Parsi Cheesemakers: Say cheese, desi ishtyle


July 23, 2009

ABC Farms: The Parsi-run establishment, by the trio of Rohinton Aga, Adi Bathena and Eruch Chinoy (hence the ABC), have over 60 varieties of cheeses. ABC farms: 20-26810555.

All local cheeses retail in and around their dairies. A few like ABC farms, Kodai cheese and Sikkim cheeses are available at national supermarket chains.

You know your Emmenthal from your Gouda, you’ve swirled white wine with peaches and Parmiggiano Reggiano beneath a tree in Tuscany, and you sprinkle your salads with feta not shudder… paneer…? But how well do you know your Indian cheeses?
“My feedback from the expat crowd is that a young Indian gouda is comparable to the best in the world,” avers Kuldeep Shanker of Steak House Delhi.

He’s not alone, blogger Elga from Germany writes of her search for Sikkim’s gouda after backpacking across the state. “We thought we would find more as we went along, but we didn’t,” she writes. “It’s by far the best gouda I’ve ever tasted!” A rare find, Kalimpong cheese as it is called, was made by Brother Abraham, a parish priest in Sikkim, but after his passing away the quality of the locally produced delicacy, just isn’t the same locals in Sikkim explain. While production of the region’s Gouda has been taken over by Amul, a small amount of the local variety by Pappu Diary Co-op, which shut down wholescale production a few years ago, is available occasionally in Kolkatta (only 10 kgs are made each day).

Scattered across the country, small farms and cheese projects in collaboration with the Dutch, the French and the Swiss are moulding the best cheeses with Indian air, water and milk from cows, goats and even camels! “The Flander’s farm in Delhi has their own jerseys, so their quality of milk helps them retain a stronghold in the North” explains Shanker, “And Nepalese cheese was the equivalent of the Kalimpong one, and is just as good when you can procure it.”

A German couple in Kullu Manali send out a batch from Himachal when the mood strikes them, and if you’re lucky that’s a rare find. “A lady by name of Vijaya Vatsala, an organic honey farmer, is experimenting with goat’s cheese” points out Viraf Patel, chief executive group chef, Impresario. Himalayan yak’s cheese, sold across shops in Ladakh, and the only fat-free cheese in the world is now sold in American gourmet stores as a delicacy. Mansoor and Tina, a young Mumbai-based couple chucked up their hectic city lives to move to Coonoor in the Nilgiri’s with their three children in 2004, and run Acres Wild farm, a brand of cheese that retails around Coonoor, Coimbatore and Ooty. The Balakrishnans, nestled in the Kodai hills, run a bed and breakfast and their Cinnabar farms is the only place to take an organic cheese farming class.

While some like Rahul Akerkar of Indigo don’t put much stock by Indian cheeses, Patel explains, “We still have a long way to go, but India is doing well with hard cheeses and very well with fresh cheeses like mozzarella and ricotta. We are also good with vegetarian cheese and are the largest exporter of rennet because in India we have little use for it. But by and large, Indian cheese is used in cuisine rather than on its own. As a gourmet cheese, we are yet to develop a signature Indian cheese.”
How to use Indian cheese:

Use Flander’s kwark for baking cheese cakes, and serve Pondicherry’s gourmet cheeses with your wines. ABC Farms’ bocconcinni stuffed with olives and fondue cheese flavoured with wine or cherry brandy are great for parties, use Kodai’s Romano to flavour soups and sauces, and their Gruyere for fondue. Cinnabar farms’ Cinnableu and ABC’s blue are the only two blue cheeses in the country. Monterey Jack is great for melty BLT sandwiches.

Original article here.