Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Lyburn Garlic & Nettle - Mind your tongue!

When the word 'nettle' caught my eye on the label of this one I couldn't resist it. It was new and unusual, and....lets face it....cheese goes with anything.

I have never eaten nettles before. I'm not a moron. (I'm NOT!). My experiences of nettles as a child was one of pain - blotchy sores on my legs after running through a bush of them in the school field. "Doc leaves! Get some Doc leeeeeaves!! Nooooo!!" I would yell, and then frantically rub them up and down my calves upon receipt. These were of course 'stinging nettles', which I'm sure make up only a small percentage of the nettle genus, but my point is that consumption is not the first thing you think of when you talk of them.

I have drunk them before though! At Glastonbury Music Festival late one night. My mouth was turning inward on itself (it seemed) from the all-day cider drinking, so I fancied something a little more bitter. And as is the randomness of Glastonbury, I walked into a carpeted drinks-tent and found 'nettle beer' chalked onto a blackboard menu. It was average as I recall - not an amazing flavour, but I was willing to give it another chance in cheese form.

This was the second cheese that I bought from Newlyns farm on my day off. The Cornish Blue had already proven a good choice so I had high hopes. I went to take a bite and hesitated, wondering whether or not to take a clump of Doc leaves from the field and have them on standby watered down in a bowl - just in case I took a bite and fell back off my chair onto the floor, rigid, eyes widely fixed on the ceiling, my mouth ablaze. Then I thought, no, it carries no kind of health warning so is probably good.

I thought it was going to be quite a potent cheese, but the Lyburn Garlic and Nettle is surprisingly mild and light. It has a soft creaminess to it and what I found makes it work well is that none of the ingredients are overpowering. Instead, you get an interesting orchestra of undertones made up of chives, garlic, paprika, ginger and of course - nettles. I would give it a 6.5. I can't say that it was my favourite, but I still enjoyed it. It's a lovely little blend and I love the faint air of garlic. Not quite enough to keep Dracula from my door, but just enough to keep Edward Cullen away. He's a wimp!

Monday, 19 March 2012

Cornish Blue - World Champion 2010

ZoĆ« and I had a day off today. There was no purpose or intention in our minds when we applied for annual leave, only the fact that the day was going to be preceded by a weekend in Essex and we had spare leave to take before the end of the financial year. Having had a lie-in, played a bit of FIFA on the PS3 and gone into town to get some practicalities done, we decided [as it was a nice day] to have a drive around the country lanes of Hampshire and ended up stopping at the Newlyn’s Farm Shop. I knew there wasn’t much chance of me leaving the place without going through their locally produced cheeses, so I grabbed a basket.

Much like an army doctor moving along a line of new recruits, cupping them and asking them to cough, I side-stepped up the aisle feeling the weight and consistency. I dare say that I examined the cheeses a little closer than servicemen’s’ undercarriages are subject to, looking at the rinds and veins (don’t!) and finally settled on a couple to add to my other wise empty basket.

And oh my word did I pick a winner! Quite literally! The Cornish Blue, I have since found out, is the winner of numerous awards, including the prestigious and sought after ‘World Champion Cheese’ at the World Cheese Awards in 2010. After I slid the knife smoothly through the wedge that I brought home with me and dropped it into my mouth, my first thought was “Boom. This is a champion”. When you think of Cornish ice-cream or Cornish cream teas you are reminded of luscious foods that are rich and creamy, produced by big, fat, healthy farm animals that chomp on fresh grass from the rolling hills. Cows so rotund, that as Maude the Jersey Cow saunters past lazily, the other girls sing to her in Black Eyed Peas style “Hey M! Whatcha gonna do with all that ass? All that ass inside that trunk?”

This cheese is no exception to those other wonderful Cornish flavours. It has a full flavour and - as is said of wine – lots of ‘body’. It is creamy and moist in texture, not to the same extent as Gorgonzola, but in the same manner. Unlike other blues, its veins are not distributed universally / evenly throughout the cheese but gathered together in lines and areas. It has a lovely brown rind and a tangy aftertaste that compliments the creamy flavour. Yep, I’ve decided, I’m giving this a 9. I may regret my loose high-scoring here…but I doubt it. It’s bloody awesome. And I tell you what, I may not have been able to celebrate the English winning the World Cup recently or that the Brits will win the most gold medals this summer, but by-golly-gosh this is one world beater worth celebrating and being proud of!

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Early Cheese Experiences...

I’ve always appreciated cheese, but it’s only been in the last year or so that I have actually jumped to ‘turophile’ status. It’s a little odd actually. It’s like the “Dragon du Fromage” has been awoken from a 32 year slumber within me and has now climbed through the cavernous parts of my under belly, through the claret and blue “Hammer Canyon” of my rib-cage and taken control of the flight deck. Now that he has control, I find myself looking into curdling habits, backgrounds and regions of cheeses, which beast’s udder it has come from (cow, goat, sheep, buffalo) and what it compliments. Even the recent android I made of myself recently is holding a bit of cheese. 

And why? It is after all just curdy, decaying milk – Martlet Gold certainly is! Strange, but I enjoy it and that’s what matters (also, you don’t mess with a dragon). Before the point that ‘Fromo’ the crazy cheese dragon had the controls, I remember a few early experiences and influences that founded my love for cheese like a well based limestone. These are some of them:

(1)   Mice in the house - My mum has always been a bit squeamish with certain creatures. She’s ok with the big ones like goats, but has never been a fan of worms or rodents. You can imagine her delight then, when, she began to go into the fridge in the morning during the early 80s to find bite marks in both the cheese and butter. Thankfully, before the exterminators were called in, my parents soon realised that they had a hungry early morning bubba on their hands rather than mice. It was hardly Arthur Conan Doyle inspiring detective work, as they would walk into the living room and see 2.5 year old me playing cars with mess around my face. They waited for me to wake up one morning and quietly followed me, dropping down the stairs one by one on my bottom. Upon entering the kitchen, they found me with a face full of cheddar and an expression of “What!? ….well you guys were asleep!”.

(2)   Flights to Colombia – having the larger part of my family (from my mum’s side) over on the South American continent, I have been flying there regularly since the age of 6 months. I have never been a fussy eater as such, but in the  first few years of your life, you must latch on to things that you like rather than go for strange meals served under space-age silver trays. I just couldn’t get enough of the little red-waxed packages of joy known as mini-babybel. It’s all I wanted to get me through the 13 hour flight, and as my aunt and godmother served as air stewardess on many of these flights, I had a running tap supply. It’s no wonder I was developing into a little porker!

(3)   Lunchtime after playschool – having been running around with little friends for most of the morning or learning how to colour cows (another possible influence), I would come home with mum and she would serve me lunch on my little table and chair in front of ‘Rainbow’ or ‘You and Me’. Even though only 3 or 4 years of age, I remember this vividly as an early memory. I wouldn’t get to choose what I got at that age, but my favourite was definitely Heinz™ Macaroni Cheese. I have moved on from it since and onto grown up cheese, but I was perfectly content sitting there listening to Rod, Jane and Freddy singing “a-pongo, pongo, pongo” while my taste buds were given early training on what cheese had to offer.