Alchemy in the kitchen with Cutting the Curd

NEW Zealand famously has more sheep than people – and it also has a lot more cattle than human beings. So it is not surprising that the resulting surplus of dairy products has made this small country a major exporter of butter and cheese.

And it’s not just a big export industry – many rural Kiwis also make their own cheese and butter. So when Louise Talbot and her family came to Dorset from New Zealand a few years ago, the farmer’s wife was surprised to find that almost nobody in these overcrowded islands makes even the simplest curd cheese.

Louise, who lives in the Tarrant valley, makes a wide range of soft and hard cheeses as well as her own butter, and is now sharing her expertise with small groups in her Cutting the Curd classes.

Unusually, she does not run her courses in a cookery school or her own kitchen, but takes her cheese making equipment, milk, cream and other ingredients to her students.

Recently she led a half-day course on making soft cheeses with a group of eight enthusiastic would-be cheese-makers, hosted by chef Lisa Osman who runs her own acclaimed catering business, Provisio.

In just three hours, Louise demonstrated to the group of keen cooks, farmers, marketing experts and food writers, that they could easily make their own halloumi, mozzarella and mascarpone cheese – and delicious full-cream butter.

For most of us, butter churning sounds like something straight out of Thomas Hardy, but as Louise demonstrates, modern gadgets have turned this time-consuming and muscle-building craft into a very quick kitchen skill.