Sunday, April 24, 2011

Over the moon about cheese

A wall of cheese!
On my recent visit to Putaruru I was lucky on two fronts.  The most obvious being the chance to dine with Cameron and his family but the second equally rewarding occasion was spending a considerable time in the tasting room of one 'Over the Moon' Cheese shop and factory.

I've always been a fan of cheese, much to the annoyance of my brothers.  It seems I was the only one of the siblings born without a dairy intolerance.  Lucky me.  As long as I didn't take too much of Dad's extra vintage tasty then I would be ok!
There is nothing better than finishing a good meal with a great array of cheese and a nice digestive such as a glass of port.  During our travels in France we became addicted to trying out every restaurant's cheese board.  You simply can not top a cheeseboard in France.  Typically, once you have finished your main meal the waiter will pull out a cart laden with the local area’s top cheeses.  You may then pick and choose to your hearts content.  The selection available is mind boggling.  The largest one we saw had about 50 cheeses on it.  None of this crap with a few segments of Mainland and half price brie that is still as cold as the kitchen hands pay packet.

Perfect Cheese Making Country!

Cheese changes around the world. The types found and their use in cuisine differs as you travel between borders from one country to the next.  The variation is down to many things but simply put different milk provides for different cheese.  It would make sense then, that in such a dairylific country as ours that we should be able to produce some fantastic cheese.
Placed slap bang in the middle of NZ's cow corner Over the moon has a small but interesting retail shop.  Of greater interest are the glass panes allowing you to see next door, into the actual factory where the cheese is being made.  Unfortunately while we are there it seems it is smoko but we are invited into the tasting room for what we really showed up for.  Tasting the cheese!

Over the Moon has done amazingly well in it's few years.  Already a multi award winning establishment they have a fantastic selection of cheese from Halloumi to Brie to Feta to Camembert to Blue.  Many cheeses are mixed milk varieties and it is also heartening to see flavor enhances like Cumin, Pepper and Garlic incorporated into some of the range.

During the tasting two of their cheeses really blew me away:

The pepperino cheese with nuggets of black pepper. 
The Pepperino is a chalky sheeps milk cheese flavored with whole peppercorns.  It has an amazing balance that makes it a delight to consume.  First off you get the taste of the cheese.  A rich, smooth, mid-strength offering.  It then finishes with the delightful flavoring of pepper.  Not too strong and just right.  Perfectly made.  When deciding what dish I could cook with this cheese I could not stop thinking of a pepper steak sandwich.  One of my favorite things to do for a Saturday lunch is to get a nice piece of steak, cook it just to my liking, and then serve on some crusty bread with some slow cooked balsamic red onions and top it with some grilled cheese.

 The second star, and my favorite of the whole range, was the Double Delight triple cream brie.  Using a combination of Cow and Goat's milk the creators have wound up with perhaps THE most delightful brie I have had in a long time. And I am not alone in my praise.  Entered into the Oscars of the cheese world the Double Delight was voted the 3rd best Surface Ripened mixed milk cheese in the World Championship Cheese contest held in Wisconsin, USA.  The cheese is deliciously creamy.  So creamy that my wife and I wind up eating the whole block.  Slowly letting each wedge melt away in our mouths, savoring it's flavor for as long as possible, before being tempted to indulge again.

This cheese is so good it almost seems like a crime to do anything other than consume it as quickly as possible.  Which is the problem we faced. Post whole block consumption I did wonder how it would work on a Bechamel Sauce based Pizza with Grilled Chicken Breast, Cranberry glaze and slow cooked shallots.  I think I will have to purchase some more to try this out!!

We also got tempted into purchasing a Garlic flavored Halloumi.  Another award winner the halloumi has a faint flavoring of garlic.  Enough to know it's there but not so much that it scares away the neighbors or overtakes the flavor of the cheese.  Again it surprises me how well balanced the cheese is.  It should not be a surprise then that next door to the shop is the NZ Cheese Making school.  Someone is definitely doing their homework.  I imagine there must be a bit of experimentation that goes into getting such balance. 

I served the halloumi with some freshly baked bread and a chunky olive, capsicum and caper tapenade that you can buy from Sabato deli.  The salty squeaky cheese worked really well with the Mediterranean flavors.

Our forth offering could not quite hit the heights that had previously been achieved.  A Goat and Cow Milk Blue was just too mild for a blue cheese.  It seemed confused and was a bit disappointing.

However.  Three huge strikes out of four is not a bad going and I am definitely going to be purchasing vast quantities of that Double Delight Brie.  Over the Moon's cheese range is sold through various distributors around the country.  If you would like to know where you can try their cheese send them an email.  For west aucklanders you can find their cheese sold at the Titirangi Food markets held on the 2nd Sunday of every month.  Although you'll have to get there early if you are going to get some of that Double Delight before me!

Fancy Steak Sandwich with Pepperino 'Over the Moon' Cheese

Serves 1
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cooking Time 30 minutes

1 piece of your favorite steak ( I choose scotch fillet) at room temp
1 Red onion, cut in half and thinly sliced
1 Tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
1 Tbsp Brown Sugar
30g Over the moon Pepperino Cheese cut into slices.
Handful Salad leaves
2 Tbsp Creme Fraiche
2 tsp Wholegrain Mustard
1 slice Ciabatta or other crusty bread.

Put a little olive oil in a pan on a medium heat.  Cook the red onion for about five minutes then turn the heat down low.  Add the Balsamic Vinegar and Brown sugar then season.  Cook slowly for about 15-20 minutes.

Season the steak with salt and pepper then oil the steak, not the pan.  Place steak into a hot pan until cooked to your liking, turning once.  2 min each side for rare, 4-6 for Medium, 6-8 for well done.  When cooked allow the steak to rest for at least 5 min before cutting into slices.  

Place steak slices on an oven tray, top with the cheese and then place under a hot grill until the cheese is melted

Combine the Creme Fraiche and mustard.  Mix thoroughly.

Drizzle the Ciabatta bread with olive oil, season and then put under the grill toasting both sides.

Spread the Creme Fraiche mix over the bread, place salad leaves on top, then the red onions then the sliced steak with melted cheese.  Enjoy with an indian pale ale!!  You'll feel pampered, pleasured and perfectly content.

1 comment:

  1. I love cheese too - just happen to be allergic to the stuff! Checked out the website - good link, have a gander all! - and am very excited to see that not only do they make a great range of goats milk cheeses but they have a stall here at the Rotorua Night Market!!! Good find Ant ;)