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Monday, July 20, 2015

Frozen Cheese... really?

Cheese has been around for a long time, and the art of cheese making is equivalent to wine. The Cheesemaker is required not only to have knowledge of the process involved in the making of cheese, but also a keen nose for discerning the various individual fragrances as well as an eye for colour and texture. A sharp, clean palette is required to distinguish a variety of taste influences which provide individuality and character.

As the cheese leaves the loving hands of its creator, it is passed on to Cheese Ambassadors who are equally versed in all the facets of cheese making traditions, its varying textures, fragrance and, naturally, taste. Just as an expert wine waiter or sommelier will be able to suggest the optimal pairings of wine to food, the Cheese Ambassador will do the same with cheese. Everything is needed to be considered; the time of day the cheese is to be served, what is or may be considered to be paired with the cheese, even the reason for the cheese to make its appearance on the table.

The sommelier can advise on the optimum angle to hold a bottle of wine before popping that cork, or the temperature and type of glass permitted to cradle the liquid nirvana. So the Cheese Ambassador will suggest that the cheese be best kept in a refrigerator till 30 minutes before serving, then taken out to enable the cheese to acclimatise itself to room temperature for the fragrance and texture to awaken to its full potential.

Equally important are the tools used in the cutting and handling of cheese. Knives for cheese are shaped in a fashion so the tip is curved for serving a piece; this has nothing to do with hygiene, it is simply the proper way. No cheese savvy individual would tolerate cutting an exquisite wheel of fragrant cheese only to watch half a dozen hands plunge forward with their own body temperatures adding to the delicate balance reached by the cheese. It simply would not do.

Finally the decision of when or when not to serve cheese is equally important as whether it would be proper to choose a red or a white. A cheese course is served after the chosen main course and before dessert, allowing the diner to finish off whatever wine had been paired with the main act of the feast at hand. Cheese is less demanding and happily compliments either red or white, taking away the need to quickly empty the remnants of the fine vintage left in the bottle.

A few days ago our Cheese Ambassador, Nancy Bogar, had stopped me to inform me of an accident on her island. Apparently the cooler used to store cheese for sampling and otherwise restocking the island had decided to become a freezer over night. Large quantities of cheese was damaged and needed to be discarded. Amongst this upheaval were a number of lovely imported wheels of Brie. Brie happens to be my favourite cheese and now Nancy asked if there was anything I could do with it. This indeed was a challenge I could not ignore.

Being a chef has always meant that taste and flavour were my most important considerations, quickly followed by smell or fragrance. Taking frozen cheese and doing something with it was exciting, and an idea came to the surface quite quickly, even though Nancy's left brow seemed to move in the upward direction once I had explained myself.

I had decided to take a number of different fruits such as cantaloupe, mango, pear and apple, and with a melon baller drop the multicoloured balls into a bowl. Then I did the same with the frozen Brie, adding it to the fruit. A simple reduction of fresh strawberries, blackberries and raspberries with half a cup of red wine provided the deep and luscious drizzle over the top of a good vanilla ice cream.

After dozens of samples had been consumed the result was unanimous – it was a screaming hit! The delightful flavour of Brie was not lost in its frozen taste as it mixed with the sweet fruit bathed in the dark, semi-sweet syrup. On a hot summer's day with a glass of wine of your choice, or better still a glass of champagne, everything will seem at peace in the world for a moment or two. And we won't bother the folks at the Cheese Society with any of this, instead take the recipe and enjoy.

Frozen Brie Balls + Fruit

1 cantaloupe
2 mangoes
2 yellow Asian pears
2 red delicious apples
400 g frozen Brie cheese


200 g strawberries
120 g blackberries
120 g raspberries
1/2 cup red wine
1 tbsp water

Using a melon baller, make as many fruit balls as you can,
then do the same with the frozen Brie cheese.
Place the bowl over some shaved ice to keep the cheese from going soft.

To make the syrup cut and place all the berries into a small saucepan,
then pour in the red wine and water.
On medium heat bring to a boil, reduce heat, then simmer for ten minutes.
Remove from heat, cool and then pour the syrup into a blender and blend until smooth and thick.
This can be done the day before as it will keep in a refrigerator for a week.

To serve, place fruit and cheese balls into a bowl, garnish with a spoonful of vanilla ice cream if you wish, and drizzle the syrup.