Today, I’m going to share a secret that a lot of people don’t know about Goa and a recipe ; Goan made cheese and Apple, Grape & Camembert Salad With Garlic Croutons. One day a couple of years ago, I was at the local supermarket looking through the cold storage section when I came across these little packets of cheese. They all had pictures of smiling cows on the labels which read Swiss Happy Cow Goan Cheese. Intrigued, I picked up one to take a closer look only to find that this cheese was being made right here in Goa!
That was like finding a treasure of sorts because I love cheese (not the really stinky or mouldy types though). I’m normally restricted to a choice between imported (read very expensive) cheeses or an unsteady supply of Indian made cheeses from Pondicherry, Kodaikanal or Nilgiris. I prefer Indian cheese mainly because they’re vegetarian (made with vegetarian rennet).
Unfortunately, living in Goa means that whenever I need a particular cheese I can almost be sure that the couple of local supermarkets that do stock cheese don’t have them on the shelf!
The thought of a cheese maker somewhere in my extended neighbourhood made me feel like the proverbial kid in the candy shop. The only problem was I had no way of getting in touch with the cheesemaker. There were no contact details or an address on the labels. A little investigative work and I finally managed to get a phone number, called and arranged to visit.
That’s how Revati and I ended up one afternoon in the sleepy village of Siolim, outside a gate wearing a sign featuring a “cool” cow wearing sunshades. A couple of vociferous dogs led us through to the house where we met Barbara Schwarzfischer. She is German, now settled in Goa and makes and sells the Swiss Happy Cow Goan cheese. She walked us through the processes of how she sources the milk and makes sure it’s the right quality (which isn’t easy here), how the cheeses are made and matured and then treated us to a taste of some of them.
Barbara, a qualified cheese maker from Bavaria, worked in the Swiss Alps making cheese but decided to move to Goa about 10 years ago. She started out making cheese at home for her friends and that eventually led to a larger home based business.
She started off making only fresh Swiss cheese but found the warm and humid climate here perfect for making more mature cheeses as well. Today she makes and sells a wide variety of cheeses including Ricotta, buffalo Mozzarella, Feta, Camembert, Mutschli, Blue Cheese, and a soft ‘Tomme de Goa’ with walnuts, or other additions like cumin, capers, olives or chili flakes. Since Barbara is a vegetarian, she uses vegetarian form of rennet which means her cheeses are vegetarian which is an added bonus.
I came back from Siolim with a small bag of cheese and must confess I had a tough time resisting the overwhelming temptation to empty my purse and come back with more. I love Feta and Camembert and I also fell in love with Barbara’s cumin flavoured Tomme de Goa. Of course, one can always eat cheese as it is but some cheese especially the fresh and less mature ones are excellent in salads.
Given below is the recipe for a salad I made using the Camembert I bought from Siolim. It’s a very easy and light summery and fruity salad to put together. The Camembert cheese lends a nice creamy texture with a contrast crunch from the garlic croutons. Serve the salad on the side or serve it just by itself for a very light summertime meal.
If anyone vising Goa who would like to try Barbara’s cheese, they retail in most of the larger supermarkets here in Panjim, Calangute/ Candolim and Anjuna under the name of Swiss Happy Cow Goan cheese.
Apple, Grape & Camembert Salad With Garlic Croutons
- 2 tbsps olive oil
- 1/2 tsp garlic paste
- 3 or 4 baguette slices 1 cm thick
- 2 tbsps honey
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsps fresh orange juice
- 2 firm sweet apples , cored , cut into wedges (not too thick)
- 200 gm Camembert cheese cut into cubes
- 1 cup green seedless grapes halved
- 1/3 cup halved unslated cashews and almonds toasted
- baby spinach, mint or basil to garnish
- Cut the slices of bread into small cubes. Heat the olive oil and the garlic in a pan over medium heat. Add the bread cubes, and toss the bread in the oil till well coated. Stir on and off until the bread is golden brown and crisp. Let it cool.
- Next, pour the other 1 tbsp olive oil, honey and orange juice into in a small glass jar with a tight lid and shake well to mix. Keep aside.
- Now combine the apple, the grapes, the cheese cubes and the cashews/ almonds in a salad bowl. Just before serving, shake the dressing once more and then add to the salad and toss. Add the garlic croutons and lightly toss once again.
- Garnish with the baby spinach, mint or basil. Serve immediately.