Crafting Goat Cheese with Curly from Vintage Tasmania

The Tasmanian Food Co - Crafting Goat Cheese with Curly from Vintage Tasmania

Ever since one nibbled her trousers on a school trip to France when she was 11, Curly Haslam-Coates has adored goats.

It was in these early years Curly (or as you may know her via social media, Vintage Tasmania) was fast growing fond of good food and knowing how to make it.

Curly remembers getting her hands stuck into bread dough aged three, and learning the romantic basics of traditional cooking from then onwards.

Her kitchen is undoubtedly her temple, with Curly taking great pleasure in whipping up pasta from scratch, sizzling an eye fillet or testing out a Shima wasabi gin cocktail.

“It’s lovely to have that craving for something and go, hmm I’m just going to go make it. You can really tell the difference,” Curly says as she sips on ale at Launceston’s craft beer haven, Saint John.

It’s a stunning Saturday afternoon in the midst of spring and Curly’s fresh from Harvest Market, a weekly gathering in central Launceston of farmers, growers, makers and those who worship their fresh wares. Curly is Market Manager, and has helped grow Harvest into something of a local custom.

Curly has become a fierce advocate of delicious Tasmanian things (particularly if they’re in a bottle and bubbly) since moving from the UK in 2010. Her knowledge of food and booze has made her an authority in a busy epicurean scene. So when Curly says something is spot on, you listen. Which brings us back to goats.

“I love using Robur Farm milk because it is just so beautiful,” says Curly over another sip of beer. “It doesn’t have that heaviness that some goat products get, it’s a lot fresher.”

Robur Farm Dairy is a busy operation at Sassafras in Tasmania’s lush northwest. Dutch veterinarian Leon Lolkema oversees a bouncy, strong herd of goats that feed off the region’s impeccable pastures and produce an outstanding product that’s fast being picked up in place of cow’s milk. It’s known to be a gentle substitute for the conventional, but now has a reputation for flavour.

There’s an earthiness to goat milk, which adds more punch to popular recipes like pancakes, custard and ice cream.

Making (and eating) goat’s cheese

Curly saves her Robur Farm milk for one thing: cheese. It’s her meditation: pouring a glass of wine, turning on a podcast and spending time immersed in the science of fromage. Curly insists it’s simple.

“Feta is the easy one and also this time of year is fun to make. I’ll warm the milk up, inoculate it, chuck it to the side in a tub and in the morning it’s set. Then I scoop it out into hoops, give it a drain and Bob’s your uncle from that point. You can either salt it and have it plain or I quite like making Persian Feta, so just add some oil, herbs and spice.”

Curly’s goat milk feta will end up broken over pizza, smeared on ciabatta and as the warmth creeps back and stone fruit appears, employed in apricot tart.

Conscious of getting every last drop of goodness from her cooking, Curly suggests freezing whey for soups, or adding water and sprinkling on the garden. And when Curly’s not using Robur Farm milk, it’s Pyengana or it’s nothing.

For the uninitiated, making cheese from scratch can seem rather daunting, but Curly says it’s nothing persistence, the right stirring technique, a group of mates and bottles of wine one afternoon can’t achieve.

For those in a hurry: Robur Farm Dairy also offers a swag of ready to roll products including marinated feta, which Curly says will dress up pasta and salads for a quick, summery dish. Team with Pinot Rosé, a grown-up wine with savoury hints sure to match the assertive flavour of goat milk.

Leon of Robur Farm recently brought some of his giddy flock to Harvest, where he explained to curious onlookers why great produce starts with happy animals. There was no nibbling this time, but Curly was certainly reminded of her adoration for these creatures.