Thursday, February 24, 2011

Paški Sir: my first Croatian cheese

Having never been to Croatia I've not had an opportunity to try Croatian cheese and didn't expect to be able to buy it in the UK. Or even, to be honest, to be particularly impressed by the quality. But when Sirana Gligora, a Croatian producer offered to send me a sample, I was definitely up for it.

It's a relatively new artisanal sheeps' milk cheese called Paški Sir that comes from the island of Pag which according to the accompanying information sheet "is the most indented of the thousands of Croatian islands in the Adriatic."

You can see pictures of the leggy sheep the milk comes from on their very enterprising Facebook page here Apparently it's a unique breed which has become accustomed to the harsh conditions on the island and which grazes on the wild plants and herbs that are found there.

In taste and texture it was a bit like a cross between a Manchego and a Pecorino - moister than the former, deeper in flavour than the latter. Really delicious though I didn't go much for the accompanying fig balls (just me. My husband scrumped them). Apparently it's already picked up a number of awards including Best New Cheese at the 2010 World Cheese Awards.

It's imported by a firm called D'Issa who will have a full website up and running shortly but you can currently buy it from the shops below:

The Cheese Hamlet in Manchester
The Yellowwedge Cheese in Twickenham
The Cheese Society in Lincoln
The International Cheese Centre in London
Lairds Larder in Carlisle and Sawyers Deli in Belfast

They also have a blog which shows how the cheese is made and even a twitter stream (@PaskiSir). It's good to see an artisanal producer making such smart use of social media.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

What’s special about Cheese School

As co-founder of Cheese School I’m probably the last person who should be writing this post but I do think we’ve got something very special going and I think the key to it is the participation of cheesemakers and other artisanal producers.

At our last session two weeks ago (mea culpa - I meant to write it up before now) we had the legendary Charlie Westhead of Neal’s Yard Creamery who makes Perroche, Dorstone and Ragstone and Maughan and Kim, Todd Trethowan’s brother and sister in law who make Gorwydd Caerphilly talking about how they make and mature their cheese and how the seasons affect it.

Andy Cooper from the Bristol Beer Factory and Matt Eggens of Averys of Bristol went head to head in our ‘Beer versus Wine’ ‘smackdown’.

We copped out and told them they’d both won. Well, we want them to come back and do it again, don’t we?

Elly and Dan from the brilliant underground supper club Montpelier Basement came in and made an amazing lunch of cauliflower soup with Welsh rarebit (above) and Homewood fresh ewes cheese with blood orange and marmalade croutons (below), the recipes for which you can find on Dan’s blog Essex Eating and ellypear's posterous

We also had some delicious bread from Marks Bread, coffee from Cornwall roasters Origin Coffee and fruit from the Bristol-based Better Food Company. And food photographer Rob of Eat Pictures took some great pix which you can find on his posterous blog here. Grateful thanks to all.

So what next? Well, we’re planning a big outdoor event for the summer which we’ll tell you about as soon as we’ve fixed the date (probably July) but the really great thing is the number of producers and other good people who want to come along and do a session with us. So it’s gradually growing . . .

Saturday, February 12, 2011

and another way to use Ogleshield . . .

Couldn't resist trying this at the (very clever and imaginative) London restaurant Caravan yesterday: a dish of turmeric roast cauliflower, Ogleshield cheese sauce and Parmesan crumbs - a left-field version of cauliflower cheese. The cheese sauce had an amazing gooey consistency which I suspect was achieved by simply melting the Ogleshield into cream or milk. I liked the touch of spicing up the cauliflower. It could even have done with a shade more for my taste.

I suspect you could make a regular cauli cheese with this type of sauce. A few smoky bacon cubes would be nice too although I really liked the crispy parmesan thingy on the top which was more like a cheese infused slice of bread than crumbs.

Delicious anyway . . .

Thursday, February 3, 2011

My Ogleshield obsession

I've been tasting a fair few cheese burgers lately but none seems to hit the spot quite as nicely as the one they do the cult London steakhouse Hawksmoor. (Quick declaration of interest here - it also happens to be my son Will's restaurant so I'm hardly unbiased!)

Part of the reason is that it's topped with Ogleshield, an unpasteurised brine-washed, Jersey milk cows' cheese. It was originally created by visiting cheesemakers at top cheddar producer Jamie Montgomery and refined by a Neal's Yard affineur, Bill Oglethorpe, hence the name.

The great thing about it - apart from the rich, mellow taste - is that it melts brilliantly, much like raclette. Hawksmoor also uses it for their wackily named Egg HkMuffin - an artisanal riff on the McDonald's breakfast special with a homemade sausage patty (right).

There's a lovely recipe from Rose Prince for some Ogleshield pastries on the Telegraph website and I have a feeling it would make an amazing tartiflette. We're featuring it at Cheese School this weekend so I'll bring some home if there's any left over and give it a whirl.

You can read more about it on the Neal's Yard Dairy site here