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Friday, June 02, 2006
My secret love affair with Mr Cheese

Same dessert, different presentation

I have a great love affair with cheese. I love to eat it and even more, to make it.
So when Itay from Recipe asked me to write an article about cheese i couldn't help but say YES. I'm French after all and who can ignore that France is one of the leading countries regarding cheese produce.
Indeed more than 400 different cheeses are produced in France, 42 of these having a quality label called AOC (Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée) and lots being made under the AB (Agriculture Biologique) laws.
This doesn't mean that all French cheese are necessarily good -- both in taste and quality.
But when you buy your cheese, try to know where it comes from: a farm or an industry.
And if you ever come to France, i deeply advise you to visit local farmers, to talk with them and eventually to buy their produce. That way you can't be wrong.

The best surprise on a farm: babies!

I have no idea on how people from other countries eat their cheese, but as a French, i can't imagine a weekend lunch without a well-furnished cheese platter.
Usually i like to keep it simple with 3 or 4 different cheeses. I try to serve big portions so the people don't get afraid to have a piece and i like to combine strong and mild flavours:
- a blue cheese (like Roquefort or Bleu d'Auvergne)

Bleu d'Auvergne cheese

- a fresh goat cheese (now I've worked on a farm, making goat cheese, i can't live without this cheese. It is so versatile and delicious)
- a Corsican sheep's milk hard cheese served either with some fig jam or chestnut honey.
- a piece of Brie de Meaux: a soft mild-in-taste cheese

But a full cheese lunch could be a good idea as well if the flavours are well combined. That's what i tried to put together for this 4-course lunch. No main course! Just 4 small dishes, high in taste yet subtle.

Tarte fine aux asperges et au chèvre frais
[Asparagus and fresh goat cheese tart]

I made this for my birthday a month ago and everyone loved it. Three simple flavours: green asparagus, fresh goat cheese and fine puff pastry.
Actually this is far better if you make your own puff pastry -- i know it's time-consuming, but the difference is real: homemade puff pastry is so delicious.
The goat cheese should be 2-3 days old, as i think a fresher cheese would had more creaminess than taste.

Soufflé au bleu d'Auvergne
[Bleu d'Auvergne soufflé]

I love soufflés because they're light and tasty at the same time. Don't be afraid to make them -- it's so easy. The only thing you have to keep in mind is: soufflés must be eaten straight away from the oven or they'll just fall.
An easy way to make soufflés without having to be in the kitchen during the lunch is to prepare the batter up to an hour before you start eating and to pop the small filled soufflé tins in the oven when you get the tart out of the oven.

These soufflés are nice served with some bitter leaves like rockets and a vinaigrette made with a nutty oil (like walnut oil).

Individual soufflés make for a highly rewarding treat!

Soufflé au bleu d'Auvergne
serves 4

200g bleu d'auvergne
4 eggs, separated
salt and pepper
50g butter
50g flour
150ml milk

The oven should be preheated to 200°C.
In a bowl, mash the cheese with the egg yolks and season to taste.
Melt the butter over low heat in a saucepan and add the flour. Mix well until all the flour is incorporated. Whisk in all of the cold milk at once and pour this mixture over the cheese-egg paste. Put back into the pan and bring to the boil over low heat. You should mix all the time to prevent the egg whites from cooking.
In a clean bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff and fold into the previous mixture.
Fill four small soufflé tins and bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden and well-risen. Eat straight from the oven.

Camembert aux fruits secs, aux noix et au miel
[Camembert with dried fruits, nuts and honey]

This is hardly a recipe. You should consider it as a reminder: camembert goes well with dried fruits and nuts which go well with runny honey.
For this 'recipe' you should choose a mild camembert: if it's too strong it will be overpowering and you won't get that soft 'longueur en bouche' (literally - length in mouth, which means great after taste).

Yum, runny honey. I love the contrast between the tenderness of the camembert and the crunch of the nuts.

Camembert aux fruits secs, aux noix et au miel
serves 4

a camembert
raisins, golden sultanas…
dried apricots
and any other dried fruits or nuts: think dates, figs, walnuts!

Entremet mousseux au Manslois et fraises au vinaigre balsamique
[Manslois mousse with balsamic vinegar strawberries]

Manslois is a strange little cheese. It's cow's milk fresh cheese from Charentes, where it's used to make a delicious cheese tart called 'tourteau au fromage frais'. I could have taken the easy way and make this tart but i reckon it would have been a bit too heavy after that 100% cheese lunch, so i went for the cold mousse.
I think you might have troubles getting Manslois cheese. Anyway, you can replace it by any fresh cheese -- goat cheese would be a good option.

The weird Manslois cheese!

The mousse is served with balsamic vinegar strawberries. So refreshing!

Entremet mousseux au Manslois et fraises au vinaigre balsamique
serves 4

3 sheets of gelatine
250g Manslois cheese
250g fromage blanc (thick yogurt)
100g sugar
seeds from 2 vanilla pods
50ml milk

500g strawberries
50g sugar
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

Soak the gelatine leaves in cold water for 5 minutes.
Beat the cheese with the fromage blanc. Add the sugar and vanilla seeds and mix well.
Bring the milk to the boil. Squeeze the gelatine leaves to get rid of any excess water and mix into the milk until dissolved. Add to the cheese mixture and mix well for 1 minute.
Fill four small ramequins with the mixture and refrigerate overnight.

For the balsamic vinegar strawberries
Rinse the strawberries and cut them into small pieces. Put into a large bowl and add the sugar and balsamic vinegar. Mix well and set aside for 2 hours.

Before the lunch
Unmould the mousses into small plates and arrange the strawberries on top. Serve.

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9 sweets:
Blogger Unknown said something sweet:

J'adore le fromage moi aussi. Et les repas fromages...que du bonheur !
tes recettes sont super et les photos magnifiques, bravo !

02 June, 2006 14:13 

Anonymous Anonymous said something sweet:

I agree. I think the meaning of life is cheese! Actually I wonder if you can help me. Years ago I was staying in Sarlat and we had a soft cheese called something like nid d'oiseau and I've never seen it anywhere since.

BTW love your photos. They're beautiful!

02 June, 2006 16:02 

Blogger iamchanelle said something sweet:

what a beautiful meal, fanny! i loved the presentation of each course - especially the souffle - I am truly inspired to try my hand at one myself! so lovely!

02 June, 2006 17:02 

Blogger *fanny* said something sweet:

Merci Milie... En fait c'est la première fois que je fais un repas 100% fromage mais je suis assez contente du resultat car ce n'est pas ecoeurant du tout.

Hi Rachel, you're totally right when you say that life=cheese.
As for the "nid d'oiseau", i've never heard about it. Was it goat/sheep/cow cheese? I know Perigord is renown for its goat cheese called Cabecou; but i don't think that helps...

Hi Chanelle, thank you. The soufflé was delicious indeed!


03 June, 2006 13:31 

Blogger Pille said something sweet:

Gorgeous pictures and tempting recipes, Fanny! The goat baby picture is especially cute:)
It's a pity I didn't read this post before going to Paris - I would have wanted to try some of the cheeses you mention!

11 June, 2006 22:39 

Anonymous Anonymous said something sweet:

i like that pic of camembert. have seen it on Flickr. i always have a wedge of camembert of brie in the fridge. i love cheeses...particularly the soft kinds, even runny to be eaten with a spoon :)

14 June, 2006 16:33 

Anonymous Anonymous said something sweet:

ken tu di ke tes fotos sont moche; JE PROTESTE !


17 June, 2006 19:36 

Anonymous Anonymous said something sweet:

Hi Pille - thank you for the kind words.
So you went to Paris? You must have had a great time!

Hi Saudades - oh yes, i love runny brie eaten with a spoon and a sweet chili sauce.

Coucou ma cacahuète, merci beaucoup! C'est trop sweet. Et bientoy, c'est qui qui va tenir mes paneaux?


17 June, 2006 20:26 

Anonymous Anonymous said something sweet:

i think your mental " the meaning of life is cheese?" you should be taken away the men in the white jackets. 'there coming' dum dum duuuuum!!!
i mean i like cheese it is beautiful food in my opinion the meaning of life is death because thats what happens anyhow!!!

14 July, 2006 22:29 

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