Top chefs choose their favourite hard-to-find cheese

From left: Fourme d'Ambert blue-veined French cheese, Old Winchester firm pasteurized cheese, Picodon goat's milk cheese ...
From left: Fourme d'Ambert blue-veined French cheese, Old Winchester firm pasteurized cheese, Picodon goat's milk cheese and Claousou unpasteurised sheep's milk cheese. Photo: Bloomberg

You don't have to forsake Stilton, manchego or camembert. But if you want to spice up your cheese plate or impress a host, we have a few suggestions to help you get creative. Top chefs from around the world pick out their favourite under-the-radar cheeses.

Coupole

Country: USA
Chef: Eric Ripert (Le Bernardin, New York)

Yotam Ottolenghi suggests swapping manouri cheese for haloumi.
Yotam Ottolenghi suggests swapping manouri cheese for haloumi. Photo: Edwina Pickles

Why: This American original with a distinctive, snow-covered dome shape is an aged goat cheese from Vermont Creamery. "It has a lot of flavour and a great creamy texture," says Ripert, who was born in France. "It is full of personality. It is wonderful to see that America is producing cheese as delicious as those in Europe."

Claousou

Country: France
Chef: Shane Osborn (Arcane, Hong Kong)

Why: This unpasteurised sheep's milk cheese from Cevennes comes wrapped in spruce bark. "It's a bit like a brie, with a light, smoky taste," says Osborn, who serves it on his cheese board. "When ripe, it is absolutely delicious, very special. People in Hong Kong generally don't like really strong cheeses or blue cheeses, but Claousou is subtle and elegant and smooth."

Manouri

Country: Greece
Chef: Yotam Ottolenghi (Ottolenghi and Nopi, London)

Why: This semi-soft, rindless cheese from Macedonia, and the region of Thessaly in Greece, is known for its gentle, milky flavour. "We use a lot in our restaurant," Ottolenghi says. "It's white and young, with cream added to it, which makes it sweeter and creamier than feta. It grills really well, so we tend to use it in salads, alongside grilled fruit or veg. Unlike halloumi, which is rather rubbery if not served warm, this one is crumbly, so can be eaten at room temperature as well."

Bandel

Country: India
Chef: Vivek Singh (Clove Club, London)

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Why: This dry and salty cheese was originally brought to Bandel, in the east of India, by Portuguese settlers. "It's a bit like feta," Singh says. "It is great to crumble onto scrambled eggs. India isn't really a cheese country, but this is special."

Hooligan cheese from Cato Corner Farm, in Colchester, Connecticut,U.S., stands in this arranged photograph in New York, U.S., on Friday, July 28, 2017. Eleven Madison Park Chef Daniel Humm selected Hooligan as his favorite cheese.

Stinky 'Hooligan' cheese lives up to its name. Photo: Bloomberg

Hooligan

Country: USA
Chef: Daniel Humm (Eleven Madison Park, New York)

Why: This stinky, stinky cheese from Cato Corner Farm, in Colchester, Connecticut, flies under the radar. Humm, whose Eleven Madison Park holds the title of world's best restaurant, says: "We've used it in the restaurant. It's a washed rind, soft cheese that has beautiful aromas and intense flavour." This one's tough to find, but is available at Murray's Cheese shops in New York City.

Fourme d'Ambert

Country: France
Chef: Wolfgang Puck (Spago, Beverly Hills)

Why: This blue-veined French cheese, which dates back to the Middle Ages, is produced from the milk of cows that are fed on grass in the mountainous region of Puy de Dome, in Auvergne. "I love Fourme d'Ambert," Puck says. "It is a blue cheese but really creamy and easy to eat with wine and everything."

Milleens

Country: Ireland
Chef: Pierre Koffmann (London)

Why: This soft farmhouse cheese is made from the milk of Friesian cows grazing on the mountains of the Beara peninsula of southwest Ireland. "It's got a washed crust and it is brilliant, with beautiful flavour," says French-born Koffmann, who held three Michelin stars at La Tante Claire in London. He likes to eat it on its own.

Picodon

Country: France
Chef: Anne-Sophie Pic (Maison Pic, Valence)

Why: This goat's milk cheese from the Rhone is a favourite of Pic, who holds three Michelin stars at Maison Pic in southeast France. She won the title of world's Best Female Chef in 2011. "Picodon is from my region," she says. "I grew up with this cheese."

Old Winchester

Country: England
Chef: Angela Hartnett (Murano, London)

Why: This is a firm pasteurised cheese handmade at Lyburn Farm, in the New Forest, in the south of England. "It reminds me of a Comte and a Parmesan," Hartnett says. "It's a nice cheese you can have on its own or with bread and chutney, or you can slice it really thin. It's got a brilliant salty, crystalline crunch to it."

Paria

Country: Peru
Chef: Virgilio Martinez (Central, Lima)

Why: Queso Paria, which has a soft flavour, is made from cow's milk in the mountains of Peru. "It is creamy and salty and then the skin, which is also edible, is quite hard," says Martinez, whose Lima restaurant Central ranks No.5 in the world. "I like the different textures."

Puigpedros

Country: Spain
Chef: Albert Adria (Tickets, Barcelona)

Why: This Catalan cow's milk cheese is a favourite of Adria's. "It is soft, with notes of hazelnut and confit fruit," Adria says. "It has a lot of personality from the fields where it is made."

Bloomberg