Thepla with plain chèvre and Brie with Jamun jam!
From attending a cheese bootcamp at Murray’s Cheese in New York to starting her own business venture in Mumbai, cheese-making is a sensorial experience for Mansi Jasani.
Artisanal cheese-maker Mansi Jasani believes in following the footsteps of small farmers in Europe and producing natural cheeses. At her buzzing home kitchen in Mumbai, it’s all about transforming humble milk into semi-hard, hard and soft cheeses. Jasani is on a mission not just to make oozy, gooey and melty cheese but also to educate her customers on the nitty gritty of cheese-making.
Her passion for the dairy product spawned a business idea in 2014: an online store known as The Cheese Collective. Today, her platform not only retails fresh products, but also conducts cheese appreciation and pairing workshops. She also curates fresh cheeses from across India into customised platters and gift baskets.
Starting on a cheese-making journey
Jasani’s journey started in 2011 when she did her Cheese Bootcamp at Murray’s Cheese in New York. She recalls, “After all that cheese overload, I wasn’t cheesed out and I could still eat more, unlike the other students around me!” Learning the art of cheese-making at Murray’s helped cement her decision to toe this line.
After taking a beginner’s course at the Vermont Institute of Artisan Cheese and an internship at Murray’s Cheese, she returned to Mumbai to begin experimenting.
In the world of cheese, there is constant learning and she is always attending conferences or festivals across the world. She even did a cheese course with the Acadamie Mons in France.
“I am totally obsessed with cheese. Making, curating, educating and constantly learning about new cheeses every day!” she proudly says.
Jasani is a great fan of goat cheese. Her earliest memory of cheese-making was when she tried her hand at making Chèvre. “It was soft, fluffy, white, earthy and pillowy! It took two days to make,” she recalls.
A platter of cheese
The Indian cheese scene has dynamically changed since she began in 2014. Today, The Cheese Collective sells a variety of goat cheeses. She makes her cheese using an array of mixed herbs and honey. Besides cheese balls, there are party balls and cheese spread. For exclusivity, try out the goat cheese with a touch of Za’atar (the woodsy culinary herb)!
Jasani feels that Indian flavours pair very well with artisanal cheeses. A couple of examples she shares are thepla with plain chèvre and Brie with Jamun jam. But the one street-food fusion that she looks with disdain is Pav Bhaji fondue!
High-quality cheese starts with quality ingredients. But what does high-quality really mean? The answer inevitably is in the milk used. The quality of the milk significantly impacts the final flavour, so Jasani prefers using goat and cow milk, and buffalo cream.
However, cheese-making in India is not without its challenges. Jasani explains, “Humid weather is one of the biggest issues we face, so we make our cheese in a temperature and humidity controlled room. Our platters are handled in a cold environment so that the temperature is maintained throughout. The other challenges I face are unreliable logistics and the lack of a small pack of cultures or enzymes available locally.”
Cheese-making during the pandemic
While much has changed in the last few months since the lockdown, Jasani has used that time to conduct online cheese tasting sessions for the city’s turophiles. Participants were delivered pre-ordered cheese for tasting through The Cheese Collective. She says, “We have to just put our head down and work hard to dole out the best cheeses and curations possible. Due to the lockdown, we can’t have any of our workshops in person so we have been conducting Virtual Cheese Tastings and Cooking with Cheese sessions with a variety of chefs!”