Kiwis becoming more adventurous with choice of cheese

Food writer Kathy Paterson. PHOTO: ANNA KIDMAN
Food writer Kathy Paterson. PHOTO: ANNA KIDMAN
It is New Zealand Cheese Month and the country’s love of the dairy product has grown this year.

While Kiwis’ love of good old tasty and edam cheese remains strong, people are just as likely to put a packet of halloumi, havarti or gouda in their weekly shop these days.

New Zealanders are becoming more adventurous in their selection of cheeses, Featherston’s C’est Cheese Artisan Cheese and Deli owner and winner of the 2019 Favourite NZ Cheese Shopping Experience Paul Broughton says.

He has noticed a definite change in the way their customers choose cheese.

"We’re seeing many of our customers trying styles of cheese that they previously might not have considered — they’re more adventurous in their selections."

Including cheese in cooking is also on the increase. It’s not uncommon to have people come into his shop clutching a recipe that requires a specialist cheese as a key ingredient.

"Pleasingly, most if not all such cheeses can invariably be sourced from our own expert NZ cheesemakers.”

Another big change is the demand for locally made product.

"As people spend more time travelling around their country they’re beginning to appreciate and connect with New Zealand’s vibrant community of artisan cheesemakers. This is resulting in ongoing purchasing of locally made cheeses as well as a heightened understanding of the many different types of cheese made here."

Broughton’s comments are backed up by the sales figures with Neilson finding cheese is experiencing record sales. For the 12 months to August the total value of all cheese sales was up 12.2%, including a 9.5% increase in speciality cheese , a 14.5% increase in blocks of cheese and a 25.1% increase in grated cheese.

New Zealand Speciality Cheesemakers Association chairman Neil Willman says cheesemakers are delighted with the support they are receiving from Kiwis who are trying to buy local when they can.

To celebrate New Zealand Cheese Month the association has launched a new website www.cheeseloversnz.co.nz so people can find their local cheesemakers, get tips on storing and serving cheese and recipes for cooking with it.

They are also calling for cheese lovers to vote for their favourite cheese company this month on the website.

Food writer Kathy Paterson is a contributor to the new website and she suggests choosing a selection of tasty and a soft cheese like gouda, brie or camembert, bake some homemade oat biscuits, flatbread or crackers and serve on a wooden platter with Barker’s new Fruit for Cheese Black Cherry & Pinot Noir, seasonal fresh fruit and walnuts.

Homemade oat biscuits

Makes 16-18

1¼ cups plain flour

1 tsp baking powder

¼ tsp baking soda

¼ tsp salt

1½ cups rolled oats (fine porridge oats)

75g butter

2 Tbsp honey

1 egg, lightly beaten

Method

Heat the oven to 180degC. Line 2 baking trays with baking paper.

In a large bowl sieve together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir in the rolled oats.

In a small saucepan, gently melt the butter and honey. Set aside to cool a little.

Pour the egg and butter mixture into the dry ingredients and mix to combine. Divide mixture into half.

On a lightly floured bench, roll each half, about 3mm thick. Using a plain 5cm biscuit cutter, cut out rounds. Place on the prepared trays and prick 2-3 times with a fork.

Place in the oven and bake for 10-12 minutes, turning trays halfway through baking, until golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack. Store in an airtight container.

Grape and walnut flatbread

Serves 6

1 tsp sugar

1 Tbsp active dried yeast

¾ cup warm water

2 cups high-grade flour or bread flour

½ tsp salt

3-4 sprigs fresh rosemary, plus a few extra leaves to finish

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

½ cup walnut pieces

1 cup seedless green grapes

flaky sea salt

Method

Place the sugar and yeast in a small bowl and pour over a quarter of a cup of warm water. Leave in a warm place until frothy, about 5 minutes.

Sift the flour and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook.

Pour in the remaining warm water and the frothy yeast mixture. Knead for about 10 minutes until smooth. You can knead by hand if you do not have a mixer. Remove the dough and oil or flour the bowl, return dough and cover bowl with a clean tea towel. Leave in a warm place to rise for 1 hour. The dough should double in size.

Meanwhile, place the rosemary sprigs and oil in a small saucepan and place over low heat. Heat until aromatic then add the walnuts and heat through. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. Remove the rosemary sprigs.

Heat the oven until very hot — 240degC. Set the oven rack in the lower part of the oven. Flour a baking tray.

Punch down the dough and tip out on to a lightly floured bench. Knead in the walnuts and 2 tablespoons of rosemary oil. Knead in most of the grapes. Roll the dough to about 20cm x 30cm and place on the tray. Press the remaining grapes into the top of the dough. Drizzle with a further 2 tablespoons rosemary oil and sprinkle with flaky salt.

Place in the oven and bake until golden brown, 20-25 minutes. Serve with the remaining rosemary oil.

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