What is Valentine’s Day without a bit of cheese to share around? After spending last year at college in South Australia at the Artisan Cheese Academy, we have introduced a cheese program at Vincent so that we can showcase cheese that we have crafted ourselves and also matured in our custom-built cheese cabinet.
The main style of cheese we are currently making in our program is the Saint-Marcellin, a soft, white-mould cheese originally from the town of the same name in the Rhône-Alpes region of eastern France. We have tried to replicate the style of the cheese by incorporating a variety of cultures in the process, which lend different flavour profiles. The milk, sourced locally, is influenced greatly by the pastures, clover and feed that the cows have ruminated upon and this will most determine the flavour compounds in the cheese – we merely try to manipulate and enhance these attributes. It is an amazingly versatile cheese that can be used fresh or matured for up to several weeks, whereupon it will take on a white-mould bloom with a soft, oozy centre.
The maturation process in itself is a major learning curve and has really taught us the virtue of patience. It also opens up a whole spectrum of different uses for cheeses in different stages of maturity. An example of this is Abondance, a hard, raw-cow’s-milk cheese sourced from the Savoie region of France which we use in salads, or the St. Simeon-style cheese that we make and serve like a fondue.
There is a great satisfaction that comes with preparing something that you have either sourced, produced or harvested yourself, and it is definitely worthwhile having a dabble in cheese making. Fresh curds, labneh and cream cheese could all be used in place of the Saint-Marcellin and are easily made following a few basic principles and choosing good, fresh milk to begin the process.
A Salad of Heirloom Tomatoes, Fresh Cheese and Anise Hyssop
Serves two as a side salad.
Tomatoes speak of summer, and this is the ideal dish for showcasing the variety of tomatoes that can now be found, albeit with a little legwork, in farmers’ markets or the growers’ market at Flemington all throughout the season.
The key to this very simple salad is sourcing the best ingredients possible and allowing them to be themselves, only adorning them with the most simple of embellishments. In this case, fresh Saint Marcellin-style cow’s milk cheese (made in-house at Vincent) and freshly picked anise hyssop, grown on the rooftop at one of our other venues, The Wine Library. Anise hyssop, a species of perennial plant in the mint family, lends a sweet, liquorice hit to the salad. All ingredients just need to be lightly combined together to complete this salad.
Heirloom tomatoes, grown from heritage seed, provide wonderful colour, texture and different flavour profiles, elevating this dish and making it a little different. Many of these varieties are easy enough to grow in the backyard and should be given plenty of sunlight and space. Oxheart, beefsteak, tigerallas both red and green, brandywine, grosse lisse and black Russians, may sound like exotic cocktails, but they all lend their own personality to a salad and once ripe are best left at room temperature until they are ready to be prepared for a salad.
- Various heirloom tomatoes (such as Oxheart, beefsteak, tigerallas both red and green, brandywine, grosse lisse or black Russians), sliced and quartered
- A soft, Saint Marcellin-style cow’s milk cheese, torn into pieces (can use dollops of labneh if desired)
- Anise hyssop, small flowers and leaves picked and torn
- Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
- Sea salt and freshly-cracked black pepper
Place tomatoes on a serving dish, top with pieces of torn cheese and anise hyssop. Drizzle the salad with olive oil and sprinkle over sea salt and black pepper.
Vincent 14 Queen Street, Woollahra (02) 8039 1500