Hardy cheeses are perfect travellers, robust enough to survive time out of the fridge. Shop smart and they’ll become the starting point for away meals that can go in any number of directions, including a fine pairing with your winter soup.
Mild and so creamy it’s more like eating butter than blue cheese. Origin: Elandsfontein, Gauteng. cremalat.co.za
Swiss land Drakensberg
A white-mould goats’ cheese coated in black ash with a clean, creamy flavour. Origin: Balgowan, KwaZulu-Natal. swisslandcheese.net
A complex Gouda-style cheese ranging from five months to four years old. Origin: Cullinan, Gauteng. gonedsa.co.za
Rooted in Camembert but more wild in flavour – in a good way! Origin: Stanford, Western Cape. ganzvlei.co.za
Langbaken Karoo Crumble
A Cheddar-style cheese that delivers a huge umami hit. Origin: Williston, Northern Cape. firstname.lastname@example.org, 0533914161
PepÉ Charlot Buchette
A semi-soft log of creamy goats’ cheese in varying degrees of ripeness. Origin: Kommetjie, Western Cape. pepecharlot.co.za
How to choose the cheese?
Aim for farm rather than factory produced and avoid added flavours – you want to taste cheese! Try three different styles (soft, hard, mould) or different milks (goat, cow, sheep). Get expert advice by chatting to your cheesemonger and prioritise local. Perhaps it’s possible to stop in at an artisanal dairy en route or at your destination.
How many cheeses?
Traditionally it’s three; more than five gets confusing. Even better, choose one excellent cheese and serve it with pride, like Healey’s Cheddar with Granny Smith apples or a hunk of Parmesan with pears. It also makes wine pairing easier. Try a great big wedge of Karoo Crumble with nothing more the Joostenberg Chenin.
Think of multi-tasking accompaniments, like a jar of raw honey (excellent with creamy goats’ cheese) that will come in handy at breakfast. If there’s a jar of fig preserve or a bottle of chutney at the farm stall along the way, go ahead and incorporate it, but if the cheese is good to start with, it can stand alone.
Have some soup with your cheese
Two super-easy recipes to make ahead and pack in for the weekend, along with the cheese.
For goats’ cheese:
Helene’s Leek Soup
• 160g butter
• 600g leeks, topped and tailed, thinly sliced and washed well
• sea salt and black pepper
• 2.5L chicken stock
• crème fraîche
• chives, finely chopped
• seed loaf and butter
1. Add the butter, leeks and a good pinch of salt to a medium-sized pot over medium-low heat and replace the lid. Sweat for about 40 minutes or until soft and golden.
2. Add the stock, bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Blitz with a handheld blender until smooth, then season to taste.
3. Dish up the hot soup. Add a dollop of crème fraîche, sprinkle with chives and serve with seed loaf and cheese.
A more brothy soup relies on good homemade stock, but here it’s okay to use instant. A good convenience version is the Nomu Fond range. Italian funghi porcini stock cubes are particularly good for mushroom soup – find them under the brands Knorr, San Martino and Star at Italian delis and certain supermarkets.
Easy Mushroom Soup
• 80g butter
• 2 onions, finely chopped
• sea salt and black pepper
• 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
• 500g (2 punnets) button mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
• 2 small potatoes, peeled and chopped
• 1L mushroom stock (or dilute chicken stock)
• 250ml full-cream milk To serve
• 1T butter
• 150g (1 punnet) baby button mushrooms, cleaned
• cream (optional)
• 1 baguette (and butter)
1. Add the butter, onions and a good pinch of salt to a medium-sized pot over low to medium-low heat and put the lid on. Cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
2. Remove the lid and cook for 45 minutes until soft and caramelised. Check and stir frequently in the last 30 minutes. Add the garlic in the last five minutes.
3. Add the mushrooms, turn up the heat to medium and cook, stirring, until softened. Add the potato and stir until coated with butter.
4. Add the stock and milk and bring to the boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat, replace the lid and simmer gently for 15 minutes or until the potatoes are cooked.
5. Process with a handheld blender until smooth, and season if necessary.
6. When ready to serve, heat the butter over high heat in a large pan until bubbling. Add the baby button mushrooms, season well and cook quickly, moving constantly, until nicely browned.
7. Dish up the hot soup, adding a drizzle of cream to each. Spoon the browned baby mushrooms onto the cream and serve with a warm crusty baguette and cheese.
PLUS: The chicken soup in one of these chicken recipes is delicious with the Karoo Crumble and a baguette.
Where to buy cheese?
Cheese Gourmet, Joburg 0118885384
Culture Club Cheese, Cape Town 0214223515 cultureclubcheese.co.za
The Real Cheese, Cape Town 0214488041
Smoking Gourmet, Durban North 0315634557 smokinggourmet.co.za
The Cheeseman, The Heath, Harkerville (near Plett) 0824910102
Don’t forget your local artisanal food markets.
Great-value supermarket finds
Pick up interesting, locally sourced cheeses at larger Woolworths stores, especially in the Artisan Cheesemaker range, such as the Kilembe, a hard goats’ milk cheese by Belnori in Bapsfontein and the Boland, a washed rind cheese by Dalewood Fromage in Franschhoek. Also look out for the Gruberg from Klein River Cheesery in Stanford, as well as the Mature Gouda, aged for up to 24 months. Checkers specialises in imported cheeses, which is useful for finding Stilton to go with your Port, but it also stocks the award-winning Healey’s Farmhouse Cheddar made in Somerset West.
The French take cheese and wine seriously. Last year they conducted research to prove that ‘when having a plate of assorted cheeses, the wine will probably taste better no matter which one you choose’. Très bon! Maybe it’s because both are fermented – wine with yeast, cheese with bacteria – or maybe it’s that they share an acid sense of humour. Who cares: it’s a match made in the cellars of heaven and you’d be mad not to explore the possibilities. Because both products are such strong characters, it’s hard to find one-size-fits-all options, so rather go with one perfect, kick-ass, super-tweetable pairing. Push your boundaries and don’t be mean – if you’re ever going to blow the drinks budget, do it on a cheese-and-wine moment.
The gourmand’s choice
Karoo Crumble is a prince of cheeses and deserves a suitable partner, such as the Joostenberg Chenin Blanc Noble Late Harvest 2015 (R140). It’s liquid gold, full of marmalade and honey notes that bring an entire cheeseboard to life, including the Gorgonzola. Joostenberg is organic, so you can finish the bottle (guaranteed to happen) with a clear conscience. greenwineawards.com
Also read: What is green wine?
The classic pairing
Goats’ cheese is typically acidic, which explains why it waltzes with Sauvignon Blanc (google ‘Sancerre’). From the secluded Cape Point Vineyards in Noordhoek, you can see, with a pair of binoculars, Pepé Charlot’s goats in the distance: did someone say ‘terroir’? Cape Point Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc is R110, the Reserve is R165 and the awesome Isliedh (Semillon blend) is R240.
A 2017 Best Value champion, Aan de Doorns offers a three-star Cape Ruby Port that will set you back a miserly R45. Port and smelly cheeses were made for each other, with the sweetness of the wine balancing the pungent creamy saltiness. Try it with the Drakensberger. bestvaluewineguide.com
This story originally appeared in the June 2017 issue of Getaway magazine.
Our June issue features a Namibia dune tour, 8 epic Drakensberg hikes, and 22 of the most unbeatable winter deals in SA.