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.
Tag Archives: cheddar
It’s hard to choose one quintessential English cheese. For some it might be Stilton. Others may plump for their own regional territorial, a Lancashire or perhaps what’s thought of as our oldest cheese, Cheshire. But there is one cheese that has a habit of featuring on many an ‘England’s Best Cheeses’ list (as well as in Pong’s English Selection Box) and that cheese is Montgomery’s Cheddar.
Cry ‘God for Harry, England, and Saint George!’ Henry V, William Shakespeare
It doesn’t get much more patriotic than a Shakespeare quote about our national patron saint – and, in a further twist, Shakespeare’s birthday is also on Saint George’s Day, April 23rd. In truth though, these days most English people would be hard pushed to tell you anything about Saint George other than he took on a dragon. However, in other countries such as Italy, Bulgaria, Croatia and Latvia, St George’s Day is traditionally tied in with the start of the cheese-making season and is a time to bless their livestock. All of which seamlessly leads me into Pong Cheese’s English Selection Box, which would seem to present the ideal way to honour St George, Shakespeare and farm animals all in one.
I first thought of making this dish a couple of weeks ago when some Irish Cheddar arrived as part of the Pong Irish Selection Box. There’s nothing fancy about it and – so I thought at the time – nothing controversial. But that was before the latest Mary Berry furore, otherwise known as ‘Pie-Gate.’ So, it turns out that a pie is not a pie unless there’s a great deal of pastry involved. Mary tried to get away with just a pastry top but was soundly castigated by the chairman of the British Pie Awards. Mine is entirely free of pastry. I’m still calling it a pie. I could call it a bake but I’m not going to. So there.
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.’
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.
First, a confession. When I received an initial email from Aldi’s PR people, telling me that they were launching a new British cheese range, my first thought was along the lines of ‘Euw, that’s unlikely to be pleasant.’ It wasn’t a snobbish reaction against discount outlets but more a terror of supermarket cheese in general. I was once on a panel that had to judge supermarket territorial cheese and it was a fairly dismal experience. It was impossible to tell apart a Wensleydale from a Caerphilly, Lancashire or Cheshire, and the orange versions could equally have been Red Leicester or Double Gloucester. I digress but, in conclusion, I nearly did the British thing of ignoring the email entirely.