I am an addict of sheep cheese. My passion for it began years ago in southern Spain with the discovery of manchego, a hard cheese produced from the milk of Manchega sheep, from La Mancha. It’s very different from the brebis cheese that I now buy from my cheese lady, Emeline, who has a stall in the Marché Couvert here in Albi. Brebis cheeses come in many different forms and stages of maturity. My favourites are the small round soft creamy cheeses which mature fairly quickly, and change taste radically as they mature. I love them when they are very fresh, either creamy or just beginning to crumble as you slice them open. With one roundel of brebis, some fresh green lettuce leaves, and a few walnuts, you can knock together a simple healthy lunch in minutes. It also makes a good starter for a more complex meal, and if I want to share my salad with Monsieur E. I simply double the ingredients.
“Sheep milk contains about twice the fat of cow milk – that’s why the cheese tastes creamier. In the UK it may also be sold as ‘Ewe’s milk cheese’, just to confuse you.” Judi
Salade de brebis – serves as many as you like, using one cheese per person. Preparation time, 5-10 minutes.
1 small round brebis cheese, soft and creamy stage
a good serving of lettuce leaves, fresh and crisp lettuce is best
a handful of walnut halves
a good balsamic vinegar glaze, I use Velours de Vinaigre Balsamique by Maille
freshly ground black pepper, with the mill set on a ‘chunky’ setting
“Balsamic velour is a reduced, thicker and sweeter vinegar, perfect for glazes. You can make it yourself by just reducing the vinegar, and adding a little sugar especially if you want to pour it over strawberries or ice-cream.” – Judi
Break the lettuce leaves into smaller pieces and put in a large bowl. Drizzle a generous amount of walnut oil over the leaves. Sprinkle in the walnuts. Then dribble a trellis of balsamic glaze across the leaves – one way, then the other.
Cut the cheese into small chunks and distribute in the salad. Finally sprinkle in a pinch of sea salt and finish with some thickly-ground black pepper.
Toss gently as the cheese is fairly fragile and you don’t want it to totally crumble. Eat with a good fresh wholemeal baguette and if it’s not a working weekday, a glass of red wine. I recommend a local wine, which I also buy from le Marché Couvert, d’Antan from the Domaine Carcenac.