Tuesday, 1 February 2005

Cheese, cheese, cheese

Cheese. Cheese. Cheese. Soft, hard, mild, mature, blue veined, chalk white, buttery, pungent, nutty, in your face, gentle, toasted, chunks, melted, fondued, goats, ewes, cows................ I love the lot. Does a day go by without some kind of cheese finding its way onto the plate? Only on the days when it by-passes directly into the mouth. Today was a cheese delivery day. After Mopsa barked so loud and deep that the courier left the box in the porch without ringing the bell and scarpered off down the path before he could be forced to come face to face with the terrifying beast, the aroma from the parcel left no doubt as to what was inside. A couple of Christmas's ago Peter (he of the posh blog) and Gavin sent some cheeses from Pant Mawr Farm. After specific guidance on storing it (cut each 1kg round into pieces, bag 'em, label 'em, stick 'em in the freezer) and loving the results, I bought more for a summer party, and the whole lot disappeared, and then more and more so that now there is a constant supply in the freezer, and friends keep asking for the mail order details.
So, what's available and what does it taste like? According to the website there are seven cheeses in the Pant Mawr range and all are made with vegetarian rennet and pasteurised milk. Our presents were Caws Preseli, a soft cow's milk cheese that has more (gentle) flavour than is fair for any mouthful, and Caws Cerwyn, a softish hard (you'll see what I mean if you treat yourself) beautifully pale yellow cheese that is equally mild and flavoursome. Everyone seemed to enjoy these best with crusty bread or oatcakes and some great grapes - a real end of dinner pair of cheeses. The Mature Cerwyn - Caws Cerwyn matured for about six months - has a crumblier, harder texture, shouts out for a chunk of fresh pineapple alongside (forget Abigail's Party, just enjoy the cliched combination), or for using in cooking or grated into leafy salads or celeriac remoulade. It has a deeper flavour, and stirred the senses of friends that love a cheese with serious bite. And then there is the smoked Cerwyn; and the jury is still out on that one. When the parcel was delivered, I thought that I had walked into a smoky bar rather than my own porch. When I opened the box and then unwrapped the cheese, the strength of the smoking was so eye-wateringly pungent for both nose and eyes, that I thought the whole smokery had been parcelled up and sent too. Described as having "a delicate smoky tang", trades description would probably disagree! I know that both hot and cold smoking of foodstuffs is de rigeur for the taste as well as a great way of preserving, but a little more subtlety would have been welcome. As a result, half of the round is still in the freezer awaiting its moment. The last one I have tried is the Soft Goats Curd, with a light covering of olive oil, but it took half an hour to get into the plastic pot; we never worked out the right way of opening it. If your temper holds out it is very tasty indeed, a world away from so much of the supermarket goats' cheeses and perfect for spreading thickly on thin pancakes (we are talking pre-low-carb-diet days), adding a handful of cherry tomatoes and herbs, rolling up, drizzling with olive oil and baking in the oven.
Caws Preseli, Cerwyn and Mature Cerwyn are likely to be pretty constant presences in the house, and the only other cheeses I have bought regularly in recent months to supplement them are Dolcelatte and Parmesan (Parmigiano Reggiano), and I reckon that's an awesome recommendation. Mind you, there was the Malvern ewe's milk hard cheese found in the fab Ombersley Evertons Deli, the supply of mini babybels for the car, the brie, the rubbery Jarlsberg (the more rubbery the better), the local farmer's market cheddar.......................... (Quick November 2005 update - a gift of a Torrington cheese from Cothi Valley Goats, bought at Cardiff's Riverside Real Food Market was to die for; quite the most lusciously lingering and complex flavour). Contact them at Cothi Valley Goats, Cilwr Farm, Talley, Llandeilo, Carms SA19 7BQ
Tel: 01558 685555. E-mail: goat@homested.fsbusiness.co.uk for farmhouse goat cheeses, kid meat, baked goat cheese products.