Cheese from the ewe, milk from the goat, butter from the cow, as the old Spanish proverb goes.
And the proof is in the best cheeses of the world - fetas from Greece, roquefort from France, manchego from Spain and pecorino romano from Italy.
While New Zealand may be the land of free milk from cows for our schools, sheep were producing milk around the world long before the dairy cow strolled down to the market.
While New Zealand is a leader in the production of cow's milk and associated products, we are also an innovative bunch. We now export sheep's milk powders and cheese, and have some excellent sheep cheese dairies on our back door.
Having the pleasure of tasting Neudorf Dairy's cheese selection from Upper Moutere, Nelson (having gone to school in Lower Moutere, I swear I could hear the old school bell), I have once again fallen in love with the real taste of cheeses. In the modern food world, our senses can become dulled by the over- commercialisation of all things mainstream. There is certainly something very "Neudorfish" about all their products, which is the trademark of a truly great product that represents its region in its taste, even though you may be far away from the source.
The Neudorf dairy is located in the gentle rolling hills of Upper Moutere, and the green pastures are home to an east friesian sheep herd that has the run of over 380 hectares.
Having won a raft of medals at cheese awards, it is easy to see why these sheep cheeses are so popular. Richmond Red, Mt Arthur and Neudorf shine as brightly as their surrounding namesakes, and are aged to perfection, having complex and aromatic flavours that carry your tastebuds to the French and Swiss Alps.
The Mediterranean feta cheese is firm, and ready to use on any salads or platters, but my favourite is the Mt Crusader, which is a soft, fresh cheese with a smooth texture. This is a seasonal cheese which suits summer. It suits wild rocket or salmon, and also suits crusty bread and fresh herbs. It suits savoury or tartness, and is one that keeps you coming back for more.
Neudorf Dairy is certainly showcasing the very best of sheep cheeses in New Zealand. Even if you did travel to the other side of the world to try traditional foods, you would still be missing out on the best of the regional specialities that our fine Kiwi artisan producers are making right here in the top of the South Island.
SUMMER SALAD OF REGAL SALMON WITH MT CRUSADER CHEESE, ROCKET AND OLIVE OIL VINAIGRETTE
¼ cup Marlborough extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp grated lemon zest
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 clove garlic, minced
Freshly ground pepper
2 cups thinly sliced fennel bulb (fronds reserved for garnish)
2 bunches rocket
100g Mt Crusader cheese
4 Regal salmon fillets
Freshly ground pepper
To make the vinaigrette: Combine the olive oil, lemon zest and juice, garlic, sugar, salt, and lots of pepper. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Set aside.
Chop the fennel fronds and the rocket. Toss lightly and add the sliced cheese.
Season the salmon on all sides with a little salt and pepper. Place a large, heavy skillet over a medium-high heat. Add the salmon, skin side down, and cook until the skin is crisp, about 4 minutes. Carefully turn the salmon and cook until still pink in the centre.
Place the salmon fillets on the salad and drizzle with the vinaigrette. Serve with lemon wedges and crusty bread.
- The Marlborough Express