Everything is better with cheese, in fact everything is better with Comté. And that was exactly the premise of a night in Cactus Kitchens trying our hand at incorporating one of my favourite cheeses into a selection of seasonal dishes.
First up, cheese tasting. All milk to make Comté comes from Montbéliarde and French Simmental cows who have 2 acres of land each in the Jura Massif to roam free and work their magic. What a life! They eat grass and flowers in the summer and hay in the winter. Each day small village dairies transform the cows milk into wheels of Comté who in turn age the cheese in house, regularly turning the wheels, salting and brining for up to 24 months.
Not only does seasonal changes in the cows diet change the flavour profile of the finished Comté wheel, but also the age of the wheel. There's such a vast difference between a young Comté and a mature. When young, its elastic, lactic, pale and fruity. When mature, more nutty, deeper in colour and crumbly due to the break down of amino acids.
These both lend a great flavour to varying seasonal dishes as we went on to explore and try for ourselves in the kitchen.
To start, a watercress, beetroot and fennel salad with Comté, basil and walnut crostinis. Here the 18 month is used in place of parmesan and pine nuts to give a deep nutty flavour in both the pesto and in the generous shavings on top...part of the perks of working with Flick - there's no scrimping on the cheese! Our starter was paired with, Grüner Veltliner, Reiden Selection, one of my favourite wines of the evening. From Austria's signature grape, its dry, fresh, citrusy and the perfect balance to the 18 month Comté and balsamic beetroot.
Next up, a butternut squash, sage and Comté risotto where a young cheese is used for creaminess to the earthiness of the squash. Of course, once again this is also topped with generous shavings of the mature because this is a cheese night after all! Paired with Tierra Alta Sauvignon, again dry and citrusy but more acidic - perfect for the younger, creamier 8 month Comté.
And of course, the Comté chefs worked their magic on a Comté, banana and vanilla tarte tatin. Yes, there's cheese in this dessert. The use of a young Comté, between 8-12 months, as we learnt in making the risotto gives a creaminess to the puff pastry and trust me, it was delicate and totally delicious. Served alongside a Petit Védrines Sauternes gave the perfect nutty, caramelised balance to the finale dish.
Armed with some new know-how I'm very excited to give some new Comté dishes a try at home. I've also decided that it would be a pretty great life being a Comté cow being free to roam in your 2 acres all day and graze non stop.
I was invited to attend the masterclass, was not paid and all opinions are my own...who doesn't love cheese this much?