Went for a casual dinner at French bistro Le Cochin on Peel Street just down the hill from Hollywood Road. Imagine my surprise when I found myself presented with cheese wrapped in a leaf of the Chestnut tree.
The Banon de Provence was an unpasteurised goat milk cheese that was semi-soft. It tasted a lot like other goat cheeses, but offered a bit more character in texture and complexity.
According to AOC Banon, the association representing the Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée for the cheese, the technique originated from farmers in northern Provence, who needed a way to preserve excess cheese production after the initial sales cycle. What they came up with a way to use chestnut leaves, which fell from trees every autumn ahead of the full maturity of the cheese, as a wrap. It usually takes 5 to 8 leaves to wrap each piece of the cheese.
It wasn’t the cheese that impressed me as much as the wrapping. After we finished our potion of the Banon de Provence, I got the urge to put my nose to the chestnut leaf, just to see what it added to the flavour and aroma.
What a phenomenal aroma. Despite falling off its host tree, being boiled and/or vinagered, then wrap around a piece of cheese for what ever amount of time, the leaf was fresh and aromatic, like a meadow in the spring as the sun dries up the morning dews.
The lesson here is that trees offer us so much more than we can sometimes imagine.