The 90s is when we really got cheesy
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Written by: Roshni Bajaj Sanghvi
Namrata Sunderesan’s mother would often reach for the round tin of processed Amul cheese in her kitchen, only to realise that it was empty.
“I was a child who experimented with food,” says Sunderesan. “And I enjoyed making breakfast for my mom, so noodle-and-cheese cutlets for her it was.” As a very young, very adventurous cook, she would combine cooked instant noodles with chopped aromatics — onions, coriander leaves, green chillies — then add boiled potatoes and cheese to make little patties which would then be fried.“Try it, they’re yum!” she says.
When she was a child, her family would get their beloved, precious tins of industrial cheese from the army canteen, via a friend whose father was in the services. “Of course there was only one cheese then,” she says.
For the last six years, Sunderesan has been producing artisanal, ethical, ‘clean’ cheese in several varieties using milk sourced from local producers. She is the co-founder of Chennai-based Käse Cheese.
Käse offers classic European-style cheese, from spreadable to semi-hard aged varieties; cheese infused with familiar local flavours like methi and saunf; vineyard-inspired cheeses in collaboration with Fratelli Wines; cheese platters; condiments and crackers to pair with Käse cheese; and workshops, events and classes, where curious customers can learn about fermentation, or merely come in for a tasting. Käse also collaborates with pastoralists in Gujarat, India’s original dairy state, to make cheese from their excess sheep and goat milk.
“As a producer, I find it very exciting that cheesemaking is a form of preservation, something we have done regularly for centuries,” says Sunderesan. “Cheese is no plain Jane, it is a blank canvas, and so we like to dress it up. We haven’t stopped playing with flavour — we use turmeric, rose, lavender, and it really amps it up.”
Even so, the most common question Käse gets from newer customers is, ‘How do I eat it?’ Sunderesan tells them, “It’s cheese, just eat it! People find it hard to think beyond pasta and sandwiches, they don’t see it as a standalone thing.” To this end, she enjoys doing pairing events that might open minds and palates. “Pairing cheese with coffee is a new thing,” she notes.
To play with the versatility of cheese, for enthucutlet, we used Käse’s pecorino to make a snack we loved in the 90s — puffy, crunchy, addictive ‘cheeslings’. As an ode to the cola floats we all loved then, we have used Käse’s fresh chèvre to make a goat cheese ice cream and orange soda float — a sophisticated throwback to a sticky, sugary drink we delighted in as kids.
Sunderesan remembers the summers of the late 90s making floats for her friends and family. She plans to get her 13-year-old niece to try our version. “If she likes it, I’ll be very happy,” she says.
Here are our favourite Käse Cheese recipes
Goat Cheese Ice Cream Float
Tools and equipment: Electric hand beater
Prep time: 10 minutes
Freezing time: 4 hours
150 gms Kase Goat cheese, at room temperature
300 gms sweetened condensed milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
250 ml whipping or double cream
1 bottle Fanta, chilled
- In a bowl, whip the cheese, condensed milk, and vanilla extract.
- In another bowl, use a hand mixer and whip the cream until it is stiff. This should take three to four minutes.
- Add the whipped cream to the cheese mix and combine well.
- Chill this mixture in the freezer for four hours.
- In a glass, pour the chilled Fanta and then add a scoop of goat cheese ice cream. Serve immediately.
Tools and equipment: Grater, Rolling pin, and Frying pan
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 5 minutes
40 gms Kase Pecorino cheese, grated
100 gms all-purpose flour (maida)
40 gms salted butter (chilled or softened)
40 ml milk
1 tsp baking soda
Oil, for deep frying
- In a bowl, mix all-purpose flour, cold butter, grated Pecorino cheese, milk, and baking soda. Knead the dough until the mixture becomes a collective ball.
- Let the ball rest for about 10 minutes.
- Dust a handful of flour on a board. Place the dough ball on the board and roll it out thin using a rolling pin.
- Cut the dough into small diagonal pieces, like a barfi.
- Heat oil in a pan on medium flame. Once hot, fry seven to ten of the cheeslings at a time, for 30 to 40 seconds on each side.
- Once all of them are fried, serve hot. The cheeslings can be stored in an airtight container for a week.
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enthucutlet is a bimonthly food mag that brings you unusual stories about food in India (& sometimes beyond). Check out all our original food stories (like this one on Growing up in the Cheesling-filled 90s) and actionable guides (like India’s Top 5 Indie Hot sauces one) on our website.
Our upcoming season is 'Food + Design'. Through July and August, expect original stories, delicious tips and pointers, and lively events, all of which will explore how all food is design—whether intended or discovered.
To get first dibs on all things enthu and connect with fellow cutlets, subscribe on our website, and follow us on @enthucutletmag on Instagram and Twitter. enthucutlet is brought to you by the cutlets behind The Bombay Canteen, O Pedro, Bombay Sweet Shop, and Veronica's.