Cheese Matters: Simply Feta

Feta, Ouzo and watermelon might seem like an unusual combination but this trio is Greek mischief with a capital ‘M’. Whether it is served as an appetiser or made up as a salad accompaniment to your main, Feta, Ouzo and watermelon equal delicious summer freshness at its best.

I love writing about things that I grew up with and I vividly remember backyard parties in summer with extended family where more than one or two little glasses of Ouzo were sipped along with ruby red watermelon and chunks of salty Feta.

A welcoming summer refreshment before the massive spread of traditional Greek food. Alternatively, the three ingredients can be put together to make a summer salad that goes well with a whole-baked snapper.

This is done by simply cutting up chunky pieces of sweet watermelon flesh, arranging in bowl with finely sliced red onion, then placing the feta of your choice on top. It is important to put it in the fridge, as this salad is best when served chilled. Meanwhile, make a dressing of equal parts Ouzo, red wine vinegar and olive oil (however, truth be known, I usually up the Ouzo component!) – whisk dressing before drizzling on top of the salad and finish with sprigs of fresh mint.

If, like me, you have a soft spot for liquorice and aniseed, you will love this. Feta featured fairly heavily in my dining experiences growing up, so much so there would be a mini crisis should the fridge be Feta-free. Feta is used as an appetiser and side dish and tops the popular ‘Greek salad’ made with tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, dried oregano and olives. Feta is also crumbled into pies and savoury pastries and can be fried in a similar way to haloumi.

My grandmother would serve this as a kind of poor man’s ‘spanakopita’. She would have a few sheets of filo pastry cut into small squares, drizzle them with olive oil before placing chunks of feta on top before pulling up the sides to make a loose casing for the cheese. She would then sprinkle with a little dried mint and bake until the filo was golden.

“The Greek gods would eat this with a little wine of course,” she would say. The use of Feta in Greek dishes is almost as important as the use of olive oil! In 1994, Greece asked for Feta to be protected under a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO). After a 13-year battle with Denmark, France, and Germany (who also produce cheese under the name Feta), Greece was finally granted the PDO. The PDO status began in the EU in 1992, as a way to protect specific foods and maintain their authenticity. And rightly so, in my opinion, as Greeks consume 12kg of Feta per person per year.

My recent discovery of making Persian-style Feta has me addicted even more to this simple cheese. Made slightly differently to the traditional Greek Feta I was brought up with, the Persian style is made using a potset method that requires acid development that usually is made overnight. The result is a very creamy almost silk-like, rich cheese, which, as I mentioned above, is ridiculously addictive. Our new range of these cheeses is rather exciting as we have mixed it up a bit by making a range under the Kris Lloyd Artisan brand using three different milks to gain a slightly different result with each. Each of the styles is marinated in fresh herbs and olive oil.

The straight buffalo is by far the most delicate in flavour. I continue to be surprised working with buffalo milk and its charming characteristic to be subtle and gentle in flavour. Our cow milk Persian Feta is rich – almost a triple-cream cheese in a jar (covered with olive oil).

The flavours are buttery and a little nutty – very decadent. I like using this to finish a risotto or a pasta dish; it takes the dish to a whole new level. The 100 percent goat presents a more acidic Feta than you might expect from goat’s milk. Finally, the blend of 50 percent cow and 50 percent goat’s milk is rich but also has the acid kick from the goat’s milk; it is my favourite of the four we produce.

I can only dream of sitting in a gorgeous little taverna in Greece looking over a turquoise blue sea sipping a little Ouzo and enjoying this simple cheese that can be served and enjoyed in so many ways.

Kris Lloyd is Woodside Cheese Wrights’ Head Cheesemaker
woodsidecheese.com.au

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