat, in French, which classifies it as goat's cheese.

LACTOSE A natural sugar found in milk. During ripening, lactose is converted into lactic acid, which helps enhance the flavour of cheese.

PASTE OR PATE The main part of the cheese.

PIQUANT A cheese with a sharp flavour, or enticing aroma. RIND The hard outer coating of cheese that helps control loss of moisture when cheese is ripening.

IT'S ALL IN THE MILK!

The flavour profiles of cheese differ according to the type of milk used in production. Cheese made from goat's milk has a sour taste due to the high acidity in milk, while sheep's milk cheese has a nutty, buttery and creamy taste due to the high percentage of fat content in it. Cow's milk cheese, on the other hand, is typically mild in flavour and can sometimes be milky or creamy.

Did you know?

The largest cheese producer in the world is the US, followed by Germany and France. The American and Germans produce industrial, processed cheese, while the French have the biggest selection of artisanal and farmhouse cheeses in the world.

The ULTIMATE CHEESEBOARD

The key to an impressive cheese platter is a balance of various milk cheeses. Here are some highly recommended types of hard and soft cheeses to adorn your board with.

Goat's cheese: Crottin de chavignol and Sainte Maure

Sheep's cheese: Roquefort and ossauiraty

Cow's cheese: Camembert, Saint Felicien, reblochon, French Epoisees and Comte.

Serve with: Raw almonds, walnuts, pears, dried apricots, fig jam, rye biscuits, walnut bread and undressed salad leaves.

Get cooking

There's really nothing quite like gooey melted cheese in, well, anything really! Here are a few ideas to help give a dish cheesy pizazz:

- A grilled cheese sandwich tastes delicious with emmental or cheddar - industrial processed cheese works best for this!

- Sprinkle grated parmesan cheese over pasta to let it melt in; use chunky flakes for salads.

- A cheese fondue is incomplete without Raclette cheese.

- Baked Camembert or Brie cheese pairs perfectly with figs, honey and walnuts. For a savoury option, serve it with garlic bread.

CHEESE CHECKLIST

- A cheese board isn't complete without a good set of knives. This Vivo 3 piece cheese knife set made of stainless steel and wenge pakkawood handles is sleek and sturdy. Dhs330 from Tavola.

- Serve an assortment of cheeses in style on this gorgeous Lunares platter. Dhs450 for the set at Bloomingdale's Home.

- Cheese aficionados will love cutting brie with this stainless steel Just Slate cheese wire with a heart design. Dhs90, at Tavola.

The healthiest kind!

Goat's milk cheese is the most nutritious as it has a low percentage of fat, while sheep's milk cheese has a high fat content.

THE VARIETIES

FRESH: This type of cheese does not have a rind and isn't aged. Some fresh cheeses are thickened by culturing or souring the milk with either citric acid, lemon juice, vinegar or buttermilk.

SOFT CHEESE: These cheeses are great for salads or to spread on crackers and bread. Rich and creamy soft cheeses such as Feta, Brie and cottage cheese are some of the main types from this category. WASHED-RIND: These type of cheeses - usually referred to as 'stinky or smelly' cheese

- are bathed or scrubbed with salt water brine or spirits, to encourage culture such as Brevy (Brevibacterium Linens) to grow on the surface. The cheese is aged for at least two months and has a semi-soft to semi-firm texture. French Epoisses and Taleggio are some of the popular examples of this cheese.

SEMI HARD: Cheddar, Gouda, Beaufort and Asiago are a few of the cheeses in this category. They are usually pressed during production to remove moisture, and become firmer and crumbly as they age. The cheese has a mild aroma and nutty, buttery characteristics.

HARD: As the name suggests this dry, aged cheese is hard to the touch, has no moisture and is great for crumbling and grating.

Some of the best kinds are Parmesan and Pecorino Romano as well as aged Gouda and Cheddar. They have a more pungent flavour.

BLUE CHEESE: This cheese has green, grey, blue or black veins or spots which is ripened with cultures of the mould Penicillium. The cheese is spiked with stainless steel rods to allow oxygen to circulate and allow the mould to grow. Danish blue, Roquefort and Stilton are well known blue cheeses.

TUROPHILE

The name used to describe a cheese lover. The word is taken from the Greek word turos (cheese) and phil (love).

STORE IT RIGHT

To make sure your cheese is kept fresh and in good condition for weeks, take it out of its original packaging and wrap it in cling film or waxed proof paper as soon as you get home. Place the wrapped cheese in a tupperware container lined with dampened tea towels and white sugar cubes. The sugar creates humidity in the box, takes away odours and keeps the cheese fresh for up to three weeks when refrigerated.

The number of production categories for cheese. These include mass-produced cheese (made in large quantities in factories), specialty cheeses (made in smaller amounts), artisan cheeses (made in small batches by cheese producers or individuals who use traditional methods) and farmstead cheeses (made by hand, with milk from the farmer's own animals or on the same farm).

CHEESE CONNOISSEURS

THE EXPERTS WE TALKED TO:

- Gerard Poulard, a Cheese Master from France

- Patricia Michelson, founder of La Fromagerie cheese shops in UK and cheese consultant at Jones the Grocer

- Elie Makhlouf, Cheese specialist at Lafayette Gourmet

SERVING CHEESE

Cheese should always be served at room temperature, as the cold mutes the taste as well as the aroma. The texture, especially for soft cheeses, are suppler at room temperature as well.

TRAVELLING WITH cheese

WHEN BUYING CHEESE FROM ABROAD - WHO CAN RESIST FRENCH, IRISH, ITALIAN OR SWISS CHEESE WHEN ON A EUROPEAN TRIP? - make sure to have it vacuum packed at the store itself. This will keep it fresh and safe in your suitcase, until you reach home.

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Publication:BBC GoodFood Middle East
Date:Feb 24, 2014
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