The best hot cheese dishes from around the world
Cheese is great. People who appreciate good food love a good cheese, and different cultures around the world have all come up with unique ways of making and serving the stuff.
Thought to have been invented as long ago as 8000 BCE, when sheep were first domesticated, it is likely the cheesemaking process was stumbled upon by ancient nomads storing milk in containers made from animal stomachs. The rennet in the stomach would have created curds and whey from the milk, and salt may have been added to preserve the resulting mixture. Over the years, various ways of processing and ageing cheeses have been invented, resulting in the myriad varieties we see today.
The flavour and texture of most cheeses are improved by allowing them to reach at least room temperature before eating. However, here we’ll take a look at how to really set those cheesy flavours free with a selection of dishes built around hot cheese from around the world. If you see any glaring omissions, let us know below!
Named after the small frying pan it is served in, Saganaki is a Greek dish involving cooking up a dish in a single small pan. Saganaki cheese involves pan-searing cheese, such as feta or kefalotyri, and serving with lemon juice, pepper and bread. Fans of Cyprus villa holidays might have tried the Cypriot variety made using halloumi – definitely a rising star in the global cooked cheese leagues.
French cheeses like Vacherin and Camembert come in handy wooden boxes which, once the cheese inside has been unwrapped, can be used to bake the cheese in. The resulting cheesy goo can be dipped with bread, cornichons, potatoes, broccoli, or whatever comes to hand!
Perhaps the most glorious way of enjoying melted cheese. The Swiss/French practice of melting a huge quantity of Gruyère and Emmental into a pan with white wine and maybe a splash of kirsch, then dipping chunks of skewered bread and other titbits into it, is quite simply divine. Traditional fondue etiquette dictates that double-dipping is not allowed, and should a piece of bread be lost in the pot, the guilty diner must perform a forfeit of his or her companions’ choosing.
The piadina is a type of Italian flatbread, originating from the Romagna region. Fabulous for Italian-style ‘quesadillas’, smeared with stracchino cheese then stuffed with rocket and maybe some top-notch prosciutto.
Pizza as we know it started life in Naples, with the classic Margherita variety being created after Queen Margherita of Savoy visited the city and was served a pizza with the Italian colours of red (tomato), white (mozzarella) and green (basil). For cheese-fiends, the margherita or quattro formaggi (four cheeses) pizza varieties provide excellent platforms for enjoying the gooey goodness of melted cheese.
This splendidly cheesy Italian pasta sauce is actually a fairly recent invention, appearing in the second half of the 20th Century. The authentic version is made simply from eggs, pecorino romano cheese, bacon and pepper. Other versions of the dish include cream in the recipe, and vegetables can be added for colour and variety. Broccoli and courgettes work wonders!
Essentially melted cheese on toast, but that shouldn’t detract from the glories of this dish. Various recipes for Welsh rarebit add ingredients such as mustard, beer and Worcestershire sauce into the cheese mix, sometimes creating more of a Béchamel or Mornay sauce on top of the bread.
‘Mac and Cheese’ in the USA and ‘Kraft dinner’ in Canada, this simple classic consists of macaroni pasta, white sauce and cheese. Breadcrumbs can be added as a topping, but a nicely browned layer of cheese on top is essential. Best to avoid pre-packaged versions unless you’re in a big hurry.
Made in a proper hinged sandwich-maker, the cheese in this beautiful creation gets super hot and becomes encased in a lovely toasted pocket of bread. Slather with butter before toasting for the best results, but perhaps not too regularly. Also great with a bit of ham or a few chopped up pickled onions buried in the molten cheese.
There you have it folks, some of the tastiest cheese dishes to be found on the planet. This is making me seriously hungry! Happy travels!