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From Holland to Turkey

It's David challenge Friday. And oh dear I have just noticed that it's Friday the 13th, so I hope nothing goes wrong this time.

He nominated Maasdam cheese as my challenge. Why? Well always a sucker for a bargain he saw some Maasdam cheese on a special - it's always cheap anyway - so he bought a chunk, only to realise when he got home that we already had one in the fridge. Now I do like Maasdam, as does one of my sons but it's probably a somewhat underrated cheese. I suspect it's not loved by cheese snobs even though words like nutty, buttery and fruity are often applied to it. Personally I love all of those semi-hard Dutch cheeses so I was not appalled by David's challenge.

First of all let me enlighten you a little about Maasdam cheese. To my surprise I found that it is a modern invention - 1984 was a common date, but so was the more general early 1990s. Perhaps this is another reason for its low level esteem. It was invented to compete with the much older and more expensive Swiss Emmental - very successfully as it turns out as it now represents 15% of the cheese made in the Netherlands.

It's a cow's milk cheese, high in fat - 45%, that takes a mere 4-12 weeks to mature. It has lots of holes - it's main feature - and a waxy yellow skin. It is made in large wheels or blocks and has a shiny almost rubbery or plastic look and texture. To be more polite you could use words like supple or silky or smooth I guess. The taste though, as I said, is what makes it.

The cheese retailer, or is he a farmer?, who is said to have invented it was named Baars and he lived, I assume, in or near the village of Maasdam for which it is named. Maas is the name of the river the village is on, and dam - is just what it says. There is a bit of confusion over the origins though because there is also a trademarked cheese called Leerdammer which was invented back in the 1970s by Bastiaan Baars, a cheese retailer, and a neighbouring farmer Cees Botterkooper. The Baars company sold the Leerdammer cheese for many years until it was sold to the French company Le Groupe Bel who have the sole right to manufacturing Leerdammer. Maasdam however can be made by anyone - and it is. There must be some slight difference in the manufacture one assumes for this to be possible.

The fact that it is relatively cheap and relatively mild tasting is probably what doesn't endear it to the cheese gurus, but it's also what makes it good for cooking, so when I began my search for what to do with it I found a very wide range of possibilities. More or less anything you can do with cheese in cooking, you can do with Maasdam cheese really. Here are a few of the more enticing things I found: Game changing bacon mac 'n' cheese from Total Feasts; Toasted ham and Maasdam pan sandwich from Diversions; Strata - a kind of savoury bread and butter pudding, from Chef Lippe; Cheese and potato croquettes with cherry tomato relish from Coles; Baked Maasdam with honey thyme and pecans from Taste (but not the one we know) and finally Maasdam cheese potato wedges from Frico - who make or distribute the cheese that we have.

All tempting - well some more so than others - I think the strata and the mac 'n' cheese were the top of my list here, (maybe David will disagree), but then I found this: Spiced ground beef gozleme with Maasdam from Cook Halaal, which looked very tasty and was also streets away from the above choices. I have always wanted to make gozleme - Turkey's favourite fast food, so here is my opportunity.

What is gozleme?

"Gözleme is a masterpiece in simplicity: a ball of dough and a little filling – potato, spinach and/or, for non-vegans, cheese – come together to form a fresh, hot filled flatbread that’s much greater than the sum of its parts." Meera Sodha

And she doesn't mention the meaty versions - but then she's a vegan. I could therefore have made a cheese and spinach version but that is generally a feta cheese thing, and besides there was that very gorgeous looking recipe above. The picture at the left here shows four different versions.

Gozleme is made with a very simple pastry - flour, water and oil, with according to some, yeast, or yoghurt. My recipe goes for the yoghurt but not the yeast, and this seems to me, after looking at all the various versions like the best solution, and very easy. You roll your pastry out very thin, put on a quite small amount of filling, fold it over, flatten it and then fry until crispy and brown. Yum. I am wondering whether I should make some kind of dip to go with it - maybe a tzatziki, or maybe just lemons to squeeze over, and perhaps a rather more complicated salad than I usually do. But I think it should be Ok.

Now I have to go out and buy some fresh coriander which I did not notice was a requirement this morning. I suppose I could substitute parsley - or maybe even dill. David wants to drink some red wine this evening and I guess that would go quite well with it.


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