Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Say cheese

It must be, ooh, at least a month since my last "product made with camel milk" post so here is my experience of UAE-made camel cheese.

The thing I like about this cheese is the effort that has gone into producing the packaging, a little Bedouin-style tent with imitation sand dunes. Bless. For 39Dhs, you get 200g of the cheese plus the fancy packaging. Readers in the UK will think I've gone mad if they've done the maths (that's about 6.50GBP) when I say it's fairly good value.....

Wait for it, wait for it....

There is logic.....

Camel milk is relatively low in fat compared to its bovine counterpart, and, I think it is for this reason that this cheese lasts a heck, and I mean a heck, of a long time. I am not going to tell you how long it survived in our fridge because you will be horrified that we still ate it, but, it is safe to say that him indoors and I do not really take much notice of sell-by-dates, we are more from the "if it does not have actual maggots or green fur, then it is still OK" school of thought, and, so far we are still alive.

You also do not need much per sitting. It is quite rich tasting, and its fancy packaging has some sort of psychological effect, you view it as a treat, therefore you eat a little bit at a time.

The other reason it seems relatively good value is that cheese of the non-processed variety is pretty darned pricey in the UAE in general. In the UK, we were used to buying house brick-sized blocks of mature cheddar on an almost weekly basis. You can get cheddar here, but the mature variety is not cheap and the house brick-sized blocks are not available in a bog standard supermarket, probably because it would be so expensive people would fall about laughing in the aisles. There is also a certain paranoia about food going off due to heat in the UAE, despite the fact that fridges etc have been widely available for a long time.

Obviously, most fresh cheese that is sold here has arrived from Europe or Australia in some kind of refrigerated vehicle which costs dosh, hence the high price to the consumer. There are all kinds of  processed tinned, carton and packaged cheeses available, but, I tried a cheap carton of feta from Denmark once and nearly cried, such was its inferior quality. I am aware exactly how ridiculously middle class that makes me sound, but, you know what, I am ok with that, if it means I will never have to eat the shrunken excuse for feta ever again.

Anyway, back to the camel cheese. As for the actual flavour, it is not particularly memorable. I would say it is a bit like feta but less salty, or one of those artisan goat cheeses that are coated in ash. But, it really is all down to the presentation. Packing it in a miniature tent appeals a lot to strange people like me who like miniature things, and I am pretty sure that thanks to this, it will join the assortment of "amusing presents to take home to the family" novelty items such as camel milk chocolate camels, dates, Arabian sweets and shisha pipes, given time.

As for a mass market, it is hampered by the same problems as camel milk itself, in that it is not exactly economical to produce if this story in The National is anything to go by. But there will always be a groundswell of support from those who want to find a way to make camels an economic resource other than for amusing tourists and camel racing in the UAE, as it is such a symbol of how life once was in this region. 

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