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.
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.
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.