Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Cheese from England (Tυρί από την Αγγλία)

"What's that?" my husband asked, when he saw what looked like a child's playdough creation on a plate on the lunch table. It certainly stuck out like my sore thumb (not pictured) which I had sliced through to the bone (you would not have wanted to see it, would you?) that morning while cutting carrots into little cubes to make some classic Greek fasolada.

 Sourdough bread, raw onion, a plate of fasolada, feta cheese with olive oil and oregano, garden-fresh cherry tomatoes - and a cheese swirl.

When we visited London two years ago, we bought some generic-style Red Leicester from a supermarket. It was cut off a large block (rather than a large round cheese wheel). It was being sold on special together with some pale-looking cheddar, packaged in the same way. We paid about 3 pounds for 2 square pieces of cheese of 150g-200g each. The cheese didn't taste particularly appetising (it reminded me of 1980s-style Chesdale cheese sold in NZ), but it was cheap, and it kept us fed in between meals. I was a bit wary of this when I saw the Red Leicester cheese swirl at the supermarket, but it looked very pretty in its own special way, so I decided to give it a try.

English cheddar began selling on a regular basis in Hania (at supermarkets, the main purveyors of imported food products) only about four or so years ago, mainly due to the presence of our 'tourist' residents who've set up home here. Since then, we've been able to get a wider selection of some very tasty English cheeses, like Blue Stilton, cut from a round rather than sold in a packet (much more flavoursome than French Rocquefort), along with value-added flavoured cheddar cheeses: we recently tried one with mustard and ale. I hope one day to see Cornish Cruncher available here too - I search that one out whenever I'm in the UK. I particularly like its slightly granular texture - it's very similar to graviera from the island of Naxos, made of cow's milk, which also has these little bits of milk crystals in it.

My attempt at adding value to cheese: Cretan mizithra mixed with Greek fig spoon sweet, rolled into small balls and placed in a jar of olive oil; olive oil is an anti-oxidant and preserves cheese.

We all liked the cheese swirl. The herbs moulded into the cheese, together with the soft garlic-centred white cheese, turned it into a delicious evening snack with some bread and olives, and a glass of home-brewed wine. It also looks like an idea that can be adopted by Cretan cheesemakers to give their products added value, to make them stand out among other cheesemakers' products, and to give their local audience something new to try; maybe the cheese swirl idea is a little far-fetched, but a mustard- or pepper-flavoured graviera would probably go down well, not to mention grow into the export market, and make Greek cheeses (feta aside) better known - after all, Greeks eat more cheese per head than any other national group. Not that the export Greek cheese isn't doing well abroad - but it's mainly known among Greeks living abroad rather than the wider public.

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