Big cheeses

Categories: News and previews

Ahead of her upcoming demo, Paula McIntyre pays tribute to the four prize-winning Borough Market cheeses that have inspired her menu

Four cheeses from three of Borough Market’s cheesemaking stalwarts triumphed recently at the British Cheese Awards. I will be in the Demo Kitchen on Friday lunchtime, making the most of these magnificent specimens.

Best Traditional Cheddar
Pitchfork, Trethowan’s Dairy
In 2014, cheesemakers Todd and Maugan Trethowan moved Trethowan’s Dairy from the old family farm in Wales to a new location in Somerset, and it was here that they began producing Pitchfork cheddar using raw, organic morning milk from their holstein and jersey herd. The name was inspired by the fact that the Trethowans have resurrected the time-honoured practice of turning and salting the cheese in vats with a pitchfork, a traditional farm implement.

The cheeses are wrapped in muslin and matured for at least a year. The large, grey-hued rounds of cheese, on dominant display at their stand in the Market, bely the crumbly, creamy, crystalline, delicate beauty found within. An exceptional cheese like this requires no gilding of the lily—I fantasise of eating it on a rug in a grassy meadow, with nothing but some bread and a crisp Somerset cider—but it does make for a triumphant ingredient all the same, and as I live in soggy Ireland, that’s probably a more realistic option. Cheddar is the most versatile of cheeses to cook with—toasted, gratinated, melted, shaved, whipped and a myriad of other uses. On Friday in the Demo Kitchen, I’ll be using the cheese in warm, fluffy corn and pancetta pancakes, with a cool, velvety cheddar and chive mayonnaise.

Best Flavour-Added
Graceburn, Blackwoods Cheese Company
Blackwoods Cheese Company is run by Dave Holton and Tim Jarvis. Dave began making cheese in Australia in 2006 at the Yarra Valley Dairy before moving to London in 2010 to work at Neal’s Yard Dairy as a Christmas temp. His initial contract of 10 days extended to him working throughout the company, mainly in the maturation department. Tim, who also began working in Neal’s Yard as a cheesemonger, joined Blackwoods in 2013 as retail manager but soon got involved in the cheesemaking process and is now responsible for most of their cheese production. Their Graceburn cheese is based on a Persian feta variety that Dave learnt to make in Australia. Persian feta is a cow’s milk cheese that is creamier than the Greek sheep’s milk version. While feta is brined, the Blackwoods version is marinated in a mixture of British rapeseed oil, extra virgin olive oil, bay, thyme, pepper and garlic.

Jars of Graceburn have graced my fridge for a couple of years now. It’s beautifully versatile—spread it on warm crusty bread as a snack or with mix with crunchy celery, nuts and crisp sharp apples in a souped-up Waldorf style salad. It’s the perfect addition to pasta dishes and I’ve even been known to whisk some into mashed potatoes. You get two bites of the cherry with this product because the oil it comes suspended in has taken up the flavour from the cheese and aromatics, making it perfect for dressings.

Best Semi-Soft
Lord London, Alsop & Walker

Best New Cheese
Woodside Red, Alsop & Walker
Alsop & Walker came about quite by accident: Arthur Alsop was searching for premises to open a specialist beef restaurant in London when he stumbled upon a dairy for sale in East Sussex. A self-taught cheesemaker, Arthur was an apprentice chef at Le Gavroche in London and has used his food creativity to great effect with his cheeses.

Lord London, a semi-soft cheese, was created to celebrate the Olympics in London in 2012. The cheese is bell shaped, with a dusty rind that encases a silky, creamy texture within. When you cut it, the wedges look like slices of pear, and serendipitously that juicy, crisp fruit works perfectly with the cheese. On Friday, I’m taking its natural silkiness to another level and using it to make a baked savoury custard, topped with pickled grapes, date molasses and celery.

Arthur’s Woodside Red is a nutty, hard cheese with a reddish-orange tone and the flavour and texture of cheddar. It gets its colour from the addition of annatto, an American thistle. It adds a bit of pizzazz to dishes when cooked with, but on Friday I’ve taken inspiration from the classic cheese and tomato sandwich for a dish. Tomatoes will be stuffed with cheese, pickled and charred, while the bread element comes from a crispy Woodside Red wafer.

Join Paula for tips, tastings and recipes on Friday 21st June in the Market Hall, 1-2:30pm. Dave from Blackwoods and Maggs from Alsop & Walker will be joining her to talk about their award-winning cheeses.