A couple of weeks ago, I had the honour of judging at the Global Cheese Awards, situated in Somerset, the Cheddar heartlands. It was pretty intimidating, judging alongside people who had worked in the dairy industry for decades, I can tell you, but I don’t think I made too bigger fool of myself. Whilst I was there, I had the pleasure of bumping into some of the Barber family, who I’ve visited and written about before (here and here). They very kindly sent me on my way with a bumper bag of Cheddar, which gave me the perfect excuse to try out this recipe, which has been on my mind for a while.
In the last week or so, something in the air has changed and autumn seems to be on the way. Vegetables that have been non-stop for the last two months are grinding to a halt – and not before time (French beans and courgettes, I’m looking at you). This recipe was an attempt by me to dispose of some of my mountain of new potatoes and courgettes. A pizza without a tomato-based sauce may sound strange but, as ever, the combination of potatoes and cheese does the job magnificently.
I can only apologise for more courgettes. But such is my life at the moment. This recipe, however, focuses on the flowers. As abundant as their fruit at this time of year, courgette and pumpkin flowers are all over my allotment. Thanks to an industrious squirrel burying pumpkin seeds all over my garden during the spring, they have also randomly appeared in a selection of borders and pots over here too. Waste not, want not; they are delicious in a risotto with sliced baby courgettes and, of course, stuffed, battered and deep-fried.
Sometimes the name alone is enough to make you want to try a cheese. This one sounds like a Tory MP but looks far more delicate and refined. Another cheese from the Alex James Presents range (sorry, Liam and Noel), courtesy of Pong Cheese, it really is one of the prettiest dairy products I’ve ever seen.
The origins of this recipe lie in stupidity. Last year, I grew pumpkins for the first time, a huge French variety called Rouge Vif d’Etampes. I also sowed green and yellow courgettes but, being highly disorganised, I got all my plants mixed up. Strange, round yellow balls began to grow which didn’t look at all like orange pumpkins or yellow courgettes. We picked them and they were delicious anyway, so I just assumed there had been a mix up with the seed suppliers and they had sent me summer squash instead.
This cheese is new to me and also my first foray into the world of Alex James’s range of cheeses. Perhaps it’s because I lived in Manchester in the nineties and so always erred towards the Gallagher brothers in the Blur/Oasis face-off, but I had yet to try any of the bassist-turned-country-squire’s offerings until now, when my friends at Pong Cheese kindly sent me some.
And so, the season of the courgette is upon us. Ten days in and five kilos of them harvested already. Friends and neighbours are starting to avoid me in the street because they know I’ll try and force cucurbits on them. Fry them, griddle them, spiralize them, stuff them…do what you like with them, you’re still fighting a losing battle.
Sun. Rain. Baking sun. Torrential rain. Repeat to fade. The unpredictable British summer may not be good news for my outfit budget but it makes my allotment very happy indeed. Beetroot, carrots, new potatoes, chard, garlic and courgettes are already flourishing, with beans, peas, tomatoes, Padrón peppers and onions not far behind. Such abundance calls for culinary inventiveness (courgettes – I’m looking at you) and so when Pong Cheese asked if I’d like to pair up some of their cheeses with my seasonal produce, it seemed the perfect opportunity to kickstart my creativity.
I’ve had a little break from blogging for a while, mainly because I quite like absenting myself from all forms of social media every now and then. It’s perhaps not coincidental though that my break coincided with the ‘hunger gap’, the time of year when there is least fresh produce available to pick and eat. It’s been a busy time down on the allotment though, with a feverish period of digging, weeding, manuring and planting- and now we are finally starting to reap the rewards.
Happy St George’s Day! It may not be a classic territorial cheese but, since it was launched in 1994, Stinking Bishop has become one of England’s most well-known cheeses. As a washed rind cheese, it predictably divides people but once you get past its pungent rind, this is a consistently great cheese with a creamy, delicious and – honestly! – inoffensive paste.