Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Barkham Blue - discus shaped nugget of cheese gold

Dad came over to the new house last weekend. He had been on one of those little mid-week trips away with mum to the Cotswolds. I already knew he had a little present for me because he rang me one afternoon out of a pleasant conversation with the owners of the Cotswold Cheese Company. He said they had a nice conversation about cheese (see what I've driven him to!) and had recommended a couple of blues that might take my fancy.

One of these was the Barkham Blue - named after the town where its producers - the Two Hoots Cheese Company - base themselves in Berkshire. Not too far away from me actually! It is made with milk from Channel Island cows, which is where it gets its rich and creamy flavour from.

It comes in the shape of a massive cheese discus, or massive mini-babybel (which I guess would not make it a 'mini'-babybel. A huge-daddybel maybe!? I digress). There is no correlation here between shape and flavour.... but it looks cool.

It reminds me quite a bit of the Cornish Blue that I have reviewed before. It is not hugely pungent, which would make it more attractive to the non-blue crowd and as I mentioned above, the cheese has a real creamy aftertaste and a really smooth and silky texture. Beautiful. Like cleansing your mouth with dairy gold! The Cotswold Cheese Company obviously knew what they were talking about so I couldn't wait to have a go at the other cheese dad had brought back. For now though I enjoyed this. I give it a 9. Definitely worth a try.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Comte - Lovely. Milky-milky!

Yes, I have been away for a little while. Naughty Chris! Bad boy! In your bed! Well, the last couple of months have been a whirlwind of moving house, changing jobs and eating cheese. I have lots to catch up on then, and there are lots of new flavours that I want to record.

The Comte was recommended from a good friend of mine who was insistent that I try it. He picked it up one afternoon whilst strolling around Greenwich market. It took me a while to get round to it, but I am glad that I did!

Tasting this one brought about an....interesting....reaction from me. I try to say the first thing I think of as it tends to be the most honest or 'raw' thought that I have about the cheese. When I put this one in my mouth and bit through its smooth make-up, I stopped, looked sideways to Zoe sitting next to me on the sofa, and said "It's really milky. It's like sucking on or licking a cow".

Now I don't want this to be misconstrued like it was at that moment by both Zoe and my dad who resorted to giggles and insults, cos I am not a vulgar man really. What I meant by this was that the cheese gave me a real taste of 'dairy'. Of the milk that made it up. Not of tasting beef or hide or any other crazy scenario your minds are conjuring up! It is a nice sensation instead. It's like sticking four mini-milk ice lollies into your mouth simultaneously or tipping a fresh tin-pail of milk over your upturned head.

In other words, it's nice. Comte cheese is made as one large round cheese. You tend to get it them in long thin slices, which is how mine came, fresh from Borough Market at London Bridge (see the picture below - its the big one at the top-right of the picture). When it is made it weighs about 50kg and is about 2 metres in diameter, and, it should not be surprising given my previous  rants, that it is made with between 500-600 litres of milk. It originates from the Jura mountains in France, where traditionally the cheesemakers would plunge their arms deep into the maturing liquid holding onto a  linen cloth, and then raise it out to remove the curdy lumps. Thank god some things change then ey!?

Rating time. Oh how I miss rating time. This is high on my list. I need to create a ladder to remember where I have placed the others. A bit like the one they have on Top Gear where smug leading drivers get misplaced every week. I do have extra space now in the new house. Hmmmmmm..... One for thought. I give this one an 8.5. Very enjoyable and it just brings something new to the table if you want to put out a variety. It is also one that I expect is enjoyed by non cheese fanatics as it is not very potent. Pure milky goodness.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

'Puck' Spread - What the Puck!?

I think having started to do this blog, some people have started associating me with cheese. This is kind of weird for me even though I accept I rather like the stuff, because like I have said before, I have only been into it to this extent for the last year or so! So it was strange to go back to my family home in Essex and for my dad  to eagerly pull this out of the fridge...

...and say "Look what I bought for you from Hoo Hing [Chinese store in Chadwell Heath] Christopher! It's some sort of cheese spread thing". I gave my thanks along with a 'poker face' smile, like a father that gets another pair of socks for Christmas. Having been travelling a fair bit, I have come across quite a lot of random food stuffs, and not all of it is what its cracked up to be. I mean, what would you think picking this up, and the only information you had to go on was "Puck" and "spread?"

Surprise 1 - I read the back of the label: "A cheese spread alternative made with milk and vegetable oil". So it's not strictly cheese but still, it has milk in it I suppose.

Surprise 2 - It's from Denmark. Only a surprise because of the text on the label, which made me think it was from the middle-east or Asia.

Surprise 3 - It's not too bad!

Well, actually it's not astonishing either. I didn't know what to think of it for the entire time I was eating it as it doesn't have a very potent or distinguishable flavour. Maybe it's fatal flaw is that it isn't technically cheese. It is kind of the same in taste as the 'Laughing Cow' cheese spread that comes in little triangular segments, but a little more fluid and not quite as tasty. That said, it is not terrible - like I said - I was indifferent. It is a smooth cheese-like spread that would probably go well with something a bit stronger. Like in a bagel with some smoked salmon. On this basis then, it seems fair that I give it an indifferent score - 5 out of 10. I wanted to be able to say that its pucking good. But its pucking normal...

Monday, 18 June 2012

Cashel Blue - Salty Drug Cheese

It's a long way to Tipperary... so it's a good thing 'houseofcheese' deliver! The Cashel Blue grabbed my attention as I trawled through the list of goods on the website. I think the main reason it did so though was because it had filled a little bit of trivia pub knowledge for me by informing me that Tipperary is actually a place in Ireland. I owed it one.  I appreciate I may never get asked that question but you never know! I have been asked where Casablanca is before...

It is produced in Ireland then, by husband and wife, Louis and Jane Grubb who begin the process by heating the milk (provided by their healthy Friesian cows) in a hundred year old copper vat! Nice. I love the distinct local methods, and how perfect is their name for what they do!? It's like me working in Dixons and being called Chris Fridgeman...

This is a bit of a funny one the Cashel. I wasn't amazingly keen at first. It is a blue in the same sort of 'flavour village' as Danish Blue, which is not one of my faves. But somehow it has grown on me. I keep finding myself wandering into the kitchen, pushing a knife down into the centre of it, and just lifting it sideways to break of some crumbles. It is a salty cheese, which is why I was uncertain in the first place I think. But its also very creamy and mild which compliments it well. It kind of reminds me of the weird capuccinos that we get from the vending machines at work. I don't like them completely, but some lingering aftertaste and  combination of chemicals just keeps me coming back for more. It's like its a drug cheese or something! I'm sure there must be places in Ireland where they sell it on street corners to cheese junkies that need another hit of salty-crumble. Or people that try to ween themselves off it by wearing a Danish patch on their arm.

I digress. I usually do. This is actually a nice cheese but I'm not convinced everyone would like it at first sitting. I think you discover more about it the more you try it - like a good painting. I am going to give it a 6. Not bad, but likewise not really my cup of cheese. And I don't need another addiction (football and cheese take up enough of my time!). 

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Vieux Lille - 'Old Stinker'

Possibly the stinkiest cheese I have ever had (!), the Vieux Lille (or Old Stinker) is the skunk of the cheese world. I bought this one because I had read on the blurb just how pungent it is, but more importantly... because apparently it is SO strong that it is banned from public transport in the region where it's born. And like a curious little boy told not to touch something, I just had to have it!

I waited a couple of days for the cheese to arrive in the post, and chuckled when I imagined a young Inspector Clouseau lookalike [Pierre] sneaking onto the number 57 bus in Northern France with sunglasses on and a wedge of cheese wrapped in tin foil stuffed down his pants. Within two blocks, even old 'Mr and Mrs LeFlandre' sitting five rows back to the left (with their worn senses) would be cursing, holding their noses and calling for the police. Pierre had no chance, although he may have had some convincing arguments for the cops with the smell emanating from his pants!

The Vieux Lille comes from Flanders in France and is also known locally as the 'Puant de Lille' - 'puant' meaning "strong smelling". The cheese is actually a type of cheese called the 'Mariolles', which I have yet to try. The ripening Mariolles is soaked in brine for about three months to make it, and which contributes to its salty taste. It is a semi-soft, unpasteurised cow's milk cheese and is free of any rind because of the brining process.

Knowing what I know, I was rather apprehensive in opening the vacuum sealed packet. I thought that, just like in Hollywood films entertaining viewers about the end of the earth by some lethal airborne virus, the plants around the kitchen would wilt, my eyes would begin to burn, and dogs within a 5 mile radius would whimper and run for their lives. It was nearly that bad. Having sliced it open, I shouted "Whoaaahhh!", as I stuck my nose in, "Zoe! ...It smells of bum!!". And it did. To my surprise I then realised that it was still within another layer of wrapping - that's how strong it is.

I did like this one but it is saying something about the potency of a cheese when you have to give it its own individual quarantine pod. In fact you have to feel a little bit of pity for it, the leper-like outcast of the cheeses, sitting alone on a shelf in this casing. The Old Stinker, as we speak, is contained within three protective layers in the fridge in its box, giving off a low flourescent green glow in the dark. But that said, it is still quite tasty and has a soft salty smokiness about it. The pungency is actually appreciated more when you have it in your mouth as it adds a lot to the taste.

I will give this one a 6 though - it is high maintenance when you have to get through three layers of casing every time you want a slice of it. And it's not the kind of cheese that you want to put on the cheese board when entertaining (for more than five minutes).... unless you feel like handing out nose pegs to your guests also (in fact - that can be quite entertaining. It makes your voice sound funny!). I must say as well, I was a little disappointed that 'houseofcheese' had it delivered in a box, rather than having it suspended in a glass container delivered by a faceless courier in a radioactive suit. That is just an open taunt in the face of health and safety!

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

The Chaource - Smooth and Mushroomy!

I started writing this cheese blog so that I had a record of all of the wondrous flavours that I have tasted and so that I could remember them and EAT THEM AGAIN! Having tasted this one tonight I wanted to log-on and capture thoughts about it straight away so that I would remember it - but now that I have got going and my fingers tap-dance across the keys, I realise that I will remember it... cos it's ace! The more memorable cheeses are starting to stick in my mind like a thick, slow-flow honey that's hard to get out of crevasses.

The cheese is named after the northerly French town in the Champagne region of France from whence it came, created by the Lincet family, and is enjoyed at all of the stages of its maturity. The first thing I noticed was the thick rind and smooth creamy cheese as you burst into it. I was impressed by the raw....I want to say muddiness... of it. But the best was yet to come.

It is very distinct in flavour with some light undertones of a nutty kind. As you get with a few of the brie-like cheeses ['bloomy' cheeses - the ones that have the white fluffy rinds], this had a chalkier, harder centre and was super smooth and soft around the rind (please see picture). Oh baby! This is apparently because of  its thick rind which delays the speed at which it ripens all the way through. Love that texture, but what really stood out for me was the tingly, slightly salty, and earthy type aftertaste. There is also a slight mushroom fragrance and delicate bitterness about it.  Loved it. Loved it. 7.5 out 10 for me on this one.

P.S. - it's also good on bread:

Friday, 4 May 2012

Marmite Cheese - Love it or Hate it!

Even though this is not a classic cheese, I bought this one with high hopes. It was one of those situations when you inwardly prepare yourself for a rush of enjoyment. After all, I LOVE Marmite, and I LUUUUUURRRVVVEEE [Yahoo! Boom!! Brrrat-brat-brat! Boiiinngggg!!] cheese! (I’m sure you didn’t need me to impart that knowledge again!)

They say that when you eat Marmite, you either love or you hate it. My mum used to find me sitting on the side with my legs crossed and a tub in front of me, eating the gloopy black goodness with a spoon. I’d look up, twitching on a yeast high, “I know… I’m naughty…” my return glance would seem to say. To me it’s like black gold (thick black gold), Texas tea (I’m guessing they drink tea black in Texas). Throughout the years in between then and now, I have used it on dippy soldiers with my soft boiled eggs and in numerous sandwich combinations and it has never failed to improve what it was added to.

My presumption was obvious then. Marmite and Cheddar cheese fused together would more than equal the sum of its parts and create a new British beauty – just like the blue cheese flavours dispersed through a brie-like cheese gives you something like the Cambozola. This apparently is not always correct. Something not so perfect happens when they come together like this. It’s not that I hated or even disliked the cheese, but I would much rather jam a wedge of cheddar and a splodge [good word!] of Marmite into a bun. It is made with a mild cheddar from Somerset and I can imagine tastes very good melted in toasties, but I think needs to be 'suited' in that way. That said, when it was introduced to the British public during Christmas 2009 as a gimmic, it proved a great success, so don't just take my word for it!

That said, it was worth the try, and I would still probably give it a 5/10 on the basis that I love Marmite so much. The cheese puritans out there are probably laughing and saying “I told you so”. Well you win this round ‘pureys’! But some of these new blends give the ancient cheeses a run for their money. And I will seek and find them - mark my words...

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Leerdammer - smooth and holey

Take yourself back to when you were a wee willy winky (young child). The world is new, magical and wondrous. Your experiences of life are made richer and more interesting every single day as you discover fresh new smells (like cut grass and petrol stations), weird consistencies (like jelly and blancmange) and some of those magical, inexplicable things that the infantile mind is intrigued by (belly-button fluff).

Your inquisitive and information-hungry young mind seeks input from any place it can. The most accessible sources of information tend to be drawn from (1) story-time before bed, (2) tales from friends on the school playground (which have usually been exaggerated beyond measure through Chinese-whisper), and, of course, my personal favourite (3) cartoons.

I may have become acquainted with Leerdammer cheese later on in life, but somehow I can still feel nostalgic about it. It reminds me one of the first impressions I had of cheese picked up from cartoons like Tom & Jerry. All the cartoons do it - yellow pungent cheeses full of holes, whose wavy scents usually lure mesmerised mice into mouse-traps. The only difference is that Leerdammer is not a strong cheese. It is semi-soft and quite mild, and although doesn't have the deep flavours of some of the blues,  I love it. Especially on crackers. And also, much as I have a soft spot for the Dutch football team who for so long have brimmed over with skills but underachieved in major tournaments (like England!), I find myself warmed to this one. Cos let's face it, the French and the English are the heavyweights in world cheese - it's good to see some other nations stepping up to contend. I'll give it a 6 out of ten. This doesn't mean that I don't rate it of course, but I have high expectations!

The other early association I made with cheese was the moon. I haven't yet found one that's like the moon though. There's still time...

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Lyburn Garlic & Nettle - Mind your tongue!

When the word 'nettle' caught my eye on the label of this one I couldn't resist it. It was new and unusual, and....lets face it....cheese goes with anything.

I have never eaten nettles before. I'm not a moron. (I'm NOT!). My experiences of nettles as a child was one of pain - blotchy sores on my legs after running through a bush of them in the school field. "Doc leaves! Get some Doc leeeeeaves!! Nooooo!!" I would yell, and then frantically rub them up and down my calves upon receipt. These were of course 'stinging nettles', which I'm sure make up only a small percentage of the nettle genus, but my point is that consumption is not the first thing you think of when you talk of them.

I have drunk them before though! At Glastonbury Music Festival late one night. My mouth was turning inward on itself (it seemed) from the all-day cider drinking, so I fancied something a little more bitter. And as is the randomness of Glastonbury, I walked into a carpeted drinks-tent and found 'nettle beer' chalked onto a blackboard menu. It was average as I recall - not an amazing flavour, but I was willing to give it another chance in cheese form.

This was the second cheese that I bought from Newlyns farm on my day off. The Cornish Blue had already proven a good choice so I had high hopes. I went to take a bite and hesitated, wondering whether or not to take a clump of Doc leaves from the field and have them on standby watered down in a bowl - just in case I took a bite and fell back off my chair onto the floor, rigid, eyes widely fixed on the ceiling, my mouth ablaze. Then I thought, no, it carries no kind of health warning so is probably good.

I thought it was going to be quite a potent cheese, but the Lyburn Garlic and Nettle is surprisingly mild and light. It has a soft creaminess to it and what I found makes it work well is that none of the ingredients are overpowering. Instead, you get an interesting orchestra of undertones made up of chives, garlic, paprika, ginger and of course - nettles. I would give it a 6.5. I can't say that it was my favourite, but I still enjoyed it. It's a lovely little blend and I love the faint air of garlic. Not quite enough to keep Dracula from my door, but just enough to keep Edward Cullen away. He's a wimp!

Monday, 19 March 2012

Cornish Blue - World Champion 2010

ZoĆ« and I had a day off today. There was no purpose or intention in our minds when we applied for annual leave, only the fact that the day was going to be preceded by a weekend in Essex and we had spare leave to take before the end of the financial year. Having had a lie-in, played a bit of FIFA on the PS3 and gone into town to get some practicalities done, we decided [as it was a nice day] to have a drive around the country lanes of Hampshire and ended up stopping at the Newlyn’s Farm Shop. I knew there wasn’t much chance of me leaving the place without going through their locally produced cheeses, so I grabbed a basket.

Much like an army doctor moving along a line of new recruits, cupping them and asking them to cough, I side-stepped up the aisle feeling the weight and consistency. I dare say that I examined the cheeses a little closer than servicemen’s’ undercarriages are subject to, looking at the rinds and veins (don’t!) and finally settled on a couple to add to my other wise empty basket.

And oh my word did I pick a winner! Quite literally! The Cornish Blue, I have since found out, is the winner of numerous awards, including the prestigious and sought after ‘World Champion Cheese’ at the World Cheese Awards in 2010. After I slid the knife smoothly through the wedge that I brought home with me and dropped it into my mouth, my first thought was “Boom. This is a champion”. When you think of Cornish ice-cream or Cornish cream teas you are reminded of luscious foods that are rich and creamy, produced by big, fat, healthy farm animals that chomp on fresh grass from the rolling hills. Cows so rotund, that as Maude the Jersey Cow saunters past lazily, the other girls sing to her in Black Eyed Peas style “Hey M! Whatcha gonna do with all that ass? All that ass inside that trunk?”

This cheese is no exception to those other wonderful Cornish flavours. It has a full flavour and - as is said of wine – lots of ‘body’. It is creamy and moist in texture, not to the same extent as Gorgonzola, but in the same manner. Unlike other blues, its veins are not distributed universally / evenly throughout the cheese but gathered together in lines and areas. It has a lovely brown rind and a tangy aftertaste that compliments the creamy flavour. Yep, I’ve decided, I’m giving this a 9. I may regret my loose high-scoring here…but I doubt it. It’s bloody awesome. And I tell you what, I may not have been able to celebrate the English winning the World Cup recently or that the Brits will win the most gold medals this summer, but by-golly-gosh this is one world beater worth celebrating and being proud of!

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Early Cheese Experiences...

I’ve always appreciated cheese, but it’s only been in the last year or so that I have actually jumped to ‘turophile’ status. It’s a little odd actually. It’s like the “Dragon du Fromage” has been awoken from a 32 year slumber within me and has now climbed through the cavernous parts of my under belly, through the claret and blue “Hammer Canyon” of my rib-cage and taken control of the flight deck. Now that he has control, I find myself looking into curdling habits, backgrounds and regions of cheeses, which beast’s udder it has come from (cow, goat, sheep, buffalo) and what it compliments. Even the recent android I made of myself recently is holding a bit of cheese. 

And why? It is after all just curdy, decaying milk – Martlet Gold certainly is! Strange, but I enjoy it and that’s what matters (also, you don’t mess with a dragon). Before the point that ‘Fromo’ the crazy cheese dragon had the controls, I remember a few early experiences and influences that founded my love for cheese like a well based limestone. These are some of them:

(1)   Mice in the house - My mum has always been a bit squeamish with certain creatures. She’s ok with the big ones like goats, but has never been a fan of worms or rodents. You can imagine her delight then, when, she began to go into the fridge in the morning during the early 80s to find bite marks in both the cheese and butter. Thankfully, before the exterminators were called in, my parents soon realised that they had a hungry early morning bubba on their hands rather than mice. It was hardly Arthur Conan Doyle inspiring detective work, as they would walk into the living room and see 2.5 year old me playing cars with mess around my face. They waited for me to wake up one morning and quietly followed me, dropping down the stairs one by one on my bottom. Upon entering the kitchen, they found me with a face full of cheddar and an expression of “What!? ….well you guys were asleep!”.

(2)   Flights to Colombia – having the larger part of my family (from my mum’s side) over on the South American continent, I have been flying there regularly since the age of 6 months. I have never been a fussy eater as such, but in the  first few years of your life, you must latch on to things that you like rather than go for strange meals served under space-age silver trays. I just couldn’t get enough of the little red-waxed packages of joy known as mini-babybel. It’s all I wanted to get me through the 13 hour flight, and as my aunt and godmother served as air stewardess on many of these flights, I had a running tap supply. It’s no wonder I was developing into a little porker!

(3)   Lunchtime after playschool – having been running around with little friends for most of the morning or learning how to colour cows (another possible influence), I would come home with mum and she would serve me lunch on my little table and chair in front of ‘Rainbow’ or ‘You and Me’. Even though only 3 or 4 years of age, I remember this vividly as an early memory. I wouldn’t get to choose what I got at that age, but my favourite was definitely Heinz™ Macaroni Cheese. I have moved on from it since and onto grown up cheese, but I was perfectly content sitting there listening to Rod, Jane and Freddy singing “a-pongo, pongo, pongo” while my taste buds were given early training on what cheese had to offer. 

Friday, 24 February 2012

Bicaillou - Goats and Ash

I have started to look at pumice stones and Mount Vesuvius in a different way. In fact, if I had either next to me right now, I'd probably give them a damn good licking. I'm thankful then that they are not, otherwise I'd soon have a veruca-covered tongue or a hell of a walk home. I haven't gone mental [yet], but I have a new found fondness for those cheeses that have been infiltrated or covered in ash, and so appreciate it more in its base form.

You wouldn't have thought ash was edible. But obviously some materials cannot harm you in a small enough quantity. Take those gold-leaf vodkas. Surely it can't be that good for you to devour such a dense metal, but floating lightly in alcohol it's obviously alright. And it must be the same when throwing ash like confetti all over cheese. However, going to the extreme by eating your mum's 24 karat locket or downing an ash tray from a table at the 'Queen's Head', is probably a sure fire way for getting the poops (nice!).

Last weekend, I found this cheese at one of my favourite Saturday morning haunts - Borough Market at London Bridge. I love this place. It is a culinary carnivale in which taste buds and nasal hairs sing "scaramoosh, scaramoosh!" and dance the fandango. Having [for a good five minutes] resisted the lusciousness around me and instead settled for the many 'taster cubes' of cheese proffered on wooden boards, I caved and wandered towards the Mons Cheesemongers stall below.

I began to chat with the 'monger' while he sliced off a few tasters, but as soon as I sampled the Bicaillou, a grappling hook fired from my mind and thudded into its side. It is a smooth goat's cheese with a beautifully soft ash rind. It doesn't seem to be as crumbly as some of the other goats cheeses that I've tried - more like a soft grey musky nugget of bliss. They produce it way up in the Correze region of France (presumably where there's loads of ash) so it has a good head for heights. It's a bit of a unique one as well - I have tried to search for it but can't find it in many places. You can always go down to Borough Market to source it or order online from the cheesemongers [update on cheesemongers vs farmers coming soon]. Well worth a 7.5 this cheese. Not extremely strong but some beautiful flavours. 

Oh, and just remember that Bicaillou as a character can sometimes be a bit queasy, so just remember to only take it out in the company of high society. Don't know what I mean then see what happened in the Photo Shoot.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Photo Shoot

If you have read the first blog of this cheese pack, you'll know that I started writing to capture a record of all the lovely blends of cheeses that I was discovering and devouring. It's also a chance for me to write, without the emotional restrictions of producing summaries, briefs, submissions or plans, which is required of me every day in the office. It's like a bit of a creative outlet much in tune with writing a diary or making a 'play-doh' castle - whether there's readers or not!

I've found though, that as I have got into it more and seen other cheese websites and blogs, that I have been compelled to make my own a little more organised and presentable and pleasing to the eye. Whether that's the Virgo in me (we are structured perfectionists...supposedly) or the geek in me getting excited about the options and capabilities of the technical side, I don't know. What I do know, Is that this morning I found myself doing a photo shoot with a load of beauties from the cheese box, playing with lighting and telling them to "give me more...love the camera Edam, love it! You're a tiger!...". It's great to work with professionals...

The shoot also gave me a chance to take my new burr-wood cheese board out and use it as the rustic platform on which Edam, Morbier, Blackstick Blue and the others would express themselves. After about half and hour, we had enough snaps to choose from and called it a wrap. I now had a handful of choices with which to create a panoramic background image for the title header on the blog home page. And you can probably see the winner at the top of the page you are on. 

The following was a close contender but wasn't quite there. You may notice that Bicallou, at the front, had his eyes semi-shut in this one and looks a drunken mess. We've all been there. Spoilt an other wise great shot but it wasn't his fault (apparently Leerdammer behind him had let one go. You don't expect that from a lady). 

We also tried another which was dubbed 'looking down on cheese valley from alkali mountain'. This one didn't get the votes for the job in question, but is one for their expanding portfolio nonetheless. 

So there we go. The blog page continues to evolve and increase in scope. Keep an eye out for add-ons and 'gadgets' as they pop into existence and as the experimentation reaches new levels. 

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Blue Stilton - King of the Stinkers (and amazing in pie!)

One of the all time classics. That is, if you are keen on the strong and stinky end of the cheese spectrum.  Soft and crumbly,  this one was made by Long Clawson and has greeny-grey veins and is nice and creamy. Now I love Stilton, but it's so hard to spread. When putting out a platter, I prefer putting out a blue that is not going to have people crawling on the floor as though they've dropped a contact lens shouting "I'm sorry mate, I've spilled Stilton on your carpet!". Much as I love cheese (and blues), I do not fancy my house smelling like socks and bum. I much prefer it to smell of Davidoff 'Champion' and Ribena (but I have done some scoping and I think I will get in trouble if I "accidentally" spill some of that on the carpet). 

My point is, that it is very crumbly. You would never build a castle out of a Stilton because the normans would be in and have a hot poker in your belly-button within five minutes. No, no... you'd build a castle out of an old Cheddar or a Parmeggiano. It would take a six month siege then. 

That said, it is unbelievably tasty and goes very well with other foods. Because it is soft and crumbly it has a lower melting point and can be added to sauces. 

I had a slow and restful Sunday this weekend, and I decided to use part of it to expand my culinary skills and make a pie for the first time. You should know that pie is the other food that holds a very special place in my heart. I friggin love it. Especially the earthy, rich-flavoured jelliness of the pork pie! Boom!!). So as if I was going to do anything else than try combining my two favourite foods!? I decided that my virginal pie experience should be broken in by something easy - the chicken, ham and Stilton pie. It was actually mega easy, and a taste sensation, sending me into a post-dinner trance of combining pie ingredient combinations in my mind - "baked beans and corned beef? Nope, no.....lamb and port?..." It was definitely made by the Stilton - it just added the substance to the meaty combinations with its strong flavour - even the non-blue lovers would appreciate its inclusion. 

The Long Clawson Stilton is definitely worth a try, but try it also as an addition to something else. It won the "Reserve Supreme Champion" title at the International Cheese Awards in 2011 and is a safe classic. Well deserves an 8 in my book. But please do remember (**DISCLAIMER**) - do not use it to build castles or and type of load bearing construction. Take care. 

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Martlet Gold - (with harmless mould)

I do try and keep an eye out for new cheeses when I can. I do it when I go round the supermarkets, but I really love it going round local farmers markets tasting local produce and fresh flavours and smells - you find some amazing stuff. Phwoaarrrrr! 

At the weekend, I wandered round the farmers market in Farnham. They say that you shouldn't go food shopping on an empty stomach, and for once, I had heeded that warning and had a big egg and cheese (!) toasted sandwich for Sunday breakfast. I walked round slowly, adamant that I wasn't going to leave with yet another bag of cheese. With a full tummy I passed the cheese stalls, local sausages of wild boar and black pudding, tongue tantalizing quinces and chutneys, and quietly laughing to myself "Hehehe... I win this round tasty food!! Sce-rew youuu". Then, just before leaving, a lonely stand selling goats cheese caught my eye. The blue tractor-ray beam burst out from the cheeses on the table top, locked on and I was a gonner. At this point my brain overruled the satisfied tummy - "well, ...I suppose we don't have any goats cheeses in at the moment". "That is true", said tummy "they look GOOOORgeous and I could really go a soft goats cheese on crusty bread when we get in". And it was done.

The Martlet Gold is a soft goats cheese with a pungent rind produced by Nut Knowles Farm in East Sussex. It's a new cheese of theirs and may look like it's been found in a dirty sock under the bed  growing a new mould friend called Herman ("Hey!! I found my Martlett and...oh....urgh, well....I shall call him Herman!") but the mix of the strong, smelly blue-ish cheese and the powerful goats flavours are such a good combo. I'm giving this a 7. To try it you'll need to catch Nut Knowles Farm at one of the many farmers markets  on their tour, but its well worth a try! Just keep telling yourself - it's meant to have mould, it's meant to have mould!

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Cambozola - the hybrid!!

Superhero fans, kids, bored students and Stan Lee alike have for decades now held the debate on the best superhero out there, posing to eachother the question in school playgrounds and watching late-night television - "Ok, ok....who would win, the Hulk OR Thing!?". Random reasoning ensues based on a loose application of scientific reasons why your chosen choice would obviously be the last one standing. "Well what about this one - Spiderman OR Batman!?" (the answer is Spiderman). Bottom line is that there would be a clear cut winner in a fight to the death situation even though both are AWESOME.

But what about when powers are combined and both sets of incredible characteristics are inherited. The resulting  product becomes greater than the sum of its parts. For example - imagine a young 'Thing' (made of muscley stone) becoming even more powerful and green when it got angry. "Whoa!" I hear you say. Whoa indeed. And what about the baby from the Disney film "Incredibles" that shows massive promise at the end of the film and ultimately saves the day by using the lethal combination of powers inherited by his parents? Case closed.

That's what Cambozola is like. Imagine if you will a hard working Danish blue (Anders) heading home from a hard day in the office. He has a spring in his step from the news given to him earlier that day (in his performance 1:1 interview) that his work has not gone unnoticed with the directors and he is getting that long awaited promotion. Having just bought the house with his French Brie wife (Camille) last summer, the time couldn't be better for them than now to start the family that they had so longed and waited for. Unexpectedly, Anders arrives at their little wooden bread-bin home first, encountering a short message on the chalk board in the kitchen: "Gone to drop some milk at mum's -luv ya baby x". Anders seeks his chance. He has 15 minutes tops. He opens the chilled bottle of Bollinger sitting in the garage fridge that was given as a house warming gift and thought it would never see the light of day again, and then runs upstairs. He runs into the bedroom, draws the curtains, and lights the four dusty candles of different sizes, shapes and scents around the room. He then strips down to his red tie and sprawls himself over their queen sized bed. Upon hearing Camille's key hit the lock he hits play on the remote and Barry White "I'm gonna love you just a little more" sounds out from the speakers. Camille enters the room, sees the bubbly on the side and Anders lying with one leg cocked - "I got it baby!", he says. The soft French brie smiles, lets out a suppressed shriek of joy and approaches the bed. Here the lights dim, the music gets louder and I leave you to your filthy imaginations... ;)

And Cambozola was born - inheriting traits from each of its parents. Deliciously smooth, brie-like texture with bursts of the stronger character of blue. A-mazing in sandwiches, especially with good ham, and just great to bed on the board if you are not sure whether you fancy something smooth or something stronger. I friggin love it. It gets an 8.5 from me. High rollers for the hybrid! 

Ashmore - semi-hard woody cheese

As one of my Christmas presents I was treated to another random product of the House of Cheese from Zoe. Ashmore is a semi-firm cheese with a browny rind. For those who have ever had a tour round old wine or port cellars (like those in Porto, Portugal), it brings with it those kinds of woody, smoky aromas that you would get from walking round the HU(A)GE barrels of aged grapie goodness! Oh man it's great. Some oaky cheeses go to the point where they start messing with your sinus. That's one hell of a no-no. This one is reasonably strong but just right. I'll rate it at about 7.

"It's woodily wonderful"