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.
Royal Bassett Blue is a pasteurised soft blue cheese, produced by Brinkworth Dairy at Hill End Farm near Chippenham, Wiltshire. Ceri Cryer’s family have farmed the land since 1910, a tradition which she continues with her husband Chad. Ceri is also the family’s fifth generation cheesemaker; she started in 2006 as a way to diversify the farm’s income, originally using just a saucepan, bucket and bain-marie, along with knowledge gleaned from cheese-making courses. A British Cheese Award and a professional dairy were soon to follow.
Royal Bassett Blue was named to celebrate the nearby town of Royal Wootton Bassett receiving royal patronage for its townspeople’s informal tributes to the military funeral processions that passed through the town when soldiers were killed in Iraq or Afghanistan. The cheese was Ceri’s dream and took several years to perfect. Even now it is their most labour-intensive cheese, taking three weeks of cosseting, piercing and turning to mature. The milk for their cheeses comes from their own small herd of pedigree British Friesians.
Brinkworth also produce Wiltshire Loaf. Wiltshire cheese was once a territorial as famous as Stilton and Cheddar, mentioned in Jane Austen’s Emma to signify the high social standing of the Cole family:
Mr. Elton was still talking, still engaged in some interesting detail; and Emma experienced some disappointment when she found that he was only giving his fair companion an account of the yesterday’s party at his friend Cole’s, and that she was come in herself for the Stilton cheese, the north Wiltshire, the butter, the cellery, the beet-root and all the dessert.
Royal Bassett Blue has a fantastically gnarly rind, like a fossilised brain. Underneath, the paste is almost white in the middle, growing more yellow towards the rind. It’s a creamy cheese, with the fresh, slightly lactic taste of a good Caerphilly or Wensleydale. The blueing is subtle, flecking a corner here or a patch there, rather than a network of blue throughout. A great cheese for blue aficionados or those starting to dip their feet into the world of blues. Watch this space for what happens to it next…
Disclosure: I was sent Royal Bassett Blue by Pong Cheese for review purposes. All opinions expressed are my own.