Cheese certainly stirs up passion; the eating of and especially the making. The lovely folk at Clevedon Valley Buffalo Company are a perfect example. This labour of love produces the creamiest of ricottas, the softest stretchy fresh mozzarella and, soon, a delicious mushroomy blue. If you take a winter's walk around Duders Farm, southeast of Auckland, keep a look out for their herd of handsome buffalo - you may even see them being milked, happy as can be with a view of the sea.

The variety of cheese on the market seems to be endless, perfect for the enthusiast with no chance of getting bored; from the most subtle flavours to the stinkiest imaginable, goat, cow, buffalo or sheep. A hunk of good cheese, crusty bread and a glass of wine can be the ultimate "fast food".

Today, I am using three types of cheese in three different ways. Fresh mozzarella gets a winter makeover, being torn and then added to buttery brussels sprouts, fresh pear, toasty walnuts and a gorgeously rich avocado dressing. The fantastic - though some may need to hold it at arm's length as it's rather strong - tallegio, is baked into gougeres which are irresistible straight from the oven. Then I shamelessly steal a recipe from a dear friend for baked camembert.

The whole cheese is studded with fresh thyme and garlic then doused in chardonnay and baked. It's heavenly smeared on bread.

Chef's tip

Wrap cheese well to prevent it drying out in the fridge. Either keep it in its original wrapping or use a damp cloth or waxed paper. If you have to use plastic wrap, do so for a short period only. The ideal would be to check out speciality cheese shops, or the food stores with cheese rooms, and buy less more often.