IN a country where dairy products of various kinds form an integral part of meals across cultures, cheese has a rather small presence. Perceived largely as a Western concept, it is consumed as a part of international cuisines. Cottage cheese or paneer is the only exception. It is to “remedy this” that French cheese specialist François Robin is currently touring India. At a cheese tasting on March 27, organised by Business France along with National Interprofessional of the Dairy Economy, France, he demonstrated to his audience that French cheeses need not be alien to Indian cuisines.
The evening had a special menu, designed by Robin and the chefs at Indigo, Colaba, Mumbai, where the event was hosted. It consisted of a variety of Indian starters in which cheese was an important ingredient. Mutton shammi kebab was infused with brie and served with mint chutney. The hard emmental cheese was served with gunpowder-spiced prawn patty.
Robin said the menu was designed in a way that the cheese complements the dishes. “It’s important to me, as a fromager, to ensure that the cheese is the centrepiece of the dish. You have to be able to taste the cheese,” he said. The results were interesting. The strong flavour of the blue cheese drizzle stood out amid the spices of the tandoori chicken tartlets and the soft and mild goat cheese cut the spice of the stuffed fried Jodhpuri chilli that was served with saunth chutney.
Another menu, created exclusively by Robin, however, was chiefly a showcase of the cheeses and their taste as standalones. It included dishes such as baked camembert and brie stuffed with pistachios. He did include one Indian dish in his menu — blue cheese in a naan. “Many people are averse to trying out blue cheese. The naan allows a soft introduction to this specific variety and is a popular dish in India,” said Robin.
The organisers are also hosting a few cheese workshops in Mumbai and Delhi in April. There will be consumer promotion campaigns with a series of cheese tastings at a couple of hypermarts in Delhi as well.
“France has 2,000 varieties of cheeses. The ones we are promoting in India are vegetarian or cheese without animal rennet. These are easily available varieties, such as brie, goat’s cheese, camembert,” said Robin.
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