|Plum tomato & lettuce salad topped with crumbly bandel cheese|
|Smoked bandel cheese|
Bandel is an Asian cheese originated in an erstwhile Portuguese colony, in Bandel, eastern India. Today the production is concentrated in the towns of Tarakeshwar, Bishnupur, Bankura, near Kolkata in West Bengal. It is made by separating the curds from the whey with lemon juice. It is then moulded and drained in small baskets and smoked. Bandel is known for its dry, crumbly and smoky flavour. Bandel cheese is well-salted and can be stored.
My husband was in Kolkata recently on an official visit and the list of ingredients that I asked him to bring included this cheese. He got some of the smoked variety. (Although I had told him to get the other version too. The ones that were not smoked. He must have forgotten.) I did a lot of online reading on the cheese and decided that it would do well in a salad. It helped that I got a punnet of juicy sunset-yellow plum tomatoes from the supermarket. Hmm, yellow and the dark leaves of the lettuce in my pots would make a good combination.
Since the cheese is salty, it needs to be soaked overnight in water. I also scraped off the "rind". Inside the texture was like paneer but the smoky flavour is beautiful.
2 pieces of bandel cheese, soaked overnight
25 plum tomatoes, washed, patted dry and halved
6-7 dark lettuce leaves, washed and torn to bits
A tiny bunch of mint leaves
For the dressing:
1 tbs honey
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp coarsely ground pepper
Pinch of salt (the salt in the cheese!)
3 tbs sesame oil, heated and cooled
3 cloves of garlic, roasted on an open flame
Peel and coarsely chop up the garlic. Add the rest of the dressing ingredients and stir well. Set aside.
In a serving bowl, place the tomatoes, the lettuce and the mint leaves. Toss. Pour the dressing and mix well with a spoon. Remove the outermost skin of the cheese and crumble on top of the salad. It's now ready to be served.
If you like an extra crunch in your salad, you can sprinkle some toasted pine nuts on top.
I loved the cheese! Its saltiness and smokiness complemented the slight sweetness of the tomatoes. This is certainly a salad I'd love to have again. And soon!! I'll also have them grilled and I think I'll crumble them over a dish of gnocchi. Yum!