Most of the French cheeses I buy are unpasteurised, rich and pungent, but I came across one recently that is the antithesis of all that: fromage blanc. It starts off the way most cheese is made: the milk (whole, skimmed or a mixture of the two) is coagulated then drained of its whey before being packed into a container. But the process stops there: the cheese is not aged. The result is like cream cheese (only with a tangier flavour), ricotta (except smoother) or yogurt (but much thicker).

Like all of those, though, fromage blanc can be bland on its own - it tastes much better if other ingredients are mixed with it. In France, it's sometimes served as dessert with a spoonful of jam; if you want to make it fancy, you can layer the ingredients in small glasses, top them with fresh fruit and call it a verrine. It's also used to make the classic dessert of coeur à la crème (right): you line a heart-shaped mould with cheesecloth and pack it with fromage blanc that's been mixed with sugar and flavourings such as lemon juice or vanilla extract. Holes in the bottom of the mould allow the excess liquid to drain out. The cheese - now firmer than it was - is inverted onto a plate, the cheesecloth and mould are removed, and the coeur à la crème is served with fresh or poached fruit, or with a fruit purée.