If you’re at all interested in food, you’d have to have buried your head in a bucket of sand to have missed the news that there’s a high profile campaign going on to save the UK’s artisan cheese makers.
Their sales fell off a cliff with the enforced closure of the restaurant industry and big names like Jamie Oliver, the BBC Food Programme’s Sheila Dillon and food writer Jenny Linford have been pleading with us to buy their cheeses, either direct from the producers or through cheesemongers like Neal’s Yard Dairy or, here in Suffolk, Slate.
Why would you buy premium cheeses rather than a supermarket slab and then (unless you go above a fairly hefty price point) pay to have them delivered? Well, because they are of exceptionally high quality; because they’re mostly made by small, family-run businesses who’ve developed their products through years of love and hard slog; and because if we don’t help they could go bust, they’ll lose their livelihoods and we’ll lose some of the nation’s best cheeses.
You’re not putting money in the pockets of big, faceless conglomerates. You’re helping people like Jonny and Dulcie Crickmore from Fen Farm Dairy to feed and clothe their children and in turn the families of all the people who work for them. And you’re getting back something that tastes incredible.
While not everyone can afford to do this, the response so far has been fantastic. Jonny announced this week that they’ve been able to take their staff off furlough and resume making their award-winning raw milk Brie-style cheese, Baron Bigod.
Others are still struggling. Please help if you’re able to and while you’re at it, make a song and dance about it. A lot of the cheese makers have found the moral support to be as valuable as the financial help. We all like to know that people care and penury is a lonely place.
I got a bit carried away with my online shopping and we’ll be eating cheese at every meal. Or maybe for every course. Mmmm, a whole supper based around cheese … perhaps a baked Baron to start, with savoury granola and a drizzle of honey (here’s how), or roasted asparagus served with thin shavings of Berkswell.
I doubt if we’d be able to manage a pudding (but let me think about that, I’d love to make room for a Basque cheesecake).
The main course would be this rustic tart because Stichelton, another raw milk cheese, is my favourite British blue. Use the recipe as a template for the flavours you enjoy. For instance, you can swap the hazelnuts in the pastry for walnuts. If not already ground, pulse them to a powder in a food processor with the flour to stop them oiling.
I like the galette best warm but it’s also good, as in the picture below and weather permitting, served cold for a picnic in the garden.
Cheese & Potato Galette with Hazelnut Pastry
Ingredients for the pastry:
200g plain (all purpose) flour
50g ground hazelnuts
Pinch of salt
1 egg, lightly beaten
Up to 1 or 2 tbsp cold water
For the topping:
80g creme fraiche
40g finely grated Cheddar (or use Parmesan)
Salt and pepper
150g cooked new potatoes, skins on or off, sliced
6-8 cherry tomatoes, halved
Olive oil, salt and pepper
Egg wash or cream, to glaze
Fresh soft green herbs (optional)
Make the pastry: if you have a food processor, put the flour, ground hazelnuts, salt and butter in the jug and pulse until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
If you’re working by hand, rub the butter into the flour/hazelnut/salt mixture between thumbs and fingertips until you have the same result.
Add the beaten egg and pulse or mix until the dough comes together – you may need one of two tablespoons of cold water but it depends on the size of your egg.
Form into a smooth disc, wrap and chill for at least 20 minutes. Remove from the fridge 10 minutes before use.
Roll the pastry into a circle about 28cm in diameter and mark a ring about 3cm in from the edge. Prick the central section with a fork, put the pastry on a sheet of baking paper and put back in the fridge, sitting flat, for at least half an hour.
Pre-heat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas Mark 6 and put in a baking sheet to heat up. Mix the grated cheddar and creme fraiche to a paste, adding a good grind of black pepper and salt, to taste. Spread over the central section of pastry.
Arrange the sliced potatoes on top and dot around the cherry tomatoes. Scatter on the crumbled Stichelton. Grind over some pepper and add a light drizzle of oil.
Fold the pastry border up and over the filling, pleating it as you go. Brush the rim with beaten egg or cream and slide the galette, still on its paper, onto the pre-heated baking sheet. Cook for 30-40 minutes, until the pastry is golden and gleaming.
Remove from the oven and allow to sit for 10 minutes. Scatter with herbs, if using, before slicing and serving.