Whether you’re splashing out for a Christmas cheese board, or rounding off a wonderful dinner, here are our personal favourites from some of the UK’s leading producers and cheesemongers.
What would life taste like without cheese? Let’s not even think about it! Whether you’re splashing out for a Christmas cheese board, or rounding off a wonderful dinner, here are our personal favourites from some of the UK’s leading producers and cheesemongers. We’ve done our utmost to give you the best serving suggestions for a show-stopping cheese board. Warning: you may crave cheese deeply whilst you read these cheese tips from food writer Bryony Weaver.
Cornish Capra goats cheese
This mild, mould-ripened soft cheese is produced in Cornwall for Paxton & Whitfield, and has a delicate earthy, mushroomy taste with a long creamy finish. It’s perfect with a red tomato pickle or chutney, and the small truckle can be cut into medallions and lightly grilled to give a new twist to a goats’ cheese salad starter. Available from Paxton & Whitfield, priced at £2.30/ 75g, tel: 01451 823460, www.paxtonandwhitfield.co.uk
Having a Brie-style look and flavour, the Sharpham from Totnes, Devon, is an excellent find for Brie lovers who want to champion English cheeses. It’s smooth, with a medium bite, goes beautifully with grapes, and would make a great filling substitute for Camembert parcels with hazelnuts and a tangy Christmas chutney (see www.tracklements.co.uk/recipes). Sharpham is available from The Teddington Cheese, priced at £2.20/ 100g, tel: 020 8977 6868, www.teddingtoncheese.co.uk
**Sister Sarah goats cheese **
From the Ashdown Forest, West Sussex, we’ve chosen this light-coloured, complex cheese. It’s mature and creamy, but has a young, fresh aroma. The light tang is well balanced against stronger ingredients, spicy chutneys and meaty fish, such as tuna. Nibble it with a glass of English sparkling white wine. Available from Cheese Please, Lewes, priced at £2.55/ 100g, tel: 01273 481048, www.cheesepleaseonline.co.uk
**Kirkham’s Lancashire **
The 3-month ageing of this russet cheese gives it a lemony, yoghurty, ‘buttery crumble’ finish, as they say in Lancashire. It’s moist, and I’m assured by Javier behind the counter that it goes beautifully with kale and salmon to make tasty fish cakes. Sample with a cool Pinot Gris. Available from Neal’s Yard Dairy, priced at £2.41/ 100g, tel: 020 7500 7575, www.nealsyarddairy.co.uk
**Sussex Blue **
Alsop & Walker are prolific artisan cheesemakers of East Sussex, and their skill shows through this semi-hard, smooth, lightly veined variety. The medium-strength, creamy cheese has a soft, delicate finish that would suit pasta and fish dishes. Match it with a tawny Port. Available from Cheese Please, priced at £2.18/ 100g, tel: 01273 481048, www.cheesepleaseonline.co.uk
Perl Lâs Organic
This wonderful blue cheese is made by Caws Cenarth at Glyneithinog Farm, West Wales. It has a medium-strong flavour that goes well with soft biscuits or a crusty white cottage loaf. The soft rind complements fruit cheese and fruits like apricots, dates and sour cherries. Also great with celery. Sold as a whole truckle. Try it with a light Sauternes or glass of old Amontillado. Available from Pong, priced at £10.95/ 450g, 08447 453065, www.pongcheese.co.uk
Something a little different for lovers of hard cheese. This 10-month-old, red Cheddar-like cheese from the Cambus O’May region of Royal Deeside is creamy and smoky, with an acidic tang that develops as you savour it. Perfect with an equally buttery Chardonnay or a medium cider. Available from The Teddington Cheese, priced at £2.30/ 100g, tel: 020 8977 6868, www.teddingtoncheese.co.uk
Frank and Gudrun Shinnick of Fermoy, County Cork, have created a wonderfully tangy, 5-month-old Jarlsberg-esque cheese here. It has a velvet texture and nutty flavour, with a strong finish that balances well with walnuts, quince jelly, spicy chutney and crispy biscuits. Excellent with a punchy Cabernet Sauvignon or nutty Oloroso. Available from Neal’s Yard Dairy, priced at £3.52/ 100g, tel: 020 7500 7575, www.nealsyarddairy.co.uk
Swaledale Old Peculiar Ale Cheese
Although a hard cheese, this amazing discovery (made from Ewe’s milk), has a looser-than-expected texture once out of its plastic ‘rind’. Cheesemakers David and Mandy Reed have added Theakston’s Old Peculiar ale to the smooth, full-flavoured Swaledale to give a strong, beery bite that matches well with walnut bread, game meats or herby sausages, and, of course, a glass of ale. The best of North Yorkshire. Available from Pong, priced at £7.95/ 220g, 08447 453065, www.pongcheese.co.uk
Lovers of strong but complex cheese flavours are going to be bowled over by the Mossfield Organic. P&W’s 8-month-old ripe cheeses come from the rich grasslands of Ralph Haslam’s farm in County Offaly, central Ireland. The Mossfield is a powerful Gouda-style offering with buttery, ‘coffee’ flavours coming through on the finish. A little pricey, but worth every moment in the mouth. Perfect on its own, with a glass of pungent Shiraz or raisin-flavoured Pedro Ximénez sherry. Available from Paxton & Whitfield, priced at £8.00/ 250g, tel: 01451 823460, www.paxtonandwhitfield.co.uk
Our tip: Always let cheeses ‘warm up’ out of the fridge for an hour before eating.
Written by: Bryony Weaver