My passion for Italian cheese started many years ago when I was travelling around Northern Italy in my campervan. I couldn’t believe the bite and complexity of the pecorino, and the way parmesan matured over time. The way Italians serve cheese is so appealing. A table with cheese as the hero, with vine ripened tomatoes, fresh basil leaves, grapes, meats – it’s a meal all on its own and it looks so festive!
Italy produces more than 600 different kinds of cheese with some varieties dating back 2000 years. There are cheeses specific to various regions made with traditional techniques that haven’t changed in centuries. Many hard cheeses are stored for years to allow the flavours to develop, or ripen.
Making cheese for the family is a regular feature in an Italian kitchen with simple soft cheeses such as ricotta a staple of many Italian dishes. Cheese making is often a family activity usually led by Nonna. Many hands are needed to keep stirring the curd, to watch the all-important temperature and help with the preparations.
I’ve always had a love for not only the taste and texture of Italian cheese but also the way Italians eat cheese. The Italians are more likely to add cheese into their meals rather than offering it as a separate course. They have a way of matching all kinds of foods with exactly the right cheese, and wine, to bring both to life.
Making cheese by hand and then incorporating it into the menu at Oscars will be an incredible experience. We will create our own ricotta, mozzarella and mascarpone, and I will have a surprise cheese for everyone that is very unusual but so creamy – I can’t wait to share. I’m especially excited about showing people how to make fresh mozzarella. It’s best when it is fresh but has such a short shelf life that most people spend a lifetime never experiencing how delicious fresh mozzarella is.
Matt Dimech, Oscar's on the Yarra Head Chef has created a lunch (il pranzo), dinner (la cena) and dessert (il dolce) menu for us to make and enjoy with our ‘fatto a mano con amore’ cheese.
I think food tastes better with great company and a Yarra Valley glass of wine. Add in the hospitality of the people at Oscar's on the Yarra and its stunning riverside location and you’ve got an unforgettable day – with cheese!