The Gateway Cheese and Beautiful Boards

In the lead up to Christmas, I get the opportunity to try new products and sample foods being launched for the festive season. It is a rare occasion that I’ll turn down the chance to try cheese or chocolate and happily I had the good fortune to take delivery of both recently. Paxton and Whitfield are one of the country’s oldest and most respected cheese mongers and so I’m always so pleased to try whatever they send. This year I tried the Trio of Contemporaries selection which proved to be a finely selected group of fresh and imaginative cheeses to liven up your typical cheese plate.

UK Food blog

The advice from the experts this year is to buy less cheese but in bigger pieces. The reason for this is that larger pieces of cheese store better. If you keep them in the waxed paper they arrive in, you’ll also give them a longer life in the fridge as they’ll be allowed to breath while being kept moist. And if you store your cheese well, it can mean only one thing – more leftovers to enjoy!

Beauvale is a pasteurised cows’ milk cheese that’s relatively new to the artisan British cheese fold. Four years in the making, it was developed by Robin Skailes of Cropwell Bishop Creamery to provide a handmade British substitute for all the soft blue cheeses that are imported from the continent. The hand-ladling of the Beauvale helps to make it so soft. Creamy and richly flavoured but not overwhelming, this cheese is absolutely delectable.

Bosworth Ash Log is an unpasteurised goats’ milk cheese made by Stella Bennett and her son Joe at Innes Cheese, Highfields Farm, Staffordshire. For this cheese, the process starts while the milk is still warm to take advantage of the natural anti-bacterial enzymes present in the freshly-drawn milk. This also helps to retain a fuller flavour creating a cheese with a soft and fragile taste and texture. Bosworth has an unusually light and fresh citrus flavour with an unctuous texture, the perfect foil to the richness of other cheeses.

Hubaner is an unpasteurised  cows’ milk cheese. This Alpine-style, aged hard cheese is made by a modern Austrian co-operative creamery near to the Swiss and German borders. Hubaner has quite a creamy texture for a hard cheese and a lovely mild and nutty flavour. I really liked this one.

My recommendations for anyone looking to develop an appreciation of blue cheese but find it too overwhelming, is to start with a creamy, softer-flavoured cheese like the Beauvale. I call these ‘gateway’ cheeses. Accompany your creamy blue cheese and crackers with some dates and you’ll be amazed at how delightful the marriage of sweet and savoury can truly be. In no time you’ll be scoffing stilton with the most hardened cheese-lovers.

Rowton Wood Board

I also wanted to share a discovery made earlier in the year; Rowton Wood chopping boards. There are lots of chopping boards on the market these days, and sure they’re nice, but these boards, hand-made by David White up in the Midlands, are really beautifully made. From the lovingly selected pieces of timber with all their naturals swirls and character, to the rustic shaping and even the detail of the branding in the corner, these boards are beautiful and would be perfect for serving up your cheese in the festive season or would make someone who loves cooking, a thoughtful and unique gift for Christmas. Now would be the time to place an order if you’re thinking of giving one of these as a Christmas gift.

Local Food Hero: Gordon Stores Maidenhead

It’s October and in our family that means pumpkin carving, autumn trees and turning on the heating. We carved out pumpkins last night and draped some cobwebs and spiders around the place. Just a bit of fun for Halloween which is one of my favourite festivities. People say Halloween is an American cultural quirk and one that’s being steadily adopted here in the UK. But before you start hum-bugging this spooky celebration, just remember it all started here in Britain – well according to some scholars anyway. The Celts were celebrating Samhain long before the Christian festival of All Hallows and folk were carving out turnips to ward off the spirits on this night before the pumpkin trend took hold.

Maidenhead food blog

Feeding Time Blog

I made pumpkin pie for the occasion, a recipe with a hazelnut crust from a Canadian friend that I try to make at least once a year. And I also made fried chicken with scones and bacon gravy – some proper American culture right there. But I’m not afraid to embrace the food and fun of other cultures. Growing up in Sydney, I was steeped in the wildly varied immigrant culture of the new world and I am always enthusiastic about trying new flavours and this what brings me to my latest Food Hero; the Gordon Stores on Gordon Street Maidenhead. This place is a haven for those looking for groceries and produce that cannot find in the big name shops; for those who might be looking for that taste of home; or those who have realised that there is so much more to Asian cuisine than Blue Dragon sauces.

Feeding time blog

A friend told me about Gordon Stores when I was looking for a certain ingredient and if she hadn’t told me I never would have found it because it looks so unsuspecting. But once you step inside the doors of Gordon Stores you’ll find a treasure trove of ingredients, snacks and produce to rival any London speciality store. You’ll find absolutely every kind of Indian ingredient there and they have an impressive Asian/Chinese range that is growing to meet the demand for authentic Chinese, Thai and Vietnamese ingredients, they even have halal meats and a really wonderful range of fresh, well-priced and unusual produce.

Another factor that makes the Gordon Stores so good is the customer service. If you catch the owner, he can point you in the direction of what you’re looking for and he is also interested in finding out about good products and authentic brands to stock. I went in looking for Mae Ploy red curry paste last week, and while they didn’t have it yet, I was told that they’ve just found a supplier and will be bringing in new lines of Thai ingredients soon. I also encouraged them to consider stocking Lee Kum Kee Panda oyster sauce because you cannot get it anywhere in Maidenhead and it is far superior than any quasi-Asian brand that you’ll see on the supermarket shelves.

Don’t take my word for it, support this incredible local business and visit Gordon Stores today. They don’t have a website but you’ll find them at 15 Gordon Rd, Maidenhead, West Berkshire SL6 6BS. Give them a call 01628 621171.

Cooper’s Coffee Marlow

Cooper’s Coffee Marlow

As London’s coffee culture moves at light speed, with the likes of Monmouth marching across the terrain like caffeinated Kiwi warriors, and hole-in-the-wall cafes springing up in unlikely places, Maidenhead seems to have been overlooked by the destination-coffee house revolution. Costa, Nero and Starbucks … Continue reading