Thursday, 30 July 2015

Why I love Neufchatel

Or rather, why I ♥ Neufchatel.
Photo by Myrabella on Wikipedia

It's the cutest cheese in any French market. It's made in little heart-shaped moulds. (Wikipedia says it's sometimes made in other shapes, but I've never seen them.) There is no other cheese you could actually buy as a romantic Valentine's Day present.

I expected it to be a creamy, oozing sort of cheese like a Brie or Camembert - it's another of the great Norman cheeses, along with Camembert, Livarot, and Pont-l'Eveque - but it's quite firm and chalky in texture. On the outside, it has a lovely soft rind, like white velvet - softer than Camembert; it's almost like the powdery texture of butterflies' wings. Wonderful.

As for the taste, it doesn't have the ammonia that spoils Camembert for me, but it has a combination of mushroomy flavour with a slightly lemony acid edge that makes it quite sharp. The heart might suggest a very sweet creamy and perhaps inoffensive cheese - but it's got a lot more character than that, though you couldn't call it a wolf in sheep's clothing. (A nanny goat in sheep's clothing, perhaps.)

It's beautifully spreadable - or rather, flattenable, because this isn't a cheese that's fluid, like a melting, oozing Brie.

And if this wasn't enough to love it, it's also one of the oldest cheeses in France, going back to at least the eleventh century, and possibly earlier. A little taste of history, in the shape of a heart.

PS, for American readers: I'm told there's a kind of cream cheese in the US called Neufchatel. It's not the same at all.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Brousse - ricotta with attitude!

Brousse looks a little like a ricotta - a strikingly white, quite grainy soft cheese, which comes in a little pot, just the way it was formed out of the mould.
"Brousse" by VĂ©ronique PAGNIER - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -

And it is a ricotta - a cheese made from the lactoserum, or whey as we'd say in English, that's left behind after the first chese has been made from a batch of milk.

But as you'd expect from a French cheese, it's got a bit of attitude. That's partly because it can be made from sheep's or goat's milk as well as cow's milk - depending on the location and type of cheese. There's even a single-variety Brousse, the Brousse du Rove, coming from the Rove race of goat, and made (unusually) with the milk rather than with the whey.

The Brousse I've been enjoying isn't a farm Brousse, it's just something we picked up in the supermarket. But it has that definite goaty edge. It comes over all creamy and fresh at first, with a slight citrus edge (very gentle, like a hint of lemon meringue), but then the goatier, stronger flavour kicks in, alongside the freshness. It all makes for a cheese which is light and refreshing, not mouth-clogging like a Brie, but which develops its taste in the mouth and deserves a slow appreciation.

Like fromage blanc, Brousse is often eaten with a little sugar. I like it with forest fruits - accompanied by the fruits, not mixed up with them - or on its own.