mostly about food and cooking, but also the stories about the Bread and the Butterflies!

Blue cheese anyone?

In Tea Party on March 20, 2010 at 5:20 pm

blue cheese crackers

Stinky foods – how we love them!  Of course, we don’t necessarily all agree on which ones stink and which don’t.  Sometimes, we may even find them aromatic!  Take hing or asafoetida, for example.  I doubt if there is an Indian who would denounce it because it stinks.  In fact, we may even believe it imparts our food an added layer of complexity.  The European world relinquished this foetid resin a long time ago only to make other stinkier foods their cherished delicacies!

While Anthony Bourdain feels that a life without stinky cheese, amongst other less loved foods, is not a life worth living at all, Samar (who I only recently discovered is also a food writer!), thinks all kinds of dried stinky sea food is divine. I love my onion and garlic and am planning to give dried fish another shot very soon. I like what fish sauce does to Thai curries; even shrimp paste. I don’t think Brie stinks. In fact, I love most cheeses I have come across. But, blue cheese, for all the snobbery associated with this moldy one, has been a different story altogether. I cannot swallow it. I actually gag.

My brother-in-law, knowing my love for cheese, always brings delightful pickings from the deli.  The last time (three years ago!) this included a package of blue cheese which has since been sitting in the freezer waiting an epiphany. Okay, so I exaggerate. But a little divine revelation would have helped immensely.

I would break off bits every now and then to see if I had developed a taste in the intervening time… Despite keeping an open mind nothing of the kind happened. Obviously, I couldn’t throw it away (after all, I am Indian!).  My trusted friend suggested I try it in a salad dressing but I was loathe. At the same time it had been occupying very precious freezer real estate all this while.

Inspiration finally struck.  Necessity.  TH had been declining the Britannia crackers that I usually serve as snacks with the weekend drinks.  He’s become a bit of a health freak lately and everything is either too much fat, or too much maida, or both!  I didn’t have any leftover roti to make into chips with the dips.  I would have to make my own healthy crackers.  I decided to kill two birds with a stone: surely a recipe that involved baking would render stinky cheese less obnoxious and more edible.  I had bookmarked a souffle recipe somewhere but crackers would be less effort and more worth my while.  There was, after all, a strong underlying possibility that the product of all the effort might just get tossed on to the compost pile.

roll it with nostalgia

I am happy to report that this methods bakes off most of the offensiveness of the prized cheese leaving behind a much mellowed aroma, one that is more palatable to my Indian taste buds. No, it’s not just me. When I was baking these the whole house, all two floors of it, was smelling. TH wanted to know if I was making ghee from butter that had gone bad. The neighbour and first floor tenant T, politely remarked that despite my careful attempts at maximizing kitchen ventilation (exhaust on high, kitchen window and courtyard door open) the whole house reeked smelled of my baking.  Once she knew it was the crackers, she let her mother enjoy the lot I sent all by herself. 🙂

Blue Cheese Crackers

2 C atta (whole wheat flour)
1 C blue cheese, crumbled
2 T olive oil (or any other mild flavoured vegetable oil)
1 t salt
1 t (or more) chilli flakes
1/4 t soda-bi-carbonate
chilled water for kneading (3/4 C or thereabouts)

roll it

In the jar of a food processor pulse all the ingredients using as little water as possible till they begin to just come together into small balls. Take the dough out and press to form a ball.  Do not knead any further. Roll out to 1.5mm thickness.  Score with a knife into desired shapes/sizes, and prick over with a fork.  Remove to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Bake in a pre-heated oven at gas Mark 5  (375F) for 20-25 min, turning tray around midway, till edges are golden and the crackers are spotted with brown.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool.  Snap along the scored lines and store in an airtight container.  Serve with fresh salsa or a cream cheese dip.

cheese cracker

cheese crackers with salsa verde

If this has whetted your appetite for stinky cheese, here’s a blog dedicated to stinky foods, cheese in particular: The Fifth Dimension in Gastronomy!  (Kala namak stinks?!  I’ll be damned…)


PS: Thank you for the helpful comments on the previous post.  I picked the easiest way to preserve the sundakkai – soaked in salted buttermilk and sun-dried!  Unfortunately, the manthakkali had spoiled by the time I returned, but I found store-bought ones in my stash!

The easy pickle made with green peppercorns, mango-ginger, and narthangai was super but was obviously, not going to keep.  So spices (and sugar) were added to that; let’s see if that improves its shelf life.  The kidarangai I treated like a regular lime pickle and added methi seed powder, red chillies, and tempered oil; I am still not sure it will keep…maybe Pel, who knows everything there is to know about the science and art of pickling, can shed some light?

  1. Yummy… 🙂

    When I was little, I told Amma I’d never even buy hing when I set up my own kitchen… and when I came back 5 days ago, I brought back 10 boxes of LG Hing… age I tell you!

    That and a little nostalgia around familiar childhood food…

  2. wow,…must have tasted great

    Very very good!

  3. They look like wheat thins. Will you buy more blue cheese now? I have tried blue cheese in salads, but it did not rock my boat.

    Hing – In my cooking classes, I tell my students that hing might smell stinky, but that tiny pinch adds so much flavor- they smell it when I tell them not to, but almost all my students have grown to like it. They buy small pinches of it from the Co-op 🙂

    Oh, yes – I will gladly receive more of this smelly cheese! 😉
    All these pungent additions are our umami!

    For my picky son I tried the same recipe but replaced the blue cheese with regular Amul (a type of cheddar I think). The crackers barely had any cheese flavour! So, with these crackers, strong cheese is the way to go!

  4. Here’s a philosophical question for you: If you bake off the offensiveness in blue cheese, is it still blue?

    Much of what you said here, I experience that too – keeping an open mind about some tastes, unable to get used to them. When a new restaurant opened here many years ago, I ordered Bombay Duck. I ‘knew all about it’ so I disregarded the waiter’s warning about the smell. The Spouse is very firm about not being adventurous so I had it all to myself. And boy, did I suffer – he bravely ate his meal despite the pong but I, the explorer, could not take it.

    And Anita, I know many people who cannot stand the smell of asafoetida. In my community, it’s not used at all, as far as I know, so we react to it the way vegetarians react to the smell of fish! I’ve developed a taste for it over the years and like it, but don’t use it everyday.

    You can bake off a lot but not all of that stubborn stink! What stays is a very desirable aroma – a good place to start building your resitance developing a taste for it!

    Well, there’s that exception! Still it is interesting to see how far south hing was able to penetrate from far-away Persia and become the integral part of many a cuisine.

  5. Leave it to you to make crackers before me! I’ve had it slated for weeks now… but they sure came out looking divine! What kind of blue cheese was this? I love all kinds, having been raised on the stuff, but, truly, some are milder/stronger than others! I hope you can try a good gorgonzola before long- just think of it as tiny mushrooms with your cheese… 😀 And I could write poetry to brie…

    But you won’t catch me eating that casu marzu! I draw the line there…

    The history of hing is an interesting read, isn’t it? When I open my jar, my mother goes “yum” and Danny runs 3 metres away. But kala namak only has about half of that force.

    When pickling key limes, I use 4t of salt (white and/or black) per cut-up cup. But now, that’s an American Standard Cup, not Imperial, which is larger. If the divisions are the same (1C = 16T = 48t), then that ratio will still work. For the bitter oranges, you might need to increase the salt to 5t per cup because the juice-to-solid ratio within the fruit might be higher…it’s all about the water! Or maybe it’s less: our “Eureka” lemons with their thicker peels will cure using only 2t per C! The only way to know is to keep it sealed and note any increase of pressure from fermentation- add more salt if that occurs and keep notes. For ginger, and, I assume, turmeric, I find 4.5t salt/C in 1cm dice works. Plain citrus juice seems to be about 7t/C. Anything dried can be added as you please. Hope that helps.

    These were so easy and sooo good! I’ll have to check what kind it was (if that original wrapping is still there). Brie is a favourite of mine too – great with apples – have you tried that?

    Thanks, Pel; that helps a lot. These limes are quite juicy so I think it is a good idea to add some more salt (as I have been doing). Only I didn’t measure the cut limes 😦 and now must do this by trial and error…

    When is Pel’s Pickles – Part II scheduled?!

    • Scheduled?! You must be mad…

      Nah. Just trying to be pushy! Obviously, it has rebounded. But really, between us, I am not the mad one.

      • The mad ones seldom think they are! 😀 I’m mad, you’re mad- we’re all mad here! 😀

        But I suppose…have we lost that dear lady who was asking about black lime pickles? I sent some of mine to our token Punju for sampling: my recipe needs more gur… (which was predictable because I lowered it 🙂 ), but she didn’t seem to notice that anything “stood out” in the masala (excepting badi elaichi)- which is what I was aiming for- so I guess one more round of that one and it could be posted.

        I’m analyzing sweet pickles now…I hope not to lose any teeth in the process.

        Lucky Musical!
        And this is a post of cheese and stinky food.
        Just saying. Please don’t be mad.

  6. This cook says try using 4t/C…increase if necessary.

    That’s what I used for a guide to use up all that produce! A good friend swears by Chitvish, especially for traditional Tambram fare.

  7. Spoiled westerner that I am, it had never occurred to me to make my own crackers – but those look good! I love blue cheese, and I occasionally remember that I have a container of asafoetida – it’s not so much the smell or taste but just that I have very few recipes in my repertoire that call for it. Stinky tofu is my nasty smell – went to a night market in Taipei where they were selling it and it turned my stomach so badly I didn’t want to eat anything else!

    We all get there sooner or later as we get more and more scared about what they are putting in our food!
    Eastern cultures have more stinky foods – it’s the climate – everything ferments so readily in the warmth and humidity!

  8. I love how golden and crispy these crackers look! As for smelly cheeses, it entirely depends on my mood :).

    Depends on your mood…I see, stinky mood —> stinky cheese preference or the other way around? 🙂

  9. With her, I think it’s more like: some days she’s in a mild-cheese mood and other days she’s in a stinky-cheese mood, and most days she’s in a semi-stinky cheese mood…but knowing her, she’s ALWAYS in a cheese mood! 😀

    But, now, where is that TLO? Has she gone charging horns-first off into the sunset again?

  10. I just made whole wheat diamond cuts baked instead of fried (namak pare) and they turned out basically like crackers – now if only I had the blue cheese to experiment – like you, I couldn’t stomach it the one time I tried…

  11. Those were lovely crackers. Haven’t tried much cheese vareties. But growing up in coastal areas all stinking seafood (especially the dried fish) were divine to me. And for hing I just can’t cook without it. These crackers were having a lovely golden hue and the dip is sure to die for.

  12. I used to loathe hing as a child and now stock several brands- including one precious bottle of the real thing!
    SOmehow I loved Blue Cheese from the first bite – those blue fungus like things not deterring my usual food-hygiene finicky self – that was one thing I really missed eating during pregnancy as the brand we used to buy was made from unpasteurized milk-
    i love your simple recipe – no butter used being an added incentive. Want to try it next when I have blue cheese on hand.
    I have remembered you in my latest post – do come and check.

  13. Anita,

    Greetings to you!

    I love bleu cheese but William hates it. Will definitely try this recipe as a compromise.

    Can you please paste the recipe for the makki roti tortilla chips that you had served?


  14. i do love stinky things too – although there is a limit to the stinkiness in cheese. blue cheese i adore especially with pasta and spinach! but i love how you used it here. simply ingenious!

  15. Stinky cheese! Have some sitting in my fridge for the past 8 months and have been wondering what to do with it. To think I paid good money for mouldy stuff!!! 🙂
    Am not sure I want to antagonize my lovely neighbours by baking with it.

  16. Made this yesterday and yum it was.Thanks anita.Smells good too!!!!

  17. Looks wonderful !! And I love the way you used the phrase “precious freezer real estate”. Completely agree.

  18. Blue Cheese and Hing (A new expression, akin to Karela Neem Chada).
    I have always felt, if something is good, more is not essentially better. Hing(also known as Satan’s Dung), is phenomenal, if used appropriately, over use is over kill. Childhood memories here as well, it was always a no-no, like Desi Ghee, but then Taste needs time to mature !! lol
    Try Blue Cheese in very small quantities (unlike regular cheese) and you will fall in love with it.
    Thanx loads for this wafer recipe…..I am going to try it right now.

    Yes, our tastes change (improve?) as our taste buds mature! I have been meaning to try blue cheese dressing for a winter salad…this winter surely.
    Did you try the crackers then?

  19. I have a friend who would walk straight to the kitchen , pull out the LG container & deeply inhale & revel in the aroma of the hing as soon as she walked in.. I’m beginning to appreciate the complexity of this wonderspice more day by day!
    Apparently James Beard compared asafetida to Truffles!
    Maybe someone with experience on truffles would care to comment…

    New smells ones has to acquire a ‘taste’ for… if we try, we might…

  20. […] most weekend evenings TH and I sit ourselves down with the tipple of choice and munchies such as these on the side.  There is usually a dip: fresh-made tomato salsa or tzatziki.  On Sunday, when the […]

  21. […] with prep-help from N and Manisha!  There was rasam, vathakuzhambu with pumpkin (and my sun-dried sundakkai!), beans parupu usili, keerai masiyal, and carrot kosambari. Yes, very impressive and very […]

  22. Hi TeaParty 🙂 I have lurked around your blog for years. Somehow missed this post and want to make it straight away, with some smelly brie I have been given.

    Meanwhile, I’m intrigued by your “Gas Mark 5” instruction. What oven do you use? I’ve been scouting for a gas oven, but can’t find any that seem terribly convenient? If you have advice, that would be super useful. Thanks much!

    Hi, Varali. I use a Faber cooking range. Have been using it for over 15 years now. It’s fine except for the burners that are not the best for puffing phulkas on the flame because they have only an outer ring of flame instead of the dual rings (for the larger burner) in our old-style Sunflame ones.

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