IN PRAISE OF BRITISH CHEESE
Last week I bought a cheese called 'Beenleigh Blue, the British Roquefort'. It was delicious.
I wondered why we keep on buying French cheeses. Or Dutch, or Danish - any foreign cheese, yes they were lovely when you were abroad. But I know from experience the enormous difference between proper Edam bought in Holland, and the 'Edam' you get here. The latter is obviously mass-produced for a foreign market which does not know any better, and which goes for fancy names.
Apparently, in Somerset alone, you can find 61 different cheeses, from mild to strong, from cows' to goats', via sheep and buffalo. In Britain there are more than 700. Did you ever try a washed-rind cheese? That's if you like them smelly ....
You won't find them all in your cheese shop, but if you ask for a local cheese they'll advise. Dearer, of course, than your milkman's cheddar, but it will give shine and interest to your cheese board, along with some - British? - wine? cider? ..... I will leave that subject to others.
For cheese or anything else, if you don't find it easy to go out or don't have the time, Somerset Local Food will deliver: fresh veg, meat, bread, fish, milk, confectionery, etc etc, even Chinese (-inspired, but made in Somerset) meals directly to your door. See www.localfooddirect.co.uk/index.asp or ring 01458 830801. And you can order a wide variety of Somerset cheeses at http://www.somersetcheese.co.uk.
See below for recipes using standard, widely available British cheeses. For 'crackers with cheese', find a nice cheese shop and ask for the really good/local stuff!
Shallots are traditionally planted on the shortest day. You can still plant garlic. They like sun, and woodash.
If you leave veg in the ground, apply a thick mulch (straw, bracken): for protection, and so as to get them out more easily.
Give brassicas some attention before the worst of the weather. Firm soil around the stems, mulch with rotted manure and support with canes if necessary. Pick off yellowing leaves.
As ground becomes vacant, dig it over and spread manure. Leave roughly dug in large clumps, and the worms will see to them. Freezing and thawing of water in the soil will cause it to break up finely, so it becomes easier to handle in spring.
EAT:Veg: Brussels', beet, sprout tops, cabbage, celeriac, celery (and stilton!), corn salad, Jerusalem artichokes, carrots, salsify, kale, kohlrabi, landcress, leeks, parsnips, pumpkin/squash, rocket, spinach, swede, turnips, winter radish, endive, winter purslane.
Meat: wood pigeon, pheasant, wild duck, goose, grouse, partridge, venison. Judging by the shooting going on outside, pheasant can't be that expensive!
For (Christmas) game recipes, see www.gametoeat.co.uk/.
Fish: megrim, clams, crab, cuttlefish, mussels, oysters, scallops, whiting, American signal crayfish.
Here is what you can do with Somerset Goats Cheese:
• Serve grilled on a bed of wilted spinach and roasted beetroot.
• Mix an endive, herb and goats cheese salad with dressing of your choice.
• Grill and serve on a bed of lentils and bacon.
• Or bake a potato and top with melted goats cheese and watercress.
1 tbsp olive oil, 25g butter, 3-4 sliced red onions, 2 tsp flour, 2 tsp tomato puree, 3 tbsp red wine, 800ml beef stock, seasoning. For the croutons: 4 slices bread (pref. French, sliced on the diagonal), 2 tbsp olive oil, 100g Somerset goat cheese (like Capricorn), in slices.
Fry the onions in oil and butter for 5-6 mins. Stir in flour. Blend in tomato puree, red wine and beef stock. Bring to boil, stirring. Cover and simmer for 8-10 mins. Pre-heat grill to medium. Drizzle bread with oil and place under the grill, brown each side. Top with cheese and grill again. Serve soup with slices on top.
SOMERSET BRIE MUSHROOM SOUP for 6
3 tblsp butter, melted; 6 tblsp flour, 500ml water, 450g sliced mushrooms, 1 diced onion, pepper, 150ml cream, 200g Brie cut into 1cm chunks, (parsley).
Bring water to the boil, add mushrooms, onion, and pepper. Simmer covered until mushrooms are tender. In another pan, melt butter, add flour, mix. Stir in very slowly, bit by bit, the mushroom liquid. Add cream, then cheese, stirring constantly, until more or less melted. Add more water if necessary (and parsley). Don't let cook too long but serve immediately or reheat.
CREAMY SPINACH and STILTON SOUP
250g spinach, 65g crumbled Stilton, some chopped spring onions or shallots, 4 tblsp sour cream/yoghurt, 700ml water, 15g butter, 2 tblsp cornflour, 350ml milk, salt, pepper, parsley.
Sauté spring onions in butter for 2-3 mins until soft, but not browned. Add spinach and water, heat until boiling. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 5 mins (a bit longeer if you use spinach beet). Blend until smooth. Mix cornflour with 3-4 tblsp of milk and add to soup with remaining milk and Stilton. Bring to boil, stirring constantly until thick. Cook gently for 2 mins, season. Serve garnished with sour cream/yoghurt and parsley.
BEETROOT, APPLE AND WENSLEYDALE (or goats' cheese) SALAD
2 beet, 2 eating apples, 200g mixed salad incl rocket and radicchio, 100g w. cheese, 2 tblsp balsamic vinegar, 3 tblsp olive, garlic, sea salt.
Use any beet leaves for the salad. Cook beet, whisk vinaigrette, slice apples thinly, peel and slice beet. Arrange salad on a plate and dress with half the vinaigrette; add beet and apple, crumble over cheese and dress with the rest.
BEETROOT ROCKET SALAD with SOMERSET BRIE, serves 2.
Rocket leaves, 1 small cubed cooked beet, Brie cut into small pieces, toasted sunflower seeds, 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar, 1 tbsp olive oil, salt.
Toss leaves, beet, brie and seeds together. Mix ingredients for the dressing and combine just before serving.
STILTON SPAGHETTI with MUSHROOMS
300g spaghetti, 25g butter, 2 crushed garlic cloves, 450g sliced mushrooms, 225g crumbled mature Stilton, 150ml double cream, 2 large beaten eggs, basil.
Preheat oven to 200C. Bring salted water to the boil, add spaghetti, cook for 8-10 mins, drain. Melt butter, add garlic and mushrooms and cook for 5 mins. Add Stilton and cream, gently heat through, stirring until melted. Season. Mix this with pasta, eggs and basil. Spoon into ovenproof dish. Bake for 20-25 mins or until golden. Serve garnished with more basil if liked.
BLUE CHEESE BROCCOLI CASSEROLE
600g cleaned broccoli, 120g blue cheese, 85g cream cheese, 240ml crumbs, 3 tbsp. butter, 3 tbsp flour, 180ml milk, 180ml water.
Cook broccoli. For cream sauce, melt butter, stir in flour and gradually add milk/water while stirring. It should thicken. Melt in cream cheese, crumble in blue cheese, stir. Put layer of broccoli in bottom of casserole dish, then cream sauce, then the rest of broccoli and the rest of the sauce. Cover with crumbs. Bake at 160C for 15-20 mins.
1 medium or 2 small kohlrabi, 4-6 anchovy fillets cut into thin strips, 50g hard goat's cheese, 1 tsp thyme, lemon juice, 2 tblsp nice oil, salt, pepper.
Peel kohlrabi if necessary, slice into thin slivers with a vegetable peeler and divide between 4 plates (or put on a large one). Scatter anchovy on top, shave goat's cheese over. Sprinkle on thyme, squeeze over a spritz of lemon juice and trickle on oil. Season and serve at once.
GEBAKKEN KAASLAPJES (Fried cheese slices)
A lovely and simple Dutch recipe which works beautifully with Montgomery's: if you use normal cheddar the cheese will melt into a puddle. Good as the 'protein' with your meal.
Slices of Montgomery's 1cm thick; egg, flour, breadcrumbs.
Dredge slices in flour, then in beaten egg, then in breadcrumbs. Make sure they are completely covered. Fry quickly in hot butter, turning them so they get brown on every side. Serve immediately.
This recipe comes with a warning. We weren't keen, but I liked the picture .... Try at your peril!
WENSLEYDALE (OR LANCASHIRE or CHESHIRE) CHEESE and APPLE FRUIT BREAD BAKES for 4 small/2 larger appetites
1 large egg, 100ml milk, cinnamon or nutmeg, 4 thick slices fruit bread, 1 crisp apple, 70g thinly sliced Wensleydale cheese, 4 tsp honey.
Preheat oven to 180C. Grease baking sheet. Whisk egg and milk together, add cinnamon/nutmeg. Dip bread into egg mix, let it soak in for a few secs, transfer to baking sheet. Core and thinly slice apple: arrange on top of bread, finish off with cheese. Sprinkle with extra cinnamon/nutmeg. Bake for 5 mins or so until golden, then serve, drizzled with 1 tsp of honey syrup per slice. They are good served with yoghurt.
Oyez oyez: Christmas present for someone who does not mind the cheap ripoff title and the sleazy cover: 'Fifty Shades of Kale: Slim Your Waistline and Entice Your Tastebuds. Delicious and Nutritious Kale Recipes - How To Cook Kale Salad, Kale Chips, Kale Soup'. By Drew Ramsey and Jennifer Iserloh.
For Somerset cheese, see http://www.cookipedia.co.uk/recipes_wiki/Category:Somerset_cheeses.
http://britishcheese.com/recipes offers fancy recipes.
To buy online: www.westcountrycheese.co.uk.
And you can also get quality Somerset cheese from www.localfooddirect.co.uk/index.asp!
NEXT MONTH: WHAT'S YOUR EXCUSE?