I have always said that the potato is one of my favourite vegetables. I am also really fond of cheese, especially good cheese, which is surprising really when you consider the fact that I grew up on plastic cheese and had never ever really tasted good cheese (I was a cheese taster chicken) before I moved over here to the UK. Oh sure . . . my mom used to get in some Cracker Barrel every Christmas, but . . . I was too chicken to try it.
I never really thought of cheese as being a seasonal product, but this wonderful cookery book, "A Year In Cheese," by Alex and Leo Guarneri (recipes by Alessandro Grano) has completely enlightened and changed my way of thinking!
I can remember when I was a child, the taste of our milk changed with the seasons. There was a distinct different between the flavour of milk in the Spring/Summer when the cows were put back out to pasture and the milk we drank in the Autumn/Winter. Butter changed it's flavour also. It only stands to reason that cheese, which is made from milk . . . would also need to change with the seasons, and each time of year would bring different depths of flavours etc. to the cheeses which are made during those seasons.
This book, Alex and Léo Guarneri’s A Year in Cheese: A Seasonal Cheese Cookbook is about understanding that principle and embracing it in the kitchen. After a brief introduction etc. the book is essentially divided into four seasons and embraces and explores the moods and characters of each season and the cheeses that go along with them.
It begins with Spring . . . which is really the beginning of the cheese cycle and when producers start making the first harder cheeses of the year. Spring brings us lighter young cheeses and the entendant recipes which highlight these flavours and the joys of Spring such as tender asparagus, spring peas, etc. With delicious recipes such as Fregola with Ossau-iraty and Ricotta-stuffed Courgette Flowers, Lamb Navarin with Soureliette Topped Toast, Roast Beefroot, Goat's Curd and Pine Kernel Salad to name but a few. Each chapter also ends with a Seasonal Cheese Board.
Summer . . . Ricotta, Mozzarella and the soft cheeses. We are treated to such delights as Chilled Tomato Soup with Ricotta and Basil Oil, Feta and Watermelon Salad . . . Clafoutis with Peaches and La Tur . . .
Autumn brings us harder and richer cheeses . . . Cheddar, Gruyere and the semi-hard cheeses. There are recipes for dishes such as Bavettes au Roquefort (Steak), Emmenthal, Brie and Serrano Ham Croquettes, Roast Butternut Squash with Vintage Gouda, Bourdalou Tart with Whipped Petit Suisse. A Bourdaloue is a sweet pastry tart, filled with an almond frangipane and topped with fruit, baked and glazed with apricot jam . . . delicious. My mouth waters at the thought and the photo is gorgeous.
Winter, with my favourite cheeses . . . bold cheeses. Reblochon and Comte . . . yum! I love a Raclette with Reblochon and 18 month Comte is a weakness of mine. If the thought of Beef Cheeks with Gruyere Etivaz and Horseradish Mash or Stilton, Pear and Port Terrine doesn't get your tastebuds tingling, I don't know what will.
And those are just a few samples of the delicious recipes contained in this lovely book! The recipes are excellent and very French in character. Most are very doable, but others are a bit more ambitious in reach, tempting the cook to stretch a bit. I like that in a book. I love to be challenged. In many instances substitutions are recommended that you can use instead if a cheese is difficult or impossible to find in your area. Each recipe is also beautifully photographed. This is a book that begs to be gazed at and leafed through . . . and enjoyed on many levels.
I would not tell you about a book without sampling the recipes and this recipe for Tartiflette with Reblochon was begging me to try it. Potatoes and cheese . . . and bacon. Those three ingredients . . . a trinity of deliciousness.
The recipe was well written and the results were fabulously delicious. I would never have thought to simmer the bacon lardons in water first to remove some of the salt. This is the type of thing which elevates this book in my opinion. These little tips and hints which take a recipe from being merely good to being superb.
*Tartiflette with Reblochon*Serves 4
(These weigh an average of 450g or 16 ounces)salt and freshly ground black pepper
Alex and Leo Guarneri are two brothers who were inspired by Henri and Pierre Androuet to reintroduce some of the seasonal traditions of cheese to a modern audience. Their grandfather was a food importer and their mother ran a cookery school in Paris . . a heritage which has taught them to value good food.. Alex trained as a fromager at the Androuet fromagerie in Paris, whilst Leo worked at the world-class Le Cinq restaurant in Paris learning all aspects of the business. These experiences provided all the skills needed to start their own business which they began as a market stall in Spitalfields Market in London in 2009. They licensed the Androuet name and quickly built up a reputation for high quality cheeses eventually supplying many of London’s best restaurants including Duck & Waffle, Terroirs, Galvin Brothers and Bruno Loubet. The success of the market stall in Spitalfields Market led to a shop and restaurant,within the last five years, the brother’s empire has expanded to eight branches in Paris and two in Stockholm.
Another important member of the London team is head chef, Alessandro Grano whose belief in food which was fresh, seasonal and local. His passion for such struck a chord with the Guarneri brothers and provided the inspiration for the recipes in the book which pays homage to the past whilst looking for new flavours and exciting new and innovative ways of cooking with cheese.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who is a keen cook and wanting to try new things and stretch their palate, knowledge and abilities a bit. And if you happen to also love cheese and good food, well, this book is a winner on all counts. Well written. Beautifully photographed. Delicious from beginning to end. Two thumbs up!
A Year In Cheese
A Seasonal Cheese Cookbook
by Alex and Leo Guarneri
Recipes by Alessandro Grano
Published by Frances Lincoln Limited
Hard Cover, full colour
UK £20.00/ US $29.99 / Canada $32.99
Many thanks to Frances Lincoln for sending me a copy to review. Athough I received a copy for review free of charge, any and all opinions are my own.