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Artisanal Cheese Has Found its Begum

The Begum Victoria cheese platter at Toast & Tonic is a conversation starter

On a corner plot in Bengaluru’s Victoria Layout, a stone’s throw away from the commercial centre of MG road, is a green patch housing tiny inhabitants that are involved in a form of alchemy, with some delicious results! Yeast colonies can be nasty neighbours unless they can work together, and in this cheese cave surrounded by a herb and heirloom veggie garden in the middle of an urban jungle, things are going brilliantly!

 

The Begum Victoria Cheese cave is curiously named, and this play on words offers a preface to the creativity of this platter—a hearty Danish Havarti; a proprietary orange-rind Bel-Paese, a cheese of Italian provenance; French Brie; English Cheddar and Swiss Gruyere—classic varieties that are made and aged in this cheese cave in Bengaluru. Handcrafted from organic, local milk, these artisanal cheeses are exclusively available at Toast & Tonic in Mumbai and Bengaluru on the Begum Victoria cheese platter.


Founded by Bengaluru-based entrepreneurs and co-fromagers Shruti Golchha, Pooja Reddy and Chef Manu Chandra, Begum Victoria Cheeses are another addition to the exclusive but growing list of Indian fromagers.


The Indian cheese story

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From the over 40-year old ABC farms of Pune that makes over 70 varieties of cheese, to Acres Wild in Coonoor which organically grows all its ingredients and also offers cheese making classes; to Flanders in Delhi and Happy Cow Cheese in Goa, homegrown fromagers have pushed the envelope, perfecting not just fine European cheese varieties, but also reviving traditional Indian cheese recipes. The local Kalari, made by Himalayan Cheese, a brand based in Kashmir to Moo Chura in Arunachal, from the Parsis to Bakkerwals, everyone has contributed to India unique indigenous cheese board.


Also Read: Chhurpi, moo-chura and other traditional cheeses from India 


Eat Local: The Begum Victoria storyboard

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Chef Chandra speaks of Begum Victoria with the fondness of a parent speaking of a prodigious ward. Slicing a rind of brie to reveal the creamy middle, he details the cheese making process—the temperature at which the 'vegetarian' rennet is added to the milk, inoculating the cheese with the culture and allowing it to age in the cave in the company of friendly yeast strains. “You cannot make or stock all kinds of cheese in one cave. For instance, blue cheese is aggressive and will take over the others if you allow them to live together,” he says.

The game-changer at Begum Victoria is the milk used in the making of cheese. The story of cheese, says Chandra, begins with the milk. He uses organic A2 milk of indigenous cows of Karnataka, local breeds such as Hallikar provide nutritious, protein-rich milk. Not only does this promote the story of indigenous cattle whose numbers have been dwindling across the country, Chandra’s insistence on A2 is an ode to the high-quality milk produced by local breeds. “The starting point is high quality milk. We’ve created our own recipes with good milk, vegetarian rennet and,” say Chandra, listing the other crucial ingredient to make great cheese, “time.”  


Also Read: How to make vegan cheese 


Keeping the spotlight on local produce, the cheeses are paired with interesting accompaniments and chutneys—a chunky Bengali-style Tomato and Kalonji chutney cooked in mustard oil, smoked apple honey and a delicious black jamun spread spiced with star anise and cinnamon. It pairs brilliantly with the young Gruyere—young because it is aged for four months in the cave. Gruyere can be aged up to 12 months. The Havarti is earthy and goes equally well melted on a slice of sourdough or moringa cracker. Some varietals are also infused with herbs, truffles and edible flowers. With a passion for provenance, Chandra delivers fresh flavours and textures on this platter.  The begum is many stories rolled into one. 


Also Watch: Want to make your own cheeseboard? Watch this video

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Image Courtesy: Begum Victoria Cheese

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