Goat's curd cheeses have been made in farmhouses and mountain villages throughout the Middle East and Europe for thousands of years, as a way to preserve milk.
Fresh goat's cheese is simply made by curdling the milk, straining and salting it. The result is creamy and tart with an edge.
I love its delicate flavour and smooth texture, which add an interesting element to so many dishes, from a sourdough sandwich of roast red capsicum, rocket and crushed olives to fried zucchini flowers filled with goat's cheese, mint and caramelised onion.
Fromage frais is another soft, creamy cheese that can be made with goat's milk. Similar to cream cheese, it is good on bread with rich berry jam. For any goat's cheese, two of my favourite accompaniments are beetroot and soda bread. This beetroot pickle is very easy and can be eaten with other soft or mature cheeses. The dense soda bread is incredible with cheese, dip or pate. I even enjoy it toasted with marmalade.
210g plain flour
210g wholemeal flour
125g oats, plus 2 tbsp for sprinkling
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp bicarbonate of soda
Ash-coated goat's cheese, to serve
Preheat oven to 200C. Place flours, oats, salt and bicarbonate of soda in a large bowl.
In a separate bowl, combine buttermilk, treacle and honey and mix well. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix until combined, then pour into a loaf tin, about 12 centimetres by 25 centimetres, lined with baking paper.
Sprinkle remaining oats over the top of the loaf and press down lightly so they stick to the mixture. Bake for about 30 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean when pushed into the centre of the loaf.
When cooked, remove loaf from tin and cool on a wire rack. Once loaf has cooled, cut into thick slices and serve with the cheese.
The sweetness of the honey and treacle with the nutty oat flavour is a perfect match for the cheese's tangy flavour. The soda bread can be sliced and served at room temperature or toasted - it also freezes well.
Makes 1 loaf
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
6 large beetroots
350ml malt vinegar
75g brown sugar
1 tsp minced ginger
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 bird's-eye chilli, finely chopped
10 black peppercorns
1 tsp sea salt
Dry-roast fennel seeds in a frying pan over a gentle heat until fragrant, then cool and grind to a powder.
Cook beetroots whole in a large saucepan of boiling water until soft. Refresh beetroots in cold water and peel, then coarsely grate into a large bowl.
Put remaining ingredients, including ground fennel, into a stainless steel saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce to a simmer, then cook until liquid has reduced by a third.
Pour hot liquid over grated beetroot, stir well and pack into two sterile, 500-millilitre jars.
A great match with goat's cheese or Persian fetta, this pickle is also wonderful served with barbecued kangaroo or beef. It will keep for up to three weeks in the fridge.
Makes 2 x 500ml jars