Belgium`s quintessential goat cheese delicacy: Crottin De Chavignol

For those of you who love goat cheese (or don`t), Pooja Bhula says this delicacy served in Belgium is not to be missed!

If you live in Mumbai and love food, you love the city even more. Do you really have to ask why? The answer lies in all the new restaurants popping up in different parts of the city, the increasing number of culinary events expanding your food horizon, chefs regularly experimenting with ingredients, and cuisines of the world finding their way to your table.

So it’s no surprise that in the past three years or so, goat cheese has been welcomed as well. But nothing that I’ve eaten here compares with my goat cheese experience in Belgium. Let me inform you right here that like the best of trips, the goat cheese journey wasn’t planned. As a vegetarian (one that doesn’t even eat fish!), you`ll rarely have difficulty in choosing a dish from menus of Europe’s restaurants, because the options limited. Sometimes too limited.
But in Belgium, this turned out to be a boon instead of a bane for me; most dishes I liked had goat cheese in them, be it a salad with spring vegetables, artichokes and nuts or an appetiser of pumpkin soup. The soup actually tasted great with the goat cheese praline that had a fig filling!  Soon I was consciously choosing items that did.

Before leaving the country, known for its chocolates, I realised that my first Belgian goat-cheese experience, with ‘Crottin de Chavignol au thym, miel et pommes golden’, at Comics Cafe in Brussels was the best and would be the most memorable.

When it was served to us, I and possibly even my other vegetarian comrades mistook it for a dish of eggs and toast because of the soft, mousse-like consistency of the two white, round mounds and the yellowish-brown tinge of its surface smiling at us. But a bite confirmed that it was lovely, creamy and all cheese. On enquiring I was told it’s warm goat cheese (Crottin de Chavignol is a brand from France). Baked in an oven with honey and thyme, this cheese is typically served with toast and apples.

I would never have guessed how the cheese was cooked because even though it had a hint of sweetness, the piquancy of goat cheese balanced the flavours just right. In fact, I assumed that the slightly sweet and sour flavours of the toast were a result of juicy apples. But it seems like honey had trickled to down to the bread and the golden apples had lent it the tartness. Every bite was a joy with the garnish of lettuce. After several attempts to guess the ingredients , I relented and asked.

I’m told that although this cheese is French, the dish (also called Crottin de Chavignol) is popular in both Belgium and France as it can be served either hot or cold, depending of the kind of goat cheese. Most of our orders were just as delectable, especially the unique burger–it had grilled aubergine. Besides food, the cafe also offers a feast for the eyes with framed comic strips and sculpted comic characters.

Have you guessed my next move yet? Going goat-cheese shopping and cooking some creamy sensations just like the Belgians.

The author, Pooja Bhula is a freelancer

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