The Best Cheeses For Spring Menus
Date: 07-04-2017 published by Nick Baines
Cheese, the cornerstone of rich winter dinners and a mainstay of the Christmas offering. But as the sun starts to show its face a little more, and the temperature slowly begins to rise, the cheeseboard sometimes takes a hit and sees nowhere near as much action as it does in the darkness of winter. However, the freshness of spring is when cheese comes to life. The fresh spring grass directly affects the flavour of the milk that’s used this time of year and young cheeses can add some seriously good dishes to the menu.
Goats’ cheese comes to mind instantly, from the light, zesty soft spreadable goats cheese, to those that carry a rind (great for grilling on sourdough). However, don’t overlook the potential of hard goats’ cheese, which can be great shaved in place of pecorino or parmesan in salads.
Starters laden with fresh mozzarella and plump ripe tomatoes are everywhere when the sun is shining. A bright little dish that when eaten wearing sunglasses, is almost heightened. Burrata has been on the watch list for a while, a trendy ingredient that’s become a kind of hipster buzzword. The cheese is made with mozzarella and cream, a firm outer layer hides a gooeyness within. Smoked mozzarella can be a useful way of lofting flavours and works particularly well with cooked, warm dishes.
You might also have noticed the growing popularity of alpine cheeses too. Beyond gruyere, you’re going to see a lot more comte being cut this spring. Perhaps it’s something to do with the clean nuttiness that comes from this incredible cheese, or perhaps the fact its marked savouriness seems to work so well as a bar snack in place of the obligatory bowl of nuts.
Washed rind cheese should be on your radar this time of year, the fruitiness they deliver can really add a powerful dimension to a plate, offsetting peppery rocket and refreshing vinaigrettes. It’s doesn’t have to be something as potent as Stinking Bishop, which carries the sweet juiciness of the perry it’s washed in, you could go for a much gentler washed rind cheese.
When selecting blue cheeses this time of year, go for sweeter options. This usually means younger blue cheeses, but a good starting point would be gorgonzola or perhaps something like Cashel or Shropshire blue, both creamy with just a subtle spike of blue tang.
Ricotta is a champion of spring cheeses and provides you with a versatile base for everything from preserved lemons and herbs, to beetroot purees and hefty amounts of salad leaves like mustard and rocket. Consider knocking up some fresh paneer that can be drizzled with good olive and nut oils too, or if your restaurant’s taking a bit of a Scandinavian turn, look at utilizing cottage cheese, which is enjoying something of a comeback right now.
Spring is a promising time of year and as fresh produce starts to come tumbling in, spare thought for some of these epic spring cheeses.
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