Middle East meets West

A beginners guide to European Cheese

Cheese is an amazing food, made from one basic ingredient: milk – most commonly from cows, sheep or goats.

If the basic ingredient in all cheese is milk, why are there so many different kinds available? From the soft, tart labneh, so familiar in this part of the world and still made fresh daily in many family kitchens, to the matured... hard cheese varieties, which often take up to 2 years to ripen.

Labneh is the most basic of cheeses and simply involves separating the watery whey from salted yoghurt to leave a firm curd. The separation of curd from whey is the first step in the making of all cheeses but afterwards the process becomes a great deal more complicated.

Arabic cheeses are traditionally made from sheep or goats milk. These range from the salty akawi, white cheese and halloumi, to the soft and mild labneh.

Somewhere in between lies the firm, yellow kashkaval and the processed canned cheese, which was introduced to the Middle East in the middle of the last century as it required no refrigeration.

Storage of cheese is no longer an issue and a wide range of European cheeses are now available in this part of the world. But, to the uninitiated, where to start? Do you dive straight into a snappy cheddar or a full-flavoured and slightly astringent blue cheese?

The Castello Havarti range of cheese is the perfect vehicle to introduce your palate to the delights of the European cheese world. Havarti is the most famous of Danish cheese – a mild semi soft cheese, made from cow’s milk. This versatile cheese can be eaten sliced, grilled or melted.

Castello have taken the traditional Havarti and introduced Wild Garlic, Jalapeno variants as well as traditional Creamy and the lower fat Light version.

If you desire a stronger taste, progress to Castello Danablu, and savour the sharp, piquant and slightly salty taste. The crumbly texture of the cheese makes it ideal for slicing and spreading. The blue-green mould spread throughout the interior adds to the unique character of this delicious cheese.

Both Havarti and Danablu combine well with many a wide variety of food commonly found the Middle Eastern diet, such tomato, cucumber, hummus, dates, walnuts, almonds and zaatar.

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