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.

10 Jul 2014

CHEESE OF THE WEEK: Quickes Vintage

I paired this cheese with a cider at a recent event I organised with the Brighton Food Society and it went down a storm. Devon producer Quickes Traditional ages most of its cheddars for around a year, but some have the potential to be matured for much longer. Quickes Vintage, which is made with pasteurised milk, is 24 months old when it is released, making it one of the most mature farmhouse cheddars in the country.

Owner Mary Quicke describes her cheeses as being “10-mile cheddars” in that if she tastes a piece before driving away from the farm, the flavour will still be developing on the palate 10 miles later. Unlike über sweet block cheddars, Quickes Vintage has what Mary describes as a 'grand staircase of flavours' taking in creaminess, intense savoury 'umami' notes and a lovely mellow caramel sweetness.