Taleggio, Interesting Ingredients

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TaleggioTaleggio, Interesting Ingredients

So what is Taleggio? Love it or hate it the first thing I can tell you is that it is a very smelly cheese (think body odour, wet grass, cooked greens and even baked bread). It’s what is known as a smear ripened or washed rind cheese from the Stracchino family, a name used to describe soft cheeses made in Lombardy and Piedmont (northern Italy). Other cheeses in this family are Robiola and Artavaggio. These always have a very intense smell that increases with age.

Taleggio is made with  Autumn and Winter cow’s milk. It is D.O.P protected which means cheese made anywhere else, even with the same recipe, milk and smell, will never be able to be called Taleggio.

The cheese itself is semi-soft and creamy with an orange coloured thin rind and produced in square moulds. The smell is quite misleading as the flavour is relatively mild and fruity. Once moulded the cheeses are washed once a week with a seawater solution and when traditionally produced, kept in caves to mature. The washing cleans off some of the bacteria that forms while they are maturing, however the washing also fosters the growth of Brevibacterium linens, a kind of controlled infection that helps to sweeten the cheese by breaking down proteins and fats leaving kind of a doughy, silky, elastic cheese mass. This is where the characteristic smell comes from; as it ages it will also grow patches of green grey mould on the outside crust.

I always love Taleggio, not only for eating but for its versatility in cooking.  It can be used in so many ways. Stuffed into chicken or mushrooms, through pasta. It can be used on melted breads and toasts. It makes a wonderful sauce for pasta and stuffed into vegetables like potatoes with additions of bacon, prosciutto or pancetta. Spread over baked pumpkin and sprinkled with fried sage or  especially on Pizza. The list is almost endless.

This is one of the really delicious ways to use up any left over Taleggio (as if), you might want to get it out of your refrigerator ..quick smart. ( It smells!)

Taleggio and walnut crumble tart

This is a tart case blind baked, it’s a very shallow, short paste case with no sugar in it. I smeared the bottom of the case with melted quince jelly or if you have some, quince or plum paste or jelly heated with a little water.  Fill the tart case with a mixture of about 250 gm of Taleggio that has been melted with 1/2 cup of cream and then added to the tart and smoothed over the base. This is then topped with roasted crushed walnuts and crumble made with the tiniest amount of sugar ( or salted praline if you like) . You can use oat biscuits or granita biscuits, or any sweet/savoury biscuits for the same effect.

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