I was apprehensive about choosing hard sheep’s cheese (think Pecorino, Manchego) as this month’s cheese of choice for the Cheese, Please! Challenge. It’s not a cheese that springs to mind when you think about cooking, except perhaps for pasta. And so it was with some trepidation that I pressed the button and issued the call.
The days passed by – five, six, seven, eight – without a hint of sheepy cuisine in sight and so I submitted my own Spenwood Souffle with Blackberry Sauce to get the ball rolling. A lovely, gooey, salty soufflé is paired with a sweet and tart blackberry sauce in a combination reminiscent of the French habit of eating sheep’s cheese with black cherry jam.
But the tumbleweeds were blowing around my lonely soufflé, without another entry in sight. Damn my audacious choice! But wait, along came Sally from The British Cheese Emporium with her Tear ‘n’ Share Zucchini and Berkswell Bread, using the lovely nutty British cheese in a bread flecked with green zucchini (courgette). One to be ripped apart and dipped in soup or smeared with an unreasonably large gobbet of salty butter.
The seal had been broken and hot on her heels was regular cheese challenger Food Day-Dreaming with her Capsicum & Corn Empanadas with Roasted Tomato & Chipotle Hot Manchego Dip. A Mexican-inspired filling of peppers, sweetcorn and melty Manchego (and one of my favourites – smoked paprika) is encased in pastry and then dipped in a cheesy tomato salsa with lime and coriander. A fistful of deliciousness.
Shortly afterwards, we were joined by The Garden Deli who is always up for a cheesy challenge and usually brings some stunning bug/flora photos to the party. Manchego was the cheese of choice again for her Leek and Manchego Bread, a soft and simple white loaf flavoured with cheese and thyme. Perfect for a steamy bowl of soup.
Rosemary and Pork Belly was a new challenger this month and made an entrance with her Salvadoran Breakfast Quesadillas with Lord of the Hundreds. Using another lovely British cheese, Lord of the Hundreds (made by the same dairy that produces Olde Sussex and Burwash Rose), this recipe introduces us to a different kind of quesadilla, looking for the world like cupcakes and topped with black sesame seeds and sea salt. The perfect elevenses choice.
Another British sheep’s cheese took to the stage next with Food Jam’s Olde Yorke Sheep’s Cheese and Fig Parcels. Filo pastry is filled with pretty much all of my favourite things: cheese, caramelised red onions, ripe figs, Prosciutto and honey. A heavenly combination I could eat for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
Food Day-Dreaming was up for the challenge again with another Mexican Manchego mash-up in the form of Capsicum, Corn and Manchego Migas. Appropriately a dish made by shepherds who cooked moistened stale bread with herbs, in this version roasted vegetables are combined with chillies, coriander and Manchego to make a sauce for roasted peppers and corn, served with scrambled eggs on tortillas. Leftovers don’t get tastier than this.
Another new entrant this month, Rhi’s Foodie Life combined the tastes of her current home in France with her Welsh heritage to bring us Ektori, Leek and Hazelnut Tart. An unusual case of hazelnut pastry is filled with eggs, the Basque cheese Ektori, leeks and Dijon mustard and topped with hazelnuts, breadcrumbs and cheese. I keep hearing good things about hazelnuts and cheese, so this is definitely one to bookmark.
Food Jam returned to show us how to use up leftover Olde Yorke’s Ewe’s Cheese in these Olive and Cheese Tarts. A simple combination of cheese, olives and rosemary baked in shortcrust pastry, they would make the perfect pop-em-in-your-mouth canapé.
So, phew, my choice was justified in the end. A great selection of recipes showing that there’s more to sheep’s cheese that shavings on pasta – and also showcasing some great British cheeses. Tune in soon for November’s choice…