We visited Jannei Dairy, just out of Lithgow, on a sodden afternoon last week, and after many years seeing owners Neil and Janette Watson at various farmers markets (our venison stand was often placed next door to theirs at the Orange Market), it was such a pleasure to finally visit their farm and 120-odd (mostly Saanen) dairy goats.
Of the many award-winning dairy products the Watsons produce, my favourite is the goat’s curd. We use it on sandwiches instead of butter, spooned into summer frittattas, tossed through or stuffed in pasta and spooned into zucchini slices. Here it stars in a very simple early Autumn dessert with blackberries, figs, hazlenuts and warm thyme honey.
Goat’s cheese with figs, blackberries and warm honey
This is hardly a recipe, rather a quick assembly job and one of the nicest, prettiest things you could have at this time of year. Make for dessert or brunch. Serves 4.
200g Jannei goat’s curd
1 cup blackberries
1/4 cup hazlenuts, toasted and roughly chopped (we like Fourjay Farms hazlenuts)
1/4 cup honey
2 tbsp thyme leaves
Sweet flat bread, shortbread or other wafer-style biscuits to serve
Spoon the curd in flat rounds across a large flat plate. Slice the figs and lay these across the curd then scatter with blackberries and hazlenuts. Place the honey and most of the thyme leaves in a small saucepan and heat gently. Pour the warm honey over the platter and serve with sweet bread or biscuits. Serves 2-4
Note – You could easily swap the figs and blackberries with orange segments, other berries or slices of poached pears.
Here at the Jannei Dairy, the Watsons breed, tend and milk all of their goat’s by hand. Organic practices are used as much as possible and the goats feed on natural pastures supplemented by lucerne hay, oats, and wheaten chaff.
At the moment their does are producing about 1200 litres of milk a day, though during winter this drops to about 500 litres. The milk is then carefully transported just a few metres from the milking shed to cheese factory where Neil, Janette and their tiny support team craft it into a range of fresh curds, fresh pressed cheese, aged semi-hard cheeses, fresh white mould cheeses, fetta and yogurt.
Goat’s cheese fritters
Fried cheese wrapped in a golden, crunchy crust? Tick. These are about as far from a health food as you can get but one of the nicest things you can make and serve at home. For this recipe we used Jannei’s fresh Buche Blanc goat’s cheese though you could also make it up with the curd. Make the fritters up to one day in advance and store in the fridge before shallow-frying.
Serve, still hot from the pan with a bottle of chilled Chardonnay. Fantastic.
200g fresh goat’s cheese
250g fresh ricotta
About 1 cup of wholemeal breadcrumbs
Vegetable oil, for frying
Allow the goat’s cheese to soften a little at room temperature then beat with the ricotta using the back of a fork. Add the egg and beat again to combine. Shape this mixture into small rectangles and then coat them in the breadcrumbs. Place the fritters on a plate lined with baking paper, then cover tightly with plastic wrap and pop in the fridge to firm up. Heat the oil in a frying pan on high (you want it to come about 1 1/2cm up the sides of the frying pan) and cook the fritters in batches for just under a minute on each side, or until golden. Remove from pan with a slotted spoon and let sit for a moment on absorbent paper towel then serve.
The Jannei Dairy is open for cheese sales Monday-Saturday during Spring and Summer and Mondays only in winter. If you happen to be driving to Orange or Mudgee, do stop in, meet the Watsons and buy some of their beautiful cheese. Janette will probably even let the kids feed her kids (her poddy baby goat’s love extra attention!). A full list of their stockists can be found on the Jannei website.