Things have been altogether too easy up until now. I know that you’re all bored out of your mind. There is no point reading about me eating cheeses that you and I both know are perfectly edible. I understand this.
This is the first month that made my stomach knot. My heart sink. My toes go cold. The first month where I actually thought I might just… pack it all in? Not eat any cheese? Who would really care?
But my mum left a comment on my last post saying “you cannot back out now” and if there’s one thing you should know about me, it’s that I never NEVER want to disappoint my mum.
So here I am, standing before a dish ladened with the world’s top four ingredients – potatoes, bacon, onion, cream – with a block of cheese in one hand, wondering why on earth I would ruin such a perfectly good plate of food in this way.
This month’s challenge is “soft cheese, but with a rind. Brie, camembert, etc.”
Like many cheese dishes, I know the smell of Tartiflette better than the taste. It’s a dish that my cousins used to order on family ski trips in the Alps. You’d take off your skis, balance them precariously on those metal racks, and trip into a log cabin restaurant, and the smell would hit you. It’s warm and a little nutty, but mostly, it smells like Alpine cow manure. That manure is Reblochon, a soft french cheese that is the famous centrepiece of Tartiflette.
I’m following a recipe I got from Jamie’s FoodTube, which is pretty standard for me. My potatoes and bacon and onions are all cooked and coated with a good helping of cream. With a sigh, I slice up the cheese. I know I need to face the anxiety in my stomach head on, so I take a bite of the cheese raw.
It’s barely stronger than mozzarella, except around the rind which definitely has a sour milk sort of flavour. It doesn’t taste like it smells. I’m reassured. I layer the cheese on top of the Tartiflette, and put it in the oven.
Amy and I both have it that evening and in the end, it’s a little disappointing. The ingredients promise a lot but in the end, it’s just a bit too dry. I was promised the cheese would melt enough to form a sauce but maybe I needed more of it, and more cream too. And overall, I prefer the bits without cheese on. Six out of ten.
My next challenge is Brie. I always thought of Brie as being a strong cheese but apparently it’s not. Doesn’t it sound like a strong cheese to you? Again, it’s one of those smelly ones. I have a bone to pick with Brie, too, because Pret replaced my favourite toastie – mozzarella and Pesto – with Brie, Tomato and Avocado. Life can be so cruel.
I’m all about including cheese in my life in practical ways, and a new Pret toastie seems like a good shout in this regard. Oh god, was this a mistake. It wasn’t even the Brie – which tasted fine, just a bit slimy and nothing-y. Warm avocado is the problem. Watery tomato is the problem. The whole sandwich is completely lacking in any kind of flavour or texture, aside from the bread.
I shared my findings on Twitter and everyone was in agreement – this is a terrible combination. For God’s sake, Pret! If you’re going to take away my favourite toastie, at least replace it with something edible! I’m even madder now!
After two not-so-bad cheese experiences, I was actually quite looking forward to my third and final escapade. I can’t count the occasions where I’ve gone for dinner or to a pub and people have all been sharing a baked Camembert. I love sharing food! I hate missing out on these fun communal eating activities!
One friend in particular, Ollie, is a huge fan of baked Camembert. The first time I told him I didn’t eat it, he nearly kicked me out of his house. I felt like this was a good opportunity to make it up to him – invite him round for Camembert. He brought wine, of course.
We served it up with hot, crusty Ciabatta, a selection of cured Italian deli meats, and garlic mushrooms. And wine, of course.
Taste-wise, this was entirely problem-free for me. It didn’t even have that sour milk flavour… maybe that’s a sign I’m getting used to cheese? Texturally, that slight rubberiness was something I still have to get used to – it looked much more liquidy than it actually felt in your mouth, which was confusing for my brain. But overall, I really enjoyed it – 8/10, would eat again.
Next month is “mild but hard – Cheshire or Wensleydale”. I am keen to have recommendations and recipes.