The first time I visited Europe, I did all the things a self-loving tourist would do.
While in Paris, I went to a boulangerie for the city's top-rated fermented sourdough baguettes; in Switzerland, I ate moitie-moitie fondue, and in Sweden, I stuffed my face with herring.
I have an affection for stinky food and I'm sure all you durian-lovers and natto-eaters would agree that pungent smelling items are palate pleasers and should be embraced.
However, believe it or not, I was not always such a refined eater. I remember crashing at my friend's apartment in Switzerland and immediately being hit with an acrid smell which drove me nuts.
Dirty laundry? Not a sock in sight. Century-old Chinese egg? No. I would love that smell. Cheese? Yes, but more specifically epoisses, one of the world's stinkiest cheeses. It sat at the back of the fridge, unopened and relatively well sealed in a container, but it still spilt its odour through the tiny apartment.
Australia has excellent dairy producers, high-quality milk and hard-working Aussie farmers, and its cheese industry continues to develop. I remember eating Kraft cheese growing up. There was something about that cheese that seemed to be the best in toasties, maybe more so because I was a kid. Now, we have more gourmet and artisan cheese producers, such as those on King Island in Tasmania, in the Murray Region in Victoria and Atherton Tablelands in Queensland. However, Australia isn't known for its stinky varieties yet.
For Morabito Francois, the owner of Francois Private Kitchen in Perth, Western Australia, French Munster is his favourite stinky cheese variety and one that he misses the most from his native France.
The former Michelin-star chef believes that there's no bad cheese out there and even advocates freezing it if needed. "The only good reason to freeze cheese is to save for a long period of time. Cheese like butter can freeze very well, however, [the fridge will] impact the texture and change the flavour," Francois says.
"Always store cheese in the bottom of your fridge and cover it in a box with wet linen on top. For stinkier cheeses like Munster, associate them with sweet things such as quince paste, dry fruit or fruit loaf," says the chef, adding that cheese boards should comprise about five different types.
French native Aurore Ghigo from the cheese shop, La Boite a Fromages in Sydney, agrees.
Ghigo says, "The important French rule: always odd numbers, three or five. We suggest mixing textures: hard, soft or crumbly, [choosing different] milk: a sheep or goat milk cheese will suit best if you have lactose intolerant guests, and lastly, family type: blue, washed rind or brie. The most important part is that your cheesemonger lets you try before you buy, making sure you like the cheese."
"The most important part is that your cheesemonger lets you try before you buy, making sure you like the cheese."
Ghigo adds that it's best to buy fresh and if you do need to freeze it, stick to hard cheeses like Comte, Swiss cheese and parmesan. The blue varieties and camembert will most likely spoil.
"My advice is to wrap the cheese in aluminium foil, place it in a freezer bag with as little air as possible and you can keep it for up to six months," Ghigo continues. Keep the cheese in cheese paper, not in a plastic wrap since this will make the cheese sweat.
Despite the two French natives' great advice, they don't have tips on grilling cheese, so I'm drawing on my European experiences in France to help. Gruyere is used in Switzerland's ultimate melting-cheese pot called fondue and together with raclette makes a great toastie.
However, the Franche-Comte region of France is my favourite region for grill-worthy cheese and is home to vacherin Mont d'Or and epoisses. They are worth seeking out and work masterfully well in a glorified mac 'n' cheese or toastie or simply melted and served with fermented sourdough bread. I really can't say no to a good stinky cheese pair.
These are American-style 'biscuits' - like a kind of scone, but flakier. Leave the sopressa out to make them vegetarian-friendly.
The addition of goat's curd to this mega marshmallow makes it every bit delectable as it looks. Served with a fresh pineapple and citrus salsa.