Just before Christmas my son, who’s based in Barcelona (okay, someone has to be), was down in Huelva visiting friends, who took him to see a cheese maker up in the sierra. Knowing my fondness for all things cheese-y, and thinking I might by now have eaten my fill of Swiss beauties and/or be tiring of Munster (Alsace’s only native offering), he invested in a wondrous selection of remarkably pungent goat’s cheeses. There were 5 or 6 of them, one rolled in pepper, another in ash, a third in sweet paprika, some fresh (-ish) and others aged, all presented on a chunky little wooden board. Returning to Barna, he left them out on his balcony for a few days (weeks?) before bringing them up here. By the time they reached Alsace (I hate to think what kind of a state his suitcase was in) they were about ready to climb out of the kitchen and set off down the garden.
Now we all lerv cheese and have iron stomachs, but even our seasoned palates were partially defeated. The soft ones, especially the paprika-rolled one, were fabulous – sweet and spicy, not unduly goaty and brilliant with oatcakes; the harder, more aged ones just about blew us away (and anyone who subsequently came into range)
Feeling a bit disloyal – both to the cheeses and to my son – I squirrelled the remains away in the fridge. Every now and then I’d open the door, nervously lever the lid off their Tupperware box and survey them, disconsolately (unlike most of the world, it seems, I just hate to throw anything away). They gazed back at me, unblinking. Okay, I muttered, I’ll do something about you soon. Finally I dredged up the memory of something the French call fromage fort, or strong cheese. It’s a time-honoured way to deal with bits and pieces of cheese that are no longer good enough for the cheese board but which still have a life, sort of. (My near neighbour, Bernard Antony, famed cheesemonger in Vieux-Ferrette, does a fabulous one based, as I recall, on blue cheese with Gewurztraminer). The fromage fort treatment for my goat’s cheeses would be just the ticket!
Out of their box they came, off came the rinds, and into the food processor they went, hotly pursued by some soft fresh goat’s cheese (those little Chèvretines that are wonderful put up in oil), some soft butter, a little white wine, some caraway seeds (to aid digestion) and a careless scattering of chopped parsley. Voilà!
It was a triumph. The ferocious goaty flavours were tamed by the butter, wine and fresh cheese and the caraway seeds soothed the digestion. We spread a little on oatcakes. Later we made bruschette and piled cherry tomatoes and rocket on top. Finally I boiled up some toothsome whirls of fusilli con buco brought by my friend and fellow food writer Carla Capalbo on her last fleeting visit, and stirred in a bit of fromage fort. Mmmmmmmmm.
There’s still the tiniest bit left but I may have to give up on that. Or freeze it.
- about 250g leftover cheese, preferably a mixture of soft and hard
- 100ml dry white wine
- 25g softened butter
- 5 small, soft fresh goat’s cheeses (Chèvretines)
- a pinch of caraway seeds
- a scattering of chopped parsley
Put all ingredients into a food processor and process to a smooth paste. Serve with oatcakes, crackers, toast or pasta.