Thursday, May 27, 2010

Tymsboro: a love affair re-kindled

What I love about artisan cheese is that it always tastes different. Sometimes so different that you feel as if you're tasting it for the first time again.

So it was yesterday with Tymsboro', an ash-coated unpasteurised goats' cheese I've been buying on and off over the years. It's made by Mary Holbrook of Sleight's Farm in Somerset and is a modern British classic

I hovered over it as it looked more mature than usual and my husband doesn't like very strong 'goaty' cheeses. But it was absolutely spectacular - with a fresh citrussy tang, yet palate-caressingly creamy in texture. I can't remember ever tasting a better one.

I bought it from the Trethowan's Dairy shop in St Nicholas Market in Bristol where the cheese is always in tip-top condition because they don't ever carry too many and pick it up themselves direct from the farm*.

At £7.50 it's not cheap but a whole one will easily serve four and you don't need to serve any others. And that's not a lot to pay for perfection.

* I would say nice things about Trethowan's Dairy because they're my partners in Cheese School but on the other hand I wouldn't have gone into partnership with them if they weren't so great!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Asparagus, Brie and Parma Ham rolls

Another riff on asparagus and cheese which really do go very well together. I came across the idea in the London restaurant Polpo where they were serving it with Taleggio. That I think would be the ideal cheese but as I was making a cut price version I used Brie. Perfect for a nibble with drinks.

Makes 12 - enough for 4-6 depending on what else you’re eating

A bunch of asparagus
A small (135g) pack of good quality Brie or - better still -Taleggio
85g pack of parma ham

Take each of the asparagus spears and break off the stalk about two thirds of the way down from the tip. Put them in a frying pan with a little water. Bring to the boil and cook for about 3-4 minutes until just tender. Drain and set aside. Cut the Brie into long slices, remove the rind and cut into small strips. Carefully remove each slice of parma ham and tear or cut it lengthwise down the centre. Take each spear, add one of the pieces of cheese then wrap one of the strips of ham round them. Season with a little freshly ground black pepper. You could also serve this as a starter drizzled with a little olive oil

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Cor blimey!! The UK's hottest cheese!!!

I have to admit that it was in a spirit of deep cynicism that I said I would try Mexicana Extreme which is billed as the UK's hottest cheese. For a start I loathe most flavoured cheeses and could see little point in a cheese so hot you couldn't taste it. However for a go-anywhere-try-anything kind of a gal it had to be done.

The cheese is being marketed by Ilchester in Somerset and, believe it or not, is a cheddar, laced with peppers, chilli seasoning and assorted spices. It is, as billed, quite ridiculously - almost vindalooishly - hot, obviously designed to appeal to people who like hot sauces with 'death' 'killer' or 'pain' on the label. And why shouldn't they have a cheese that appeals to them if someone is prepared to make it? Fair point, gov, but all I can say it's not cheese as you or I know it.

It's slightly milder sibling, Mexicana, isn't bad though if you're into Tex Mex - which in my weaker moments I am. I wouldn't nibble it for fun but I made quite a tasty quesadilla with it and some shredded spring onions and can see it being a flavourful if somewhat gungey topping for nachos, burgers or even a baked potato.

If nothing will persuade you not to try it you can apparently buy the Mexicana Extra Hot from at Asda (in a 185g wedge) and shortly from the deli counter at Sainsbury's and Morrisons where it will sell for £10 a kilo.

So am I being fair or a food snob about Mexicana Extreme. What's your view of flavoured cheeses?


Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Asparagus fondue

With the asparagus season just under way it hasn't quite come to the point of wondering what to do with it but give me another week or so of spears dipped in butter and I'll be looking to ring the changes.

Cheese is a well-established partner - the obvious combination being asparagus and goats' cheese - but the other day I came across an asparagus fondue, a clever idea at Mark Hix's new restaurant in Selfridges.

It wasn't a conventional fondue but apparently a cheese-based sauce with some steamed (I would guess) asparagus shavings and trimmings blitzed up in it, giving it the exotic green colour you see in the rather blurry photo). For me it wasn't quite cheesy enough and a little bit floury but there's the nub of an idea there that's well worth exploring. Or maybe just dunking lightly cooked asparagus spears in a conventional fondue would work just as well.

If you don't have a fondue set I reckon you could also make a light cheese sauce - I fancy using some cream in this - flavoured with Gruyère and Parmesan which gives you an intense cheese flavour without being too heavy and pour it over the spears, sprinkle them with a little more cheese and flash them under the grill.

In fact I may very well have to go off and buy some asparagus right now to do just that . . .

PS I suddenly remembered that Mark often posts his new dishes in his column in the Independent - and indeed here it is. Not the green version though. And I think I'd still use Gruyère and Parmesan rather than Cheddar much as I like British cheeses.