Cheese Cookery Melts Hearts

January 10, 2015 Updated: January 10, 2015

After tasting Kaltbach Swiss cheese at a deli in Ottawa, I was so impressed that I checked its standing in world competitions. Yes, there are international cheese competitions and the Kaltbach, a cave-aged Gruyere I tasted and then bought, was a triple award-winner at the World Cheese Awards held in 2013 in Birmingham, U.K. These awards have been held every year since 1985, usually with a jury of 150 assessing over 2,500 entries from 34 countries.

Ancient Romans attributed healthful properties to cheese. In 36 B.C., Varro, a Roman scholar and writer living at the time of Julius Caesar, wrote that soft new varieties were “more nutritious and less constipating” than aged cheeses. However, aged cheeses have lots of calcium and that makes up for it in my book.

The recipes below hail from various countries. It seems cheese plays an important role in almost every country’s cuisine.

Fondue Brillat-Savarin (Switzerland)

Makes 3 to 4 servings

250 g (1/2 lb) Gruyere, grated
250 ml (1 cup) milk
50 ml (4 tbsp) butter
4 eggs yolks or 2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 small can white truffles, finely sliced (optional)
Freshly ground black pepper

Soak cheese in milk for half an hour. Melt butter in an earthenware casserole or chafing dish. Add cheese, milk and eggs. Stir with a wooden spoon over low heat until cheese is melted and mix is creamy and smooth. Cover with a topping of truffles and pepper. Serve over toast, preferably with tiny white onions and gherkins.

Sirniki (Russian)

Makes approximately 18 fritters

4 cups dry cottage cheese
150 ml (2/3 cup) sifted flour
4 egg yolks
1 ml (1/4 tsp) salt
25 ml (2 tbsp) sugar
Butter for frying
Sour cream

Squeeze moisture from cheese. Rub through a sieve. Mix with flour, egg yolks, salt, and sugar. Roll into 8 to 10 cm (3 to 4-inch) thick sausages. Chill for half an hour. Cut into 2.5 cm (1-inch) cakes and fry in melted butter until golden on both sides. Serve hot with sour cream.

Fennel with Butter and Cheese (Italy)

Makes 4 to 5 servings

4 medium fennel bulbs
15 ml (1 tbsp) olive oil
1 clove garlic
1 lemon slice
2 to 5 ml (1/2 to 1 tsp) salt
25 ml (2 tbsp) butter
25 ml (2 tbsp) grated Parmesan cheese
Freshly ground black pepper

Trim tops and bases of fennel using a potato peeler. Wash in cold water and cut into segments. Put in pan and cover with water. Add oil, garlic, lemon slice, and salt. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until just tender. Melt butter in a shallow gratin dish. Drain fennel and put into the dish, turning gently to coat with butter. Sprinkle with cheese and pepper. Brown lightly under broiler before serving.

Susan Hallett is an award-winning writer and editor who has written for The Beaver, The Globe & Mail, Wine Tidings, and Doctor’s Review, among others. She is currently the European editor of Taste & Travel International. Email: hallett_susan@hotmail.com