When I got a letter inviting me to participate in a French Goats Cheese Masterclass last year, I was immediately intrigued. For sometime now I was curious to find more about goats cheese and how to cook with it for a personal reason. My little niece was diagnosed with allergy to the cow milk's protein which means that she can not eat cow's milk or any other cow milk product including cheeses. As cheese is quite often served on the table I was looking for some alternative ways to include it in her diet too.
It turns out goat's milk is an alternative for people allergic to cow's milk protein or suffering from lactose intolerance (which is the inability to digest the lactose - sugar contained in milk.) Compared to cow's milk goat's milk has different easily digestible fat and different protein. Besides, it contains very small amounts of the allergic casein found in cow's milk .
Lactose in goat's milk is slightly lower than in cow's milk (although still may affect some lactose intolerant people). (Source)
I have tried home-made goats milk products as a child and was sincerely repulsed by the smell, so even now I am a bit cautious when it comes to goat's milk. But it seems some time ago farmers figured out how to eliminate the unpleasant odour or at least minimise it to tolerable levels.
So with this in mind I headed to the cooking school where the Master class was about to start.
First we had a feast of French goat's cheese selection. It was a totally unexpected and delightful experience! We tried at least 12 different cheeses ranging from fresh cheese, artisanal with ash-coated rind, through Camembert to cheese logs with different textures and rinds (natural or bloomy). I particularly remember the Camembert, ash-coated rind cheese and the spreadable fresh cheese. Honestly I did not expect such a variety, as the main kind of goat's cheese I had tried was feta-like. And there was no feta-like goat's cheese among the French ones.
French farmers do amazingly varied cheeses out of goat's milk and that is not a surprise as France is the world's largest goat's cheese producer with some 100,000 tonnes per year, although it exports as little as 12 % of the that amount. And the varieties are over 1,000 coming in different shapes - disks, logs and mini logs and pyramids, coated in ash or wrapped in leaves.
The French Goat's Cheese campaign is organised by the French Government and has chef Sophie Wright as its ambassador in the UK.
After the presentation and tasting of the cheeses paired with renowned white wines, we were invited to try to cook some of the recipes Sophie had developed (fish cakes with spreadable cheese and cheese and rosemary muffins) and had the chance to try the warm grilled pear, endive and Crottin de Chavignol with caramelised walnuts (it was amazing!) and a baked cheesecake with orange and raspberries.
The only thing I regret is forgetting to take my camera with me, but when I go to a cooking class I usually expect to have to cook and not having time or appropriate conditions for photos, so most of the time I leave it at home and then regret it.
And I'll be very happy to share the fish cake recipe.
I personally love fish cakes but to be honest hadn't done them so far, because it seemed too much of a hassle and looked like time consuming job. It was not. And I the fish cakes were the best I had ever tried. Needless to say everybody else at home loved them too!
I did make some changes in the original recipe though as replacing the smoked salmon with smoked haddock using a bit more potatoes, adding a garlic cove and using panko breadcrumbs, but the rest is as per Sophie Wright.
Smoked haddock fish cakes with spreadable goats cheese
(Makes 12-15 depending on size)
150 gr smoked haddock fillet
350 gr haddock skinless fillet
1 clove of garlic
2-3 tbsp chopped parsley
2-3 tbsp chopped chives
450 r Mris Piper potatoes (about 2 large potatoes)
1 tbsp capers - rinsed
juice of 1/2 lemon
150 gr Spreadable pyramidal goats cheese
4-5 tbsp flour
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
Peel and cut the potatoes in 2-inch pieces, cover with water, add salt and bring to the boil. After some 15 minutes check if they are soft and remove from heat. Mash and set aside too cool down.
In the meantime cut the fish into chunks and pulse in a food processor. Add the parsley and chives, the lemon juice and the capers. Continue to bend until smooth.Place in a bowl and combine with the ashed potatoes well.
Make balls out of it (I did 12 various sizes.) and press with a thumb or a spoon to make a place for the cheese. insert the cheese and form the cake so that the cheese stays in the middle.
*At his point I found the patties too soft, so just pat them with the flour, placed on a tray and placed in the freezer for some 10 minutes.
Then proceeded with washing them in eggs and covering in breadcrumbs.
Heat oil in a pan and fry the fish cakes for 3-4 minutes on each side until golden-brown. Then return on a tray and when all of them are done, place in the oven at 190 degrees for more 12 minutes.
Serve immediately with green salad.
I will most surely cook this recipe again!