For most 6 year-old Hong Kong children their first cheese experience probably involved a processed cheese slice. Its synthetic flavour and sticky-soft texture is somehow addictive and moreish. Simply put a slice of cheese on top of a piece of toast, and there you are – grilled cheese. It is simple and satisfactory.
When it comes to ‘proper cheese’, Europe has a large variety of delicious cheeses. English cheddar, French brie, Swiss emmental, Dutch edam and gouda, Italian parmigiano-reggiano and many more. Let’s not forget to mention blue cheese as well.
Frankly, my experience with European cheese has not all been pleasant. During the time that I was living in England all sorts of different cheeses were available in different tastes and textures, some of which were pretty alien to my Asian pallet. This acquired taste really needs time to seduce a ‘real cheese’ virgin. However, as a regular home cook with an eagerness to learn and taste new ingredients, I have never fully given up on cheese but have never been able to fully appreciate it either. To order a cheese board as the last course of the meal is just mind boggling to me.
Until one day, I hosted a dinner party at home with family and friends and I forgot to prepare pudding to round up the meal. Fortunately, one of my guests brought some cheese as a gift, including some Port Salut, Boursin, Comte, Morbier and Stilton and it just so happened that I had grapes, apples, figs and celery in the fridge. He suggested to plate up a cheese board to share, and I thought I might as well dish out some home-grown green tomato chutney in a little ramekin to serve. We used Melba toast instead of crackers and the result was delish. It was great that I got to use my chutney which stayed in the cellar for lord knows how long. The sweetness of fruit and chutney, goes miraculously well with the acidity and saltiness of the cheese. From then on, I fell in love with the cheese board and a glass of wine or two to accompany it.
So that is a little bit about my experiences with cheese so far and here is my recipe that not only cheese novices will love but also cheese connoisseurs too!
- Cheddar cheese, shredded
- Lancashire cheese, crumbled
- Processed cheese sauce (the type you pour on top of nachos)
- Parmesan cheese, finely grated
- Breadcrumbs or panko (Japanese-style breadcrumbs)
- One whisked egg
- Mix the first two ingredients together in a large bowl. Then pour the cheese sauce over them to bind the cheeses together. Add the cheese sauce little by little until the consistency is thick enough to be shaped into 1.5 inch diameter balls.
- Coat the balls with flour, shaking off any excess flour and then dip them into the egg wash. Turn them around carefully until fully coated.
- Mix the breadcrumbs with parmesan cheese. Then coat the balls with breadcrumbs, slightly pressing the breadcrumbs into the cheese balls so they stick a little better.
- Heat the oil to 160 C. Put the cheese balls into the hot oil, deep-frying them until the surfaces of them firm up. Do not move them for the first 3 minutes, otherwise they might burst. Move them around to cook evenly, deep-frying them until all the balls float to the top. Remove the cheese balls from the oil.
- Turn up the burner to high heat and put the cheese balls in again to deep-fry them until they are golden brown. Strain and serve immediately.
- Mix parmesan cheese with breadcrumbs to give the dish a pungent fragrance for the coating.
- There is no fixed amount of ingredients, the cheese combination can be changed to suit your personal taste.
- Hot spices can be added onto the coating to give a strong kick to the dish.
- This ‘fake and real’ combination is irresistible to everyone.