With Valentine’s day coming up next week, I thought I would post about about my favourite cheese – which just so happens to be heart shaped.
France is well known for the overwhelming variety of cheeses. I once heard that there was a different cheese for everyday of the year. In truth, there are more than 365 different cheeses and some of the lessor known cheeses, made using very traditional methods by only a small number of artisans, are in danger of disappearing from the list altogether. But each cheese is associated with a specific region, and named after that region.
If you think you know your French cheeses – take this quiz, and post your scores!
My favourite cheese, however, is made in the area where I live – NeufchÃ¢tel-en-Bray, which is in the pays de Bray region of Normandy. NeufchÃ¢tel cheese is said to be one of the oldest cheeses in France, and certainly in Normandy – where it is older than the better known camembert and brie.
The earliest record of NeufchÃ¢tel cheese is 1050, where it is mentioned as a tithe payment. But from the end of the 18th century onwards this cheese becomes well-known and much liked, it was sent to Rouen and Paris, as well as being exported to the United kingdom. The cheese comes in a variety of shapes, but the most popular shape nowadays is heart-shaped, or the coeur du NeufchÃ¢tel.
There is very little known for certain why it is made in this shape, but legend has it that this originates from the end of the 100 Years War. It is said that the women who made the cheese did so in the shape of the heart to express their love to the non-French speaking English soldiers. Who knows if this is true, but it makes a nice story, certainly for this time of the year.
The cheeses come in three different sizes, the small ones are not much bigger than a golf ball. I bake the small cheeses until the inside is runny, and then serve them on lettuce with a red-currant jelly.
If you have not yet planned anything special for your loved one – it is not too late to book a city break in Paris, or even a quiet, rural break somewhere in the country.