This week’s cheeses (yes, it’s a rare double-bill this week!) have had me thinking about what sort of cheese I’d like to be immortalised as. It’s a tricky one. Much as I adore blue cheese, its main characteristics are mould and stinkiness, which I’m not sure I’d like to be summed up by. Ditto smear-ripened cheese which is a bit of a smelly joke. Perhaps a farmhouse cheddar? But then that just brings up words like ‘earthy’ and ‘robust’ which would make me sound like a used tractor. Hmmmm… Anyway, republicans look away as this week I bring you The Duke and Duchess:
One of the lovely things about writing about British produce is that you get to learn about new areas of the British Isles which sound rather appealing. And so it is that we’ll be spending half the Easter holidays in west Wales, partly because it sounds like a peaceful idyll full of pristine beaches and rivers packed with jumping fish and partly because it’s been described as ‘the Loire of Welsh cheesemaking’. And whereas some cheesemakers (somewhat understandably) say on their website ‘don’t come and visit us, we’re too busy making cheese’, these Welsh cheesemakers are all like: ‘Please come and visit us – we’d love to see you!’ and ‘Drop by, see us in action and taste our cheese!’ Well, don’t mind if I do…but first this week’s suitably Welsh cheese:
You know you’re advancing in years when a) you get excited by the thought of buying a mandolin (the chopping, not the Captain Corelli variety) and b) you then get enraged because it turns out it doesn’t slice thinly enough for your liking. So, all ideas of conning my children by making vegetable crisps out of the window, I was left pondering what to do with my new toy so that I didn’t hurl it against a wall. As fate would have it, I was also pondering what to do with the remains of last week’s Nuns of Caen that the kinds folks at The Cheese Market had given to me in abundance. This recipe is therefore the coming together of some too-thickly-sliced vegetables, a luscious cheese washed in perry and – it only seemed fitting – some pears. It was eaten with pork chops, also cooked in perry with shallots and sage.
As part of last Friday’s goat’s cheese paean in honour of Chinese New Year I promised you a ewe’s milk cheese to redress the balance for those who thought we were now entering the Year of the Sheep instead. And, as fate would have it, the lovely folks at online artisan cheese emporium The Cheese Market very kindly sent me a very delicious example of the type indeed. So here, in all its gooey orange loveliness, is Nuns of Caen:
I am fascinated by natural yeasts and like to grow a sourdough starter in my kitchen. It was given to me by an Italian friend who got it from her in-laws in Italy who got it from a bakery. So it feels a bit like a pedigree pet, one of those long-haired hamsters or something that needs food and attention or it starts to smell. The problem is that if it was a hamster I’d be in big trouble with the rodent obesity protection league as I feed it far too much and end up with a giant Kilner full of starter:
Okay, so it’s not Friday yet. But it is Chinese New Year today and so when I skim-read somewhere that we were entering the Year of the Goat it seemed like the perfect opportunity to present you with a goat’s cheese this week. But then things got complicated when I read this article. The celebrated animal in question derives from the Mandarin Chinese character ‘yang’ which means simply ‘horned animal’. So whilst some people interpret this as ‘goat’ others are in the ‘sheep’ or ‘ram’ camp. When I used to work for a farming organisation we sometimes used the term ‘shoats’ when we wanted to talk about a mixed herd of sheep and goats. That would solve everything. Except for the fact that I really don’t have time to track down a British mixed milk sheep and goat’s cheese, if such a thing even exists. So you’re getting goat’s this week and that’s that. Without further ado, here is Saint George:
There are several sights you might expect to see on a visit to a Somerset cheesemakers: blotchy black and white cows grazing jade meadows; grown men wearing hairnets; great hulks of maturing yellow cheddar. But one thing you perhaps don’t figure on stumbling upon is a state-of-the-art laboratory complete with microscopes and canisters of liquid nitrogen.
Well, this cheese is a first. Usually I don’t write about two cheeses made by the same producers in quick succession because I find that I don’t have enough to say (same cows, same milk, same people making it in the same place…) But this week’s cheese was described as ‘exceptional’ by the Other Half and ‘oh blimey, THAT is something VERY different’ by me. So, I give you the cheese that broke all the rules, Paddy’s Milestone:
The problem (admittedly not a very serious problem) with buying lots of cheese in one go is that you suddenly have an awful lot of cheese to eat. ‘Stop it!’ wailed the Other Half last week. ‘Stop buying so much cheese, I have to stop eating so much cheese!’ Whilst the obvious retort would be ‘Well, stop eating so much cheese then’, I did have some sympathies and so, with a lunch visit from the in-laws on the horizon and a mammoth chunk of the bluest cheese in existence in the fridge, I decided to cook something up with it. Obviously by taking this approach we are still, in real terms, ‘eating so much cheese’, but it doesn’t feel like it. A bit like when you eat the whole box of chocolates at once and therefore consume less calories than if you ate three a day for the next fortnight. Honestly.
Call this post a Burns Night hangover if you will. I wanted to write about Scottish cheese last week and, given that a) it’s not always easy tracking down far-flung cheese and b) I was too busy working to leave the house for extended cheese mooching trips, I decided to order my chosen cheese online. And everybody knows that if you’re mail-ordering, it pays to order in bulk, right? So this week I present Scottish Cheese II: its name is Hebridean Blue. And if you are afraid of blue cheese, you might want to look away now: