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Naomi Crisante is a food educator, television presenter and food writer with over 15 years experience in Australia’s cheese industry. She is an accredited cheese judge, judges at various specialist cheese shows and represented Australia as a judge at the 2006 World Cheese Championship Contest in Wisconsin, USA. Naomi also managed the Australian Grand Dairy Awards for nine years, since their inception in 1999.

Naomi Crisante Food Communications

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How do I stop the cream cheese mixture from getting lumpy when making cheesecakes and dips?

Blend Mascarpone and other Cream Cheeses to a soft whip before mixing with other ingredients to avoid lumps.

Whenever I cook cheese, it becomes stringy. How can I avoid this?

Cheese should be cooked with gentle heat so it doesn't become stringy. Think of 'melting' rather than 'cooking' the cheese.

Cheese is best grated, crumbled or finely shaved for use in cooking. If possible, add it in the last stages of cooking or mix into a stable base, such as a white sauce.

Cheese will also mellow in flavour when cooked, so choose a matured cheese with well-developed flavour.

What's the best way to grate cheese?

When grating or slicing cheese, hold the block with a piece of plastic wrap or paper, to avoid touching the cheese with your hand. Make sure you refrigerate the unused portion soon after so it keeps better.

Don't forget that cheese grates better if you refrigerate it beforehand.

When I'm making pizza, where should the cheese go?

When making pizza, cheese is best positioned on top of the sauce and under the other ingredients to avoid it browning too much.

How do you pan-fry cheese?

To pan-fry cheese, such as Haloumi or Raclette, cut into slices, dip in water, toss in plain flour and quickly sear in a hot oiled pan until golden brown on both sides before serving immediately.

Can you crumb cheese?

Crumbed cheese, like Mozzarella or Haloumi sticks, balls of Bocconcini and wedges of Camembert can make tasty morsels. Simply flour, dip in egg wash and breadcrumbs and flash fry in hot oil until golden. Serve immediately with a dipping sauce like sweet chilli, tomato or pesto.

How much does 1 cup of cheese weigh?

Approximately 125 grams when lightly packed.

I have a recipe for Ricotta Cheese Cannelonni - could I add beef mince or would it make the ricotta taste funny?

You can certainly add a little browned beef mince to the ricotta mixture, just don’t overdo it. Think mostly ricotta ‘flavoured’ with some mince. Brown the mince and allow it to cool slightly before adding to the ricotta mixture.

I have an Italian mother-in-law and she always combines ricotta, mince and a little cooked spinach in her cannelloni – delicious!

What's the best ricotta for desserts?

The best ricotta for any cooking – desserts or otherwise – is fresh ricotta you can find at the deli, freshly cut from the wheel. Buy it on the day you are ready to use it. It should be pristine white, soft, moist and juicy – with a flavour similar to freshly scrambled eggs.

There are smooth ricottas available in tubs that are certainly convenient for spreading and keeping on hand in the fridge, but for cooking the fresh off- the-wheel variety is preferable.

I would like to make fondue. Which is the best cheese to use?

Here’s our recipe for a fabulous fondue! (Note: I prefer to use brandy when making fondue)

Fabulous Fondue

  • Rub the inside of a fondue pot with a clove of garlic, add 1 cup dry white wine and heat.
  • Combine 2 cups grated Gruyere or Raclette, 2 cups grated Swiss-style cheese, salt, pepper and 1 teaspoon cornflour and slowly mix into wine until melted. 
  • Finish with a dash of Kirsch or brandy, and serve with crusty bread cubes, blanched vegetables and cold meats.