10 Oct 2014

Flavoured cheese: anyone for Thai curry cheddar?

Earlier this year Waitrose ran a clever social media competition encouraging shoppers to come up with new ideas for flavoured cheeses, which the public then voted for online. 

The final shortlist included three cheeses: Raspberry & Pink Peppercorn Wensleydale, Carrot Cake Wensleydale and Beetroot and Horseradish Cheddar. The one that got the most votes would then be listed in Waitrose stores.

Now, I'm generally an easy-going (cheese) chap, happy to unwrap a Dairylea Triangle as much as the next man or woman. I've even sung the praises of some flavoured cheeses in the past, but there is a line that should not be crossed.

And all three of these cheeses are so far over that line that they have become little blurry dots of strangely coloured dairy on the horizon.

I'm not the only one who thinks so either, judging by the numerous snarky and very funny comments that the competition attracted on Twitter.

Anyhoo, the winner of the competition was Beetroot and Horseradish Cheddar, which is pretty tame compared to some of the cheese abominations that have been launched down the years. 

My all time best/worst flavoured cheeses.

Wensleydale with milk chocolate, white chocolate & candied orange peel
Poor old Wensleydale is routinely mucked about with by big cheese companies witha  fetish for cranberries, but this one surely takes the cracker. Chocolate has no place in cheese. 

Sticky toffee pudding cheddar
Apparently this brown cheese “encompasses everything about Christmas – indulgance (sic), the finest ingredients and moreish toffee flavour”. I have nothing to add. Nothing. 

White Stilton with mango and ginger
I found this in my parents' fridge a few years ago. I'm pretty sure dad was just winding me up, but I didn't like to ask in case he wasn't. 

Thai Curry Cheese
"Tantalise your taste buds and treat them to a taste of the Far East" is the how the strapline for this flavoured cheddar goes. 'Tantalise' is not the word I would use.

Cheese dartboard
Surely the ultimate in #flavouredcheeseporn. An entire dartboard made from an array of flavoured cheeses, including cheddar and curry, and 'afterburn' (shudder). I have many questions about this, such as, how do they make it? Who buys it? And what are you meant to do with it? But mainly, why? WHY? 

Five counties
Not strictly a flavoured cheese, but it reaches similar levels of wrongness in my book. Cheddar, Cheshire, Derby, Double Gloucester and Red Leicester are laminated together to make a single cheese comprising 'attractive' multi coloured layers. I wouldn't cut five slices of different cheeses at home and then cram them all in my cheese hole in one go (well not often anyway), so please don't do it for me.

Would love to hear of any other flavoured cheeses that you think top these. Let's build a cheese hall of shame!

8 Sep 2014

CHEESE OF THE WEEK: Västerbottensost

Without coming over all new age, there is something beautifully holistic and harmonious when a cheese naturally matches a wine or beer made in the same area. It's hard not to get a warm fuzzy local food feeling about classic combos such as Comté with 'vin jaune' (yellow wine), which are both made in the Jura mountains, or a slice of Westcombe cheddar with a Somerset cider.  

Then there are those completely random match ups, which have nothing to do to with each other, but just work really well together.  

Västerbottensost cheese with Mad Goose pale ale is one of those. Västerbottensost (here's how to pronounce it) is a Swedish cow's milk cheese, while Mad Goose is made by Purity Brewing Co in Warwickshire.

I've tried to find a connection between Burträsk, where the cheese is made, with the West Midlands without success, so I am officially twinning them through the power of cheese and beer. 

Anyway, Västerbottensost is known of the 'king of cheeses' in Sweden and is aged for 14 months. It has a pliable, slightly granular texture with little holes in the paste, while the flavour is sweet and fruity. I got pineapple and pear drops. It's rich and intense, which makes it perfect for cooking, but I would struggle to eat it on its own without something to offset those confectionery flavours.

Purity's Mad Goose was that thing. A terrific beer from a terrific brewer (I'm also a fan of their amber ale Pure UBU and Longhorn IPA), Mad Goose has a creaminess about it which makes it a great cheese beer, but it also has a grapefruit tang and light bitterness that really helped refresh the palate, leaving you ready for more unpronounceable Swedish cheese.

Where to buy: Västerbottensost can be found at Waitrose, Ocado and Selfridges, priced at approximately £19.90 per kilogram, while Mad Goose can be found at Ocado and Majestic, among others.

21 Aug 2014

Burrata: move over mozzarella

It's hard to walk anywhere in Puglia without bumping into an olive tree or tripping over a grape vine. The region's fertile plains, which stretch along the heel on the boot of Italy, are carpeted with more than 60 million olive trees and hundreds of vineyards that flourish under the baking sun. 

The resulting fruity olive oils and lusty red wines are much loved by locals, but it's a very special cheese that has become a must-have ingredient for London's top chefs. Sales of burrata – a rich, decadent cousin of mozzarella – have rocketed in the UK in recent years with the creamy 'formaggio' popping up on menus in everything from salads and risotto to pizzas and puddings.

31 Jul 2014

CHEESE OF THE WEEK: Occelli in chestnut leaves

Beppino Occelli's range of grand cheeses are
wrapped in everything from straw to tobacco leaves
Mention the words 'flavoured cheese' to a serious fromage lover and their face will usually fall into a stern look of disapproval. At the big international cheese awards, this class is generally full of products laced with cranberries, mango and curry powder and are widely dismissed (rightly in my view) as being awful gimmicks.

But as with so many things in life, you can't generalise. There are some terrific flavoured cheeses. Lynher Dairies in Cornwall is a case in point. It's nettle-wrapped Cornish Yarg is a modern British classic, while its lesser known Wild Garlic Yarg won the Flavour Added Cheese category at this year's British Cheeses Awards.

25 Jul 2014

Top five cheese and beer matches

I've never really understood why red wine is lauded as the perfect partner for cheese. The tannins often clash and clang with the creaminess of the cheese horribly. Beer is better in my experience with more complementary flavours and a refreshing quality (maybe from the bubbles?) that cleanses the palate and leaves you ready for more cheese.The citrus notes of an IPA match up nicely with the lemony tang of a goat's cheese, while sweet, chocolatey stouts work a treat with aged Gouda with its caramel and coffee flavours.