Jerusalem Artichoke, Parsnip and Quicke’s Cheddar Gratin

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Jerusalem artichokes are like the tube engineers of the allotment. From February until November, whilst other vegetables are getting all showy and plump above the soil, the artichokes beaver away underground, doing their thing. Considering, or perhaps because of, their unstoppable ability to produce monster yields, they are not a popular vegetable, despite their sweet and nutty taste. Admittedly, this might also be due to their reputation for causing…ahem…digestive mayhem. As far back as 1621, John Goodyer was moaning that ‘which way soever they be dressed and eaten, they stir and cause a filthy loathsome stinking wind within the body, thereby causing the belly to be pained and tormented, and are a meat more fit for swine than men.’

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An Evening of Comté Cheese

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The eagle-eyed amongst you may be muttering ‘Comté is neither a British nor an Irish cheese’ and you are, of course, correct. When I was invited to an evening to find out more about the French cheese, I flip-flopped as to whether to attend. Eventually, I decided to cross the cheese Channel because a) I’ve got two children and I don’t get out much; b) Comté is a nice cheese; and c) I am interested in different production methods and systems, so thought it would be interesting to head to the mountains that we tend to lack this side of La Manche. Blame it on The Oxford Companion to Cheese; it’s got me sniffing after all manner of furrin cheeses.

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Red Onion Soup with Dewlay’s Lancashire Toasts

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It’s hard to know what to eat for lunch when you work from home. Unless you live somewhere a lot cooler than me, gone are the days of sushi on a Monday, falafel on a Wednesday and mashed-avocado-something on a Friday. For a long time I relied on fish-finger sandwiches or cheese toasties, both of which are delicious in their own right but, long-term, don’t tend to deliver much in the way of either filling you up for the afternoon, or providing much nutritional benefit. So recently I switched to salads in the summer and soup in the winter. You really can’t beat toasted cheese though, so here it is, ingeniously incorporated into some soup.

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The Oxford Companion to Cheese: A Review

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It’s fair to say I own quite a few books about cheese. When people visit my house for the first time, especially if they haven’t known me very long, they often at some point emerge from the downstairs toilet, look at me in a strange way and mutter something along the lines of ‘gosh, there are quite a few…erm…cheese books in there, aren’t there?’ I like to smile enigmatically at them and not give any explanation. If you doubt my cheese book collection but are still awaiting your invitation to my water closet, here’s a sneak preview of the top shelf:

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Fromage Friday: Yorkshire Fettle

I once met someone who told me that his friend had written her dissertation about cheese names. It might sound a bit daft and perhaps the sort of thing that would trigger a spluttering Daily Mail article about the pointlessness of academia. But, actually, I think it sounds quite interesting. Cheese names can often tell an informative or evocative story. They can be geographical (Fosse Way Fleece, Parlick Fell), historical (Edmund Tew, Howard) or even linguistic (Norfolk Mardler, Mouth Almighty). I had heard about Yorkshire Fettle precisely because of how it came by its name but hadn’t managed to track any down, so was chuffed when Aldi sent me some to try as part of their new range:

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Pumpkin and Chestnut Macaroni Cheese

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Never fear, Halloween haters, it’s safe to come out for another year. Love it or hate it, it’s undeniable that the surge in spooky celebrations has been a boon for pumpkin farmers. Every year, we enter the fiercely competitive Tooting Common Pumpkin Carving Competition and even managed to score a second prize last year with the scary fellow above. This year – allotment smugness alert – we managed to grow our own. I would love to take credit for their vastness by claiming that I’d administered secret potions or performed arcane fertility rites but, in reality, I forgot what I’d planted and only discovered them when we returned from a fortnight’s holiday.

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Baked Cornish Camembert in Autumn Vine Leaves

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I planted a vine in the garden a couple of years ago, with the intention of joining our local wine co-operative (yes, there really is such a thing in Tooting). However, despite attempting to take over the entire street, it only ever produces about three bunches of pathetic, raisin-like grapes. The foliage though is lush, especially as the season starts to turn at this time of year, and I’ve had my eye on the leaves for some time.

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