Last month I had the good fortune to attend an excellent cheese workshop for 2 days at The Lafayette Gourmet conducted by master cheese taster Nicola Nebbia from Italy and Chef Marco Legittimo of Bussola Westin Mina Seyahi in association with Agriform.
We were introduced to 5 Italian cheese of the highest quality as certified by PDO (protective and designation of quality ) level.
It was a real eye opener and I would like to share my experience.
Through the 3 workshops we learnt about the intrinsic differences in the cheese, their tastes and pairings with food and liquids, as well as how you could use them in certain dishes.
All these cheese are made with cold milk and come from al topiano or high plain zone from northern Italy.
Italy has more than 600 types of cheese in the region ,and they differ even though they are made with the same milk as their method of production,place and type of storage differs.
Asiago is a fresh soft cheese and has an aging of 20-30 days. It comes in small packets which can be opened individually, and you cut a thick slice (as it is a mild cheese) from rind to the centre to taste the evolution and freshness of the cheese. It needs to be refrigerated but kept out for at least 20 mins before tasting and as you chew it ,you use your tongue to taste the creamy texture as the flavours and aroma come out better.Asiago can be paired with fruit and nuts such as pears, kiwi, grapes, raspberry,pistachio, thin bread etc
Grana Padano is the oldest cheese about 1000yrs ago from the middle ages,made by the monks as a way to preserve excess milk for a longer time . It is made with partially skimmed morning and evening before milk and the process made it a harder and stronger cheese. Only 7% of the milk became cheese and 2% of the whey or serum was made into ricotta.Aging of this cheese is from 9-12 months and it is served not in slices but by breaking it up as it is grainy.you canserve it with honey ,dates, walnuts , almonds, apricots, strawberries, blackberries etc
Piave is a cheese from a little region of the north east of Italy made of partially skimmed old milk.The wheel is smaller in weight and height,the head of the cheese is on top and has its name and the colour is medium. You cut this vertically from rind to rind. If its made from April-summer when the cows graze fresh grass and wild herbs the cheese is more flavourful and in winter the milk gives more toasted and nutty flavours to the cheese. The Piave texture is harder ( you cannot compress itlike the Asiago) and it is smoother as it has more fat (as compared to Grana) and a more nutty flavour
Parmigiano is older and senior to the Grana and is from the south of Bologna from only the morning milk and has an aging of 1-5 years ,sometimes could even be 8-13 yrs and because of its longer aging it has only 3% fat. You cut this cheese in the same way as the Grana,opening the wheel horizontally and then carving it into peices with the heart/pear shaped cheese knife. It is rich in calcium which makes it grainy and the longer the aging ,the higher the calcium.Fruity in taste and well paired with Balsamic Vinegar among others.
Pecorino is made from sheep milk and is also a hard and salty cheese used for grating
COOKING WITH THE CHEESE
Asiago Risotto with Grana Padano and Truffle toppings
ROCKET WITH FILACCI(BEEF SHAVINGS)SALAD WITH PORCINI MUSHROOMS
LIQUID PAIRINGS ( usual and unusual )
ASIAGO with pineapple juice (the more milky and buttery cheese goes well with more tannin juices.
GRANA PADANO pairs well with unsweetened blackberry or raspberry juice and a medium flavoured red wine like a Merlot or a sparkling wine
PIAVE with blackberries and non alcoholic red and white wine
PARMIGIANO REGGIANO is paired with aged Cabernet Sauvignon or with Earl Grey Tea and honey
PALATE CLEANERS ( FLAVOURED WATER RASPBERRY ROSEMARY)BETWEEN TASTINGS
I came home with not only immense knowledge but goodie bags and a lovely cheese hamper ( was my lucky day )