food

Alternative cheeses to try: Substitutes for the likes of brie and cheddar.

Dairy Australia
Thanks to our brand partner, Dairy Australia

So many cheeses, so little time.

OK, that’s not exactly a saying. But in all seriousness, it might as well be. The cheese aisle is a magical place where some of the most important household decisions are made.

And Australia alone produces hundreds of mouth-watering cheeses – all with the same package of healthy nutrients, protein and calcium.

The thing is, in the rush of trying to get our weekly shop done and dusted, most of us end up reaching for the same brie and cheddar that we always do. That, and we can find ourselves overwhelmed for choice, without a clear idea of how exactly the more obscure cheeses should be eaten.

What this means is that many of us are missing out on a whole, wide world of cheesy goodness. And considering cheese is one of the great food joys in life, it seems crazy not to indulge that.

After much careful deliberation, we’ve rounded up a list of alternative cheeses for the popular classics. Importantly, they’re all easy to find at local retailers.

1. If you like mozzarella, try burrata.

Most of us will use mozzarella generously in our cooking, especially Italian-inspired pasta sauces and pizzas. It traditionally comes as a soft white ball in water, but these days we also buy longer-lasting versions that are shredded, firmer and more yellow.

So I’m just going to go ahead and say it. Pause on the mozzarella. Burrata is what dreams are made of.

What’s it like? Burrata looks similar to classic mozzarella: round, moist, creamy, delicious. But it takes mozzarella one step further, because it is formed in a pouch and filled with soft curd and cream. The magic happens when you slice it open to reveal a beautifully oozy centre.

How do I eat it? Because it is so special and delicate, it is best enjoyed as is, on an antipasto platter or with fine charcuterie, a little crusty bread and some olive oil. You can also use it to amp up a simple, already-cooked pasta dish or mix it into a salad, such as with fresh basil and tomato.

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"Burrata is what dreams are made of." Image: iStock. 

2. If you like parmesan, try pecorino.

Catching a whiff of parmesan is like entering a time machine. Most of us carry fond childhood memories of topping our bowls of pasta with as much grated parmesan as we can humanly handle.

And we continue this tradition throughout adult life. But there is another lesser-known hard cheese that also boasts similar characteristics. Meet your new friend, pecorino.

What's it like? Like parmesan, pecorino has a punchy odour and robust, salty flavour. But there are slight differences in taste. Pecorino is known to be saltier and tangier, while parmesan is nuttier and milder.

How do I eat it? Pecorino pairs perfectly with dishes including pasta, lasagne, risotto and soup. Or shave it over salad, pizza and grilled vegetables to add some kick. You can also add it to your cheese platter, best served with a sweet accompaniment such as fresh fig or pear, and some good, crusty bread.

"Pecorino is known to be saltier and tangier." Image: iStock. 

3. If you like cheddar, try gouda. 

Cheddar is the most commonly eaten cheese in the world, and for good reason. It's bloomin' delicious. And Australia has many divine options. But sometimes it is good to step outside of this comfort zone because there are so many other delectable, must-try hard and semi-hard cheeses out there.

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It was tough to narrow down to one, but we've settled on gouda as the variety you should taste next.

What's it like? Gouda is a cow's milk cheese. Like cheddar, it can vary wildly: from mild, creamy wax-coated versions to hard, crumbly and deep in flavour.

How do I eat it? Gouda melts easily, making it great to cook with. Think tarts, quiches, casseroles, pasta bakes and potato gratins. Or simply slip it into your jaffle.

An older gouda is also spectacular grated over salads, or served with charcuterie and pickles. Long-aged goudas are almost crystalline and crunchy in texture, and will be a stand-out on any cheese platter.

"Gouda is a cow's milk cheese originating from the Netherlands." Image: iStock.

4. If you like brie and camembert, try washed rind.

OK, listen. We know how hard it is to look past the sensational creaminess of a classic brie or camembert. But trust us. Take a leap of faith and allow your tastebuds to go on an adventure. Because washed rind will not disappoint.

What's it like? It's among the world's most robust smelling cheeses. In other words, you know you're in for a treat. A soft-ripened washed rind is like a brie or camembert but with a next-level flavour punch.

It's washed with a special brine during the maturing phase that helps create an orange-coloured rind and strong barnyard flavour and scent.

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How do I eat it? Almost like you would a regular brie. To allow it to reach its full potential, bring it to room temperature for at least half an hour before serving.

You only need very simple pairings, like bread or crackers, to enjoy this complex, savoury cheese. Accompany it with a slice of pear or apple and toasted fruit bread. Or, go even sweeter with some honey, raisins or figs. Intense herbs like rosemary and thyme also work well with this cheese.

"One of the world's strongest smelling cheeses." Image: The Dairy Kitchen.

5. If you like cream cheese, try ricotta.

Cream cheese is one of those moreish, versatile spreads many of us love to smear on toast, or blend into dips and other appetisers. It is also a key ingredient in cheesecake. But I implore you to give ricotta a good crack the next time you are after a fresh, soft cheese.

What's it like? Ricotta is a snowy-white mass of very fine grains. It's firmness sits in a happy medium between wet and solid. To taste, it is lighter than cream cheese; mild, milky and almost cloud-like on the tongue, with a fresh, slightly sweet and eggy flavour.

How do I eat it? There are so, so many wonderful ways to use ricotta: dips like pesto, layered in lasagne, filled in cannelloni, stirred into casseroles or omelettes.

It can also make your desserts effortlessly sing: serve it with fresh or poached fruit, on top of pancakes with dried fruit and cinnamon. It is also a perfect pre-gym snack, on a cracker with tomato and cracked pepper, or drizzled with some honey and slices of fruit.

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"There are so, so many wonderful ways to use ricotta." Image: iStock.

6. If you like feta, try chèvre.

Whether it's to toss in salads, stir through pasta or simply eat as is, Australia is blessed with awesome feta. But I'll let you in on a little secret: we also have some damn good chèvre (also known as goat cheese).

What's it like? First off, you should know what the main difference between the two cheeses is. Feta is made with a mixture of goat's and cow's or sheep's, while goat cheese is, well, pure goat. Chèvre has a more distinct tart and salty flavour to it, and like feta it can be found in either soft or firm textures, and sometimes marinated.

How do I eat it? Buy firmer chèvre, such a round ashed chèvre with a mould, to enjoy with crispy water crackers and a sweet jam. Chèvre will also make your family meals extra special.

Crumble it into a fresh salad packed with Mediterranean flavours and herbs. Sprinkle it over your quiche, omelette or pizza. Smash it with avocado and lemon to have with some multigrain toast.

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"Chèvre will also make your family meals extra special." Image: iStock.

7. If you like Swiss cheese, try raclette.

Swiss cheese is among the globe's most recognisable because of its distinguishable eyes (or holes). But there's an alpine cheese that is a staple in Swiss kitchens we promise you will love: Raclette. The best part? You don't have to venture to the Alps for this one - there's a great raclette made in Tasmania. Heidi Farm Raclette, pictured below, won the best cheese in Australia at the recent 2017 Australian Grand Dairy Awards. L’Artisan cheese also make a great raclette in Timboon, Victoria.

What's it like? It's a firm cheese, a strong flavour with sweet and nutty tones, and a smooth texture. It's similar to the Swiss cheese except it has more complex savoury or umami characteristics.

How do I eat it? You can slice it, cube it or grate it. But melted, it is like nothing you have ever tasted. Typically the cheese round is heated and the ooey-gooey goodness is scraped onto your plate, alongside a serving of potatoes and cured meats. Heaven.

Ooey-gooey goodness. Image: The Dairy Kitchen.

What is your fave cheese?

This post was written thanks to our brand partner Dairy Australia

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