Friday, 24 February 2012

Bicaillou - Goats and Ash

I have started to look at pumice stones and Mount Vesuvius in a different way. In fact, if I had either next to me right now, I'd probably give them a damn good licking. I'm thankful then that they are not, otherwise I'd soon have a veruca-covered tongue or a hell of a walk home. I haven't gone mental [yet], but I have a new found fondness for those cheeses that have been infiltrated or covered in ash, and so appreciate it more in its base form.

You wouldn't have thought ash was edible. But obviously some materials cannot harm you in a small enough quantity. Take those gold-leaf vodkas. Surely it can't be that good for you to devour such a dense metal, but floating lightly in alcohol it's obviously alright. And it must be the same when throwing ash like confetti all over cheese. However, going to the extreme by eating your mum's 24 karat locket or downing an ash tray from a table at the 'Queen's Head', is probably a sure fire way for getting the poops (nice!).

Last weekend, I found this cheese at one of my favourite Saturday morning haunts - Borough Market at London Bridge. I love this place. It is a culinary carnivale in which taste buds and nasal hairs sing "scaramoosh, scaramoosh!" and dance the fandango. Having [for a good five minutes] resisted the lusciousness around me and instead settled for the many 'taster cubes' of cheese proffered on wooden boards, I caved and wandered towards the Mons Cheesemongers stall below.

I began to chat with the 'monger' while he sliced off a few tasters, but as soon as I sampled the Bicaillou, a grappling hook fired from my mind and thudded into its side. It is a smooth goat's cheese with a beautifully soft ash rind. It doesn't seem to be as crumbly as some of the other goats cheeses that I've tried - more like a soft grey musky nugget of bliss. They produce it way up in the Correze region of France (presumably where there's loads of ash) so it has a good head for heights. It's a bit of a unique one as well - I have tried to search for it but can't find it in many places. You can always go down to Borough Market to source it or order online from the cheesemongers [update on cheesemongers vs farmers coming soon]. Well worth a 7.5 this cheese. Not extremely strong but some beautiful flavours. 

Oh, and just remember that Bicaillou as a character can sometimes be a bit queasy, so just remember to only take it out in the company of high society. Don't know what I mean then see what happened in the Photo Shoot.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Photo Shoot

If you have read the first blog of this cheese pack, you'll know that I started writing to capture a record of all the lovely blends of cheeses that I was discovering and devouring. It's also a chance for me to write, without the emotional restrictions of producing summaries, briefs, submissions or plans, which is required of me every day in the office. It's like a bit of a creative outlet much in tune with writing a diary or making a 'play-doh' castle - whether there's readers or not!

I've found though, that as I have got into it more and seen other cheese websites and blogs, that I have been compelled to make my own a little more organised and presentable and pleasing to the eye. Whether that's the Virgo in me (we are structured perfectionists...supposedly) or the geek in me getting excited about the options and capabilities of the technical side, I don't know. What I do know, Is that this morning I found myself doing a photo shoot with a load of beauties from the cheese box, playing with lighting and telling them to "give me the camera Edam, love it! You're a tiger!...". It's great to work with professionals...

The shoot also gave me a chance to take my new burr-wood cheese board out and use it as the rustic platform on which Edam, Morbier, Blackstick Blue and the others would express themselves. After about half and hour, we had enough snaps to choose from and called it a wrap. I now had a handful of choices with which to create a panoramic background image for the title header on the blog home page. And you can probably see the winner at the top of the page you are on. 

The following was a close contender but wasn't quite there. You may notice that Bicallou, at the front, had his eyes semi-shut in this one and looks a drunken mess. We've all been there. Spoilt an other wise great shot but it wasn't his fault (apparently Leerdammer behind him had let one go. You don't expect that from a lady). 

We also tried another which was dubbed 'looking down on cheese valley from alkali mountain'. This one didn't get the votes for the job in question, but is one for their expanding portfolio nonetheless. 

So there we go. The blog page continues to evolve and increase in scope. Keep an eye out for add-ons and 'gadgets' as they pop into existence and as the experimentation reaches new levels. 

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Blue Stilton - King of the Stinkers (and amazing in pie!)

One of the all time classics. That is, if you are keen on the strong and stinky end of the cheese spectrum.  Soft and crumbly,  this one was made by Long Clawson and has greeny-grey veins and is nice and creamy. Now I love Stilton, but it's so hard to spread. When putting out a platter, I prefer putting out a blue that is not going to have people crawling on the floor as though they've dropped a contact lens shouting "I'm sorry mate, I've spilled Stilton on your carpet!". Much as I love cheese (and blues), I do not fancy my house smelling like socks and bum. I much prefer it to smell of Davidoff 'Champion' and Ribena (but I have done some scoping and I think I will get in trouble if I "accidentally" spill some of that on the carpet). 

My point is, that it is very crumbly. You would never build a castle out of a Stilton because the normans would be in and have a hot poker in your belly-button within five minutes. No, no... you'd build a castle out of an old Cheddar or a Parmeggiano. It would take a six month siege then. 

That said, it is unbelievably tasty and goes very well with other foods. Because it is soft and crumbly it has a lower melting point and can be added to sauces. 

I had a slow and restful Sunday this weekend, and I decided to use part of it to expand my culinary skills and make a pie for the first time. You should know that pie is the other food that holds a very special place in my heart. I friggin love it. Especially the earthy, rich-flavoured jelliness of the pork pie! Boom!!). So as if I was going to do anything else than try combining my two favourite foods!? I decided that my virginal pie experience should be broken in by something easy - the chicken, ham and Stilton pie. It was actually mega easy, and a taste sensation, sending me into a post-dinner trance of combining pie ingredient combinations in my mind - "baked beans and corned beef? Nope, no.....lamb and port?..." It was definitely made by the Stilton - it just added the substance to the meaty combinations with its strong flavour - even the non-blue lovers would appreciate its inclusion. 

The Long Clawson Stilton is definitely worth a try, but try it also as an addition to something else. It won the "Reserve Supreme Champion" title at the International Cheese Awards in 2011 and is a safe classic. Well deserves an 8 in my book. But please do remember (**DISCLAIMER**) - do not use it to build castles or and type of load bearing construction. Take care.