Food blogger Shanthini Rajkumar on how cheese can elevate your eating experience

People today are adventurous about trying out food from elsewhere. That is a good thing because food has a way of bridging gaps that arise due to differences in language and culture. A foodie always finds a way to communicate with others, no matter where. The one thing that we need to pay attention to is to try and preserve the authenticity of food from other countries. By that, I mean learn about the way it is served and eaten. This week, I’d like to write about cheese. Eating cheese can be healthy or unhealthy depending on the variety and quantity of it we consume. Cheese that has a high fat and sodium content is not ideal for a balanced diet. Cheese that is soft and creamy tends to have a higher fat content than those that are hard and crumbly. Instead of randomly adding cheese to our food and making it unhealthy, why not look at how the Europeans make a healthy meal out of it?

The good thing with hard cheese such as parmesan, cheddar, crumbly feta and blue cheese is that its intensity of flavour ensures that a little portion goes a long way.

There are many kinds of blue cheese. Most of them are made with cow’s milk. While True Roquefort is made from sheep’s milk in the South of France, Stilton is the English version of blue cheese. The Danish Danablu and Italian Gorgonzola are also from cow’s milk. The blue mould that runs in fine veins through the cheese is most commonly from the bacteria Penicillium Roqueforti or Penicillium Glaucum. The mould grows during the ageing process and results in fine bluish green strands running through the cheese.

An acquired taste

But it does have a rather strong smell that has many wrinkling their nose in distaste. But, used judiciously, it can elevate a simple dish into something quite special. A small bit does add a huge amount of flavour and that’s good news considering it doesn’t come cheap.

In many countries, simple meals comprise a selection of cheese, some sharp others milder, to be served along with fresh fruit, crackers, bread and fruit preserves. A friend recently hosted a similar wine and cheese evening. It was perfect for this weather and I’m sure it will appeal to most palates. While not everyone may appreciate the sharp taste of blue cheese, there are ways to acquire the taste.

Here is my very own recipe of a simple blue cheese dressing that is perfect for summers. It is made healthier by the addition of assorted vegetable crudités. The sharp tangy taste of the dressing beautifully complements the sweet crunchiness of the vegetables.

Blue Cheese dressing

(serves 4)

Thick firm yoghurt: 3 Cups

Milk: 1 1/2 Cups

Blue cheese: 1 1/2 Tsp

Mustard (preferably Dijon): 1 tsp

Freshly cracked pepper

Chives: 1 stalk

Carrot (cut into crudités): 2

Bell pepper (cut into crudités): 2

Toasted whole grain bread (cut into stripes): 2 slices

Method

In a bowl, add the yoghurt and whisk gently...set aside. In a small pan, add the milk, turn down the heat and add the crumbly blue cheese. Keep stirring gently until the cheese melts and the milk is slightly reduced and thick. Remove from heat and let cool completely. Add it to the cold yoghurt. Add the mustard and freshly cracked pepper. Alternatively you could use chilli flakes. Snip in the chives. Check for seasoning. The cheese is quite salty so hold back or omit the salt.

I do hope you will try this easy recipe. Just the one and a half teaspoon of cheese is not bad at all for four people. Feel free to experiment. Blue cheese pairs well with sweet flavours too. Now you know not to pass up that packet of blue cheese at the supermarket.

This is the first of a three-part series on cheese

Read more about food on Shanthini’s website.