I went recently, for the first time this century, to Greenwich. The Royal Borough of Greenwich, I should say. It was granted royal status a few weeks ago in recognition of the fact that it is one of the few places in the UK where the majority of residents listen to the afternoon play on Radio Four and also because its police sirens play 'The Lark Ascending' by Vaughan Williams. Only thirty minutes away from my manor via the 177 bus, but a different world.
My trip was prompted by an invitation from manager Robbyn Linden to visit The Cheeseboard (with, it's only proper to declare, a kind offer of some complimentary cheese).
In her email Robbyn wrote: 'People sometimes think that cheese is an unaffordable luxury item, but it really isn’t as long as you buy relatively small portions. You want to eat cheese as fresh as possible anyway, so little and often is what we encourage.'
This small shop proved to be a delight. Robbyn is absolutely passionate (and very knowledgeable) about the stuff. After tasting quite a variety of cheeses I chose the three small chunks shown above, costing £6.91. More than enough, with bread, a simple salad and some fruit, to provide a meal for two people. (It's worth mentioning, budget-wise, that cheeses such as the Fougerus, which has almost no rind to speak of, and the Brinkburn, which has very little, make for a more economical buy than other more rind-heavy cheeses.)
Back home I got to thinking - why not include a section on the site with a selection of three cheeses for every month of the year, costing no more than £7.50? I reckoned that such an outlay once a month falls within the 'skint' remit. So I asked Robbyn if she'd be up for providing detailed notes about the cheeses, and she's agreed. Though not chosen with this idea specifically in mind, these first three cheeses will serve as our (belated) January selection. I really liked all three, but particularly the Brinkburn - a stunner.
So now it's over to Robbyn:
Brinkburn is handmade by The Northumberland Cheese Company which was established in 1984 by Mark Robertson in the lovely Rede Valley. In 1996 he moved the cheese making production to a renovated granary on the Blagdon Estate in South Northumberland. Using traditional methods with modern equipment, Mark has experimented with different flavour profiles and different maturation conditions. He has created an incredible mould-ripened goat’s cheese. It has a velvety soft, floury rind texture and a delicate, yet sophisticated flavour. It converts even those who insist they don’t like goat’s cheese.
Although this cheese is popular in France, it is not as well known here in the UK. We first came across it when we went to visit the Rouzaire family an hour outside Paris to see how they make our Brie de Meaux and our Brie de Nangis. Whilst showing us round, they gave us a taste of their Fougerus and we fell in love and placed our first order immediately.
Like most things in the world of cheese, Fougerus came about by accident, not intentionally. Robert Rouzaire was trying to perfect a new cheese, and, frustrated with a persistent flaw on the white, rind, placed a dried fern on top to hide the blemish. Initially, the Rouzaires made the cheese for family consumption only, keeping the fern leaf as decoration as well as flavouring. It was commercially produced for the first time in the 1960s when it caught the attention of a member of the public.
The interior paste is a beautiful, straw-coloured yellow and has occasional holes, or "eyes." When ripe, the interior will be runny and smooth.
In terms of flavour, Fougerus is balanced, with a buttery and creamy mouthfeel. There are distinct flavours of earth, mushrooms and nuts, complemented by savory vegetal notes.
Dick and Helene Willems moved from the South Netherlands to Ireland in the 1970s where they bought a farm in the Coolea mountains of West Cork. They soon began experimenting with making cheese for personal consumption, but so many people wanted the cheese that they started making it for commercial sale. They use an old Dutch Gouda recipe and make all the cheeses by hand.
It has a smooth texture, and tastes of caramel and hazelnuts, and is a bit sweet with hints of honey and butterscotch.
SHORTLISTED FOR FOOD BLOG OF THE YEAR 2014