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You may have gathered that I am somewhat of a hussy when it comes to cheese. You can be sure that there will always be a nugget of some special cheese tucked away somewhere in my fridge where (hopefully) no one else can find it. In my world nothing beats it for sheer indulgence.
The thing that always amazes me, when I’m standing at the cheese cabinet trying to decide which to buy (and usually choosing way more than is ever necessary), is that everything on offer, every one of those amazing cheeses – hard, creamy, stinky, melting et al – starts out as nothing more than milk.
It’s the same with grapes and their myriad transformations into wine, and to some extent wheat and bread, but that so many permutations of creamy pleasure could be derived from something as simple as milk is nothing short of genius.
In this episode of my new TV series I visit Annie and Phil Armstrong, who are farming buffalo up the Whangaripo Valley just out of Matakana north of Auckland. From their herd of just 30 milking cows they make a wonderful buffalo mozzarella and a swag of other fabulous cheeses at the Whangaripo Buffalo Cheese Co. Every Saturday you can find Anne and Phil’s wonderful buffalo cheese and yoghurt products on sale at the Matakana markets, with Annie’s dad doing a roaring trade on the barbecue selling their famous blue cheese and buffalo burgers.
If you haven’t tasted fresh buffalo mozzarella before, you are in for a real treat when you do. There’s a fineness to the milk that makes this cheese incredibly delicate with a sweet, soft lactic milkiness. Buffalo milk is high in fat but low in cholesterol and if you have intolerance for dairy it is a great milk choice that’s super rich in calcium and vitamin A. The fact that there is no carotene in the fat means that buffalo milk, yoghurt and cheeses all have an amazing pure white colour.
With those huge horns, it’s easy to think that buffalo would be aggressive and scary but they were actually very placid (not that I was jumping over the fence to help Phil get them to the milking shed!) For behind-the-scenes photos of our shoot with these gentle giants, see my TV pages.
I was so impressed with Annie and Phil's creamy buffalo mozzarella that I took some home to serve as a simple starter with two of my other favourite ingredients – ripe figs and salty prosciutto. I’ve planted five varieties of figs in my Wanaka garden and one has turned out to be a real hero that produces meltingly sweet, fat figs with a green skin and juicy pink interior very early in the season. (I’ve lost the name so if anyone knows what variety this could be please do let me know!)
Next week I head back to Hawke’s Bay to visit a sustainable farm – until then happy cooking!
find out more
Want to find out more about this episode? Check out the TV pages of my website for videos, bonus recipes and behind-the-scenes photos.
My new book containing all the recipes from this episode and the rest of the series is available now at all good book sellers nationwide or via my website shop. Buy it at Paper Plus to receive a free biscuit tin – while stocks last!
- Want to meet me in person? I'll be taking my trusty yellow truck on the road between now and the end of December, demonstrating Tui Garden projects from the show, signing books and cooking up a storm throughout New Zealand and also in Tasmania, Sydney and Melbourne – see my full schedule
- Find out more about Season One of The Free Range Cook
- Find out more about Season Two of The Free Range Cook: Simple Pleasures
special thanks to
Annie and Phil of Whangaripo Buffalo Cheese Co