Thursday, June 24, 2010

Do eggs go with cheese?

When you're working on a recipe book - as I am at the moment - you have to think not only 'would I actually make this' but 'would the people who are (hopefully) going to buy it?' And it's a tricky one when it comes to eggs and cheese.

Of course you couldn't make a cheese soufflé without both but even then not everyone likes the idea of hot cheesy foam, my husband included. And I don't really like cheese omelettes that much, still less that classic retro dish of eggs mornay - eggs in a cheese sauce (although a bit of spinach helps)

It does of course depend on the cheese. Parmesan is pretty good with eggs - much better than Cheddar which tends to separate and go fatty when inserted in an omelette (I shudder even to think about it). It also helps to have another ingredient in the dish like onions, potatoes or courgettes as in a frittata though even then I'm not that keen.

Or wasn't until I came across a near perfect cheesy egg dish the other night at a restaurant called Riverstation in Bristol: a cauliflower and smoked mozzarella frittata, about as unlikely a combination as you could imagine and which I had to order out of sheer curiosity. It was really delicious - though admittedly it doesn't look much from the rather blurry image above.

Smoking mozarella not only gives it a more interesting flavour but a firmer texture which really worked well in the frittata alongside the lightly cooked cauliflower. The accompanying roast cherry tomatoes which had been drizzled with balsamic vinegar provided an interesting sweet-sour contrast as did some bitter rocket leaves.

I checked out the recently published Flavour Thesaurus, my current bedtime reading, to see what author Niki Segnit had to say about eggs and cheese and she didn't even mention them as a combination which suggests its not just me who feels this way. What about you? Do you use the two together and if so how?

PS Writing this I realise I'm perfectly OK with quiche. Must be the pastry - and the cream!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Caciocavallo: an Italian cheese discovery

One of the unexpected bonuses of attending the chefs' conference Identita earlier this week was the artisanal food stalls which had some really great cheeses and salumi.

There was some pretty impressive aged Grana Padano, the less feted cousin of Parmigiano Reggiano (aka Parmesan) but the one that really stood out for me was this gourd-shaped Caciocavallo from Puglia (I think) though I've discovered from Juliet Harbutt's World Cheese Book, which I'll be reviewing shortly, that this type of pasta filata (stretched curd) cheese is made all over southern Italy. Some like Caciocavallo Silano have their own PDO - actually that may be the only one - and like other cheeses there are younger and older versions.

This was 24 months old and wonderfully rich, nutty and crumbly, the sort of cheese you could nibble at the end of a meal with a good red wine.

The Grana Padano crew were also showing off different aged cheeses with accompanying wines, a session I unfortunately missed. They paired the 12 month old with a 2007 Valpolicella Ripasso, the 18 month old with a 2006 Chianti Classico Riserva and a Salice Salentino Riserva and the 27 month with a 2005 Amarone, which I can imagine would have worked well. (This type of hard, grainy cheese is one of the few that reliably goes with red wine, particularly aged Italian reds)

BTW if you're interested in Caciocavallo there's a very interesting article on how it differs from Provolone on here.