On a blustery Brisbane Wednesday, SheSociety shivered over to East Brisbane for a unique morning tea tasting , ahead of Eat Local Week. Upon entering the inviting surrounds of The Wolfe restaurant we soon warmed up. Our host was Josh Lopez. Josh is a well known super chef, champion of local produce, and now head chef and owner of this atmospheric Queensland restaurant. He is also a proud ambassador for the Scenic Rim Eat Local Week. You might remember his taste sensations at GOMA and I was impressed to see that he’d also worked at Gordon Ramsay’s MAZE in London and one of the world’s top restaurants, Noma in Denmark.
He was joined by Jeff and Paul from Summer Land Camels who brought along some of their fine camel milk produce for this herd of fabulous local foodies to try.
For me this was an exciting tasting. I usually limit my dairy and gluten due to a dodgy thyroid and menopause symptoms. I try to eat anti inflammatory foods and although I love a smelly French Roquefort cheese or sharp cheddar, I usually stick to goat’s cheese, if I have any cheese at all. Today I was in heaven as I could taste camel haloumi, feta, fromage blanc and the latest camel milk creation, cheddar. All were served beautifully by the team from The Wolfe, who regularly use camel products when creating their menus.
We were all excited to first taste Summer Land Camels newest creation, Camel Cheddar. Cheddar cheese might be easy to eat, but it is notoriously difficult to make. It was thought impossible to make cheddar with camel’s milk because it has less fat and lactose than cow’s milk. Jeff joked, ‘ The Wiggles even sing a song that says you can’t make cheese from camel’s milk.’
However with the help of friends from Pure Artisan Cheese at Mount Tamborine, they finally cracked the secret formula. By their own admission their first batch was not good, but they persisted, with each batch an improvement on the last.
Jeff explained further, ‘We were making a cheese that had never been made before ….ever. So there was no template to work from, no timeline to follow, we were literally making our own history.’
For me I was expecting a more gamey flavour and was pleasantly surprised by the quite delicate and smooth flavour of the cheese. I really liked it and and can only see it getting better with age. The texture was good, not too dense and crumbly, as some cheddar can be.
I wondered about the suitability of camel cheese for people with intolerance to dairy.
Jeff Flood reassured us by saying , ‘Camel cheese can be eaten by anyone. I love to see the looks on the faces of kids who are dairy intolerant when they have their first taste of our camel milk ice cream and gelato. Those looks are priceless.’
In fact this was one of the reasons for Jeff’s foray into camel farming. His own son had severe eczema and camel products proved to be beneficial.
Camel’s milk does not contain the same proteins as cow’s milk and has less lactose so is better tolerated by those with allergies. It has a range of antioxidant and anti inflammatory properties.
Next we sampled the delicately flavoured haloumi cooked to perfection by Josh. He said, ‘ Cooking camel haloumi you almost need to cook it to well done. It takes on flavours really well and doesn’t have that squeaky or rubbery feel of some other haloumi.’
The feta was gorgeous and melt in the mouth and Josh said he enjoys cooking with the camel fromage blanc as it can be used in both savoury or sweet dishes. It was lucky we all weren’t Masterchef contestants doing a taste test, as we thought we were trying the cheese with pear and berry paste. Josh explained it was actually grape and rosella. Delicious!
The new Camel Cheddar will be at the Winter Harvest Festival from July 6. Summer Land Camels have produced about 350 kg for Eat Local Week. For school holiday fun there is a Farmer Humpty Day on 3rd July with camel farm tours, camel cuddles, story time and arts and crafts. You’ll be able to taste and make Camel Cheese on 5th July at Summer Land Camels, only a 45 minute drive from Brisbane.
For a taste of modern Australian cuisine, using the freshest of local produce (including camel produce), The Wolfe is open from Tuesday – Saturday for dinner and for lunch on Thursday and Friday. Thanks to Kath Rose for the unique invitation and chef Josh Lopez for hosting us in this beautiful space. It was great to meet some innovative local farmers who focus on sustainable, ethical and organic farming practise and to be given a sample of the world’s first Camel Cheddar. Wake up, Jeff! You can make cheese from Camels.
Freelance writer, wife and mother of three sons, occasional supply teacher and aspiring romance author, Michelle Beesley can be most often found in a coffee shop chatting with friends or beside a rugby field cheering on her favourite teams.
Michelle is a prolific—albeit reluctant—traveller, keen walker, bookworm and yoga enthusiast who loves anything pink or sparkly (including champagne!).