Cheese & more cheese at the Nantwich Show

Yesterday I had a cracking day out at the International Cheese Awards which runs alongside the Nantwich Show in Cheshire. I spent the whole day there, and in my excitement I blogged the story so far from inside the press tent before the winners had even been announced. Today I’m sharing some of my highlights from the day, as well as the winners.

There were 4,443 award entries, which meant that the cheese pavilion was literally packed full of cheese. There was something for everyone, whatever kind of cheese you liked it was there. It was also a great opportunity to try new cheeses that you might not have encountered before.

International Cheese Awards

There were cheeses from 26 countries; goats cheese; sheeps cheese; cheese aimed at kids; cheese for cheese likers and cheese for cheese lovers, as well as some cheese and more cheese. It was a great opportunity to meet local producers and learn a little more about what they do. I’m a keen supporter of local food, low food miles and all that, and it’s great to support a huge industry like the diary industry which as well as some big names, it is full of small artisan producers creating cheesy masterpieces.

Lunch, which was the most incredible sight I’ve seen in a while, saw 1,100 people sit down to a delicious meal, which did include plenty of cheese. It was the largest dairy hospitality event in the UK. We were very privileged to see some excellent cheesemakers inducted into the Guilde Internationale des Fromagers.

International Cheese Awards

Induction into the Guilde Internationale des Fromagers

It was shortly after lunch that the winners were announced. The Supreme Champion Cheese of 2014 was the Whole Blue Stilton from Colston Bassett. The best retailer was Waitrose, with Morrisons coming a close second. All the winners are on the International Cheese Awards website.

During the walk around it was nice to see some familiar faces from TV. On the day I spied chef Aldo Zilli, Sean Wilson and Charles Campion.

International Cheese Awards

Chef Aldo Zilli

Although I wasn’t able to get to the show day today to meet James Martin, a chum kindly offered to ask him a few questions on my behalf (thanks Liz).

I wanted to know how to interest children in trying more interesting, adventurous cheeses. James suggested that mozzarella is a great cheese to start off with, then maybe move on to more interesting cheeses such as Lincolnshire Poacher and Ogleshield, both have a softer texture but are tasty and ideal for small children.

I’m trying to cook more with my pre-school aged son, so I wanted to know a tasty, easy cheese recipe to make with him which wasn’t the standard mac and cheese. James suggested a pan bagna, an easy layered sandwich made inside a crusty loaf, which is packed with attractive colours, is really easy to make, great for picnics and it’s delicious.

International Cheese Awards

James Martin     –      Celebrity Chef Credit: International Cheese Awards

And yes, he is apparently even more handsome in real life.

It was a real privilege to be invited to the trade day at the International Cheese Awards, next year I hope to go to show day too. It’s a really interesting day out (especially if you go to the Nantwich Show as well) and you never know, you might discover something extra exciting to put on your cheese board.

The International Cheese Awards at the Nantwich Show 2014

Being a rosy cheeked, farm loving girl I’m no stranger to the joys of an agricultural show. I’ve been to a fair few of them across the UK and I always enjoy the judging of the farm animals, the WI tents, the cookery demonstrations and the sheep dogs herding ducks around an obstacle course. Of course, here in Cheshire we do things differently. Today I’m at the Nantwich Show and I’m enjoying the hubbub, tastes, smells and cheesy atmosphere of the International Cheese Awards.

This year is the 117th annual cheese awards and this dairy based festival of cheese is the biggest cheese show in the world. As I sit in the press tent typing this, 200 expert judges are sampling 4,443 entries across all the delicious categories. I had a quick tour before judging began, there is quite a bit of cheese here.

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It’s an amazing show, today is trade day, but tomorrow (Wednesday) the cheese pavilion will throw open its doors to the public, so if you’re visiting the Nantwich Show then it’s well worth taking a turn around the pavilion. There are literally thousands of cheeses to try from 26 countries.

There are cheeses to suit all palates. My small boy would love the Bel cheese stand, they make Babybel, Laughing Cow and Boursin cheese (I adore Boursin). Next door were Billy Bear, famous for their teddy bear face shaped meat slices, they’re launching a cheddar cheese face in October. It’s such a fun stand and the Billy Bear people are so lovely, if you’re taking your little one it’s well worth visiting for a balloon and a photo with Billy himself.

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I laid waste to the Isle of Man Creamery stand, falling head over heels in love with their cracked black pepper cheddar. Wyke Farms are offering a bargain cheese bundle of a range of their cheeses, plus butter and a cool bag for £10, that’s a cheesy bargain and great for families to plough through block after block of cheddar cheeses.

I then stumbled across Orsom Cheese, made a few miles away from the show ground, they make a range of four beautiful, soft handmade cheeses, vintage, soft, smoked, and blue. They’re mainly available in farm shops, but they’re well worth searching out.

There are literally thousands of cheeses I’ve not managed to get round to try yet, but rest assured I will do my best. If you’re coming along to the Nantwich Show on Wednesday 30th July, then your ticket will gain you entry to the pavilion. If you manage to time it just right you might be able to catch one of the celebrity chef demonstrations including the likes of James Martin, Will Holland, Sean Wilson and Jonathan Harrison.

For more information on the Nantwich Show or International Cheese Awards please do visit the website.

Cirque Du Hilarious, Blackpool

I hate magic shows.

No, I hate quite a lot of magic shows. To explain, my Dad is a magician and I’ve been around magic and magicians my whole life. I’ve watched a thousand rehearsals, I’ve seen most tricks a million times. It takes a lot to impress me, so I never go to magic shows.

I was given the opportunity to go and see the Cirque Du Hilarious at Blackpool’s Central Pier; so I consulted my Dad, who told me that father and son performers Clive Webb and Danny Adams were the best in the business, so I snapped up a trio of tickets and took the boys, one big and one small.

The show is on Central Pier, slap bang in the middle of the Blackpool action. It was one of the hottest days of the year, so we welcomed the cool shade of the theatre. The small boy was in awe of the lights and the scenery and I was genuinely excited to be taking him to his first magic show.

cirque du hilarious

The show was 90 minutes of non-stop slapstick, comedy and magic. It was definitely a mad-cap show with barely any let up for the performers. The small boy is nearly 4 and he loved it, I think a lot of the jokes went way over his head but he liked the action, the slapstick and the dancers a lot. He especially liked the band playing at the end and the catchphrase (repeated all the way home to Manchester) “I haven’t got a guitar”.

It was as expected, hilarious. There was a little bit of blue for the Dads, which had my hard to please husband laughing out loud, some of it was edging towards too smutty for a family audience, but most of that seemed to go over the kids heads.

What did I think of the magic? There were several riffs on old favourites, Danny made a number of doves appear ‘as if by magic’, and it was beautifully done. There were plenty of appearing and disappearing girl illusions, the boys (one big and one small, remember) were transfixed and impressed by what they saw. It was all very well done, even for a magic snob like me.

cirque du hilarious

The dancing girls were beautiful and my boys were transfixed, the small boy was especially enamoured with the dancing monkeys, who doesn’t love dancing monkeys though? My highlight was “Find the Turnip” which you have to see to fully appreciate. There were a few deliberate and accidental slip-ups but they truly added to the craziness of the show.

To find out more about Cirque Du Hilarious you can visit their website or you can book tickets here. You can follow the mad-cap Cirque Du Hilarious on Twitter and Facebook too!

cirque du hilarious

Note: I was sent tickets to the show free of charge, the opinions in this blog post are my own and are as honest as I can be.

 

St Helen’s Farm Hamper of Goaty Goodness

A couple of weeks ago there was a knock at the door and a nice young man handed me a large box, a large box of goaty goodness from St Helen’s Farm.

I’d met some nice people from St Helen’s Farm at Blog On MOSI, I’d nibbled on their samples and expressed my deep affection for goats cheese. They told me how goats milk products had been shown to be better for people with eczema; my ears immediately pricked up, I have a variety of skin problems including eczema and psoriasis, as well as that deep, almost primal yearning for goats cheese I mentioned earlier.

The hamper arrived and was immediately set upon by the small boy. Clearly he was half starved, having not eaten for at least an hour, and was soon face first in one of the yoghurts, the lovely stuffed goat toy we were sent tucked under his arm.

The following night I made tagliatelle with goats cheese and courgettes using goats butter, goats milk and goats cheese from the hamper. It was utterly delicious, not at all too “goaty” and not a scrap was left on plates.

St Helen's Farm

I know one of the common concerns about goats milk products is that they’ll taste of goat. We were sent skimmed, semi-skimmed and whole goats milk, I’m not a milk drinker but I tried it and it just tasted of milk. I used it in cooking and the boys had it in cereal. I’d happily give the St Helen’s farm goats milk fridge space again.

We tried the goats cheese and the mature goats cheese and they were predictably delicious. We tried this cheddar style cheese on toast, with tagliatelle (see above) and on a veggie burger. I love goats cheese and it hit the spot, the mature cheese was especially good with a hint of nuttiness.

The only thing I was less keen on was the goats butter, which I found absolutely fine to cook with, but I didn’t like it on its own on toast, though the boys had no complaints.

I was really glad to have been given the chance to try pretty much the full range of goaty goodness from St Helen’s Farm. I will definitely be buying their delicious cheddar style cheeses and creamy yoghurts again. I’m pleased that they’re so easy to cook with and so delicious to eat.

St Helen’s Farm products are available from all major supermarkets including Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Waitrose, Ocado, Waitrose and Co-op.

Disclaimer: St Helen’s Farm sent me the hamper to try free of charge, this has not had any impact on my opinion. All words and images are mine.

A Year…

It’s been a year since I fell apart. A year since I spun recklessly out of control and off the rails. A year since my mind raced and I struggled to keep up. A year since I made every mistake possible. A year since I begged my GP for help. A year since my GP gave me sleeping tablets instead of the anxiety medication I so desperately needed.

It’s been a year since my husband would come home from work and I’d run out of the house to escape its oppressive walls. A year since I started heavily self medicating with alcohol. A year since I made poor choices. A year since I started cutting myself. A year since I counted the correct number of tablets I’d need to kill myself. A year since I was nearly driven to that.

It’s been a year since I really worried my husband. A year since I worried my family. A year since my friends grew concerned. A year since strangers from Twitter saved me from harm.

It’s been a year since I looked at my son and thought he’d be better off without me.

In the last year I’ve come back from the brink. In the last year I’ve grown stronger. In the last year I’ve discovered heaven and hell. In the last year I’ve learned so much about me. In the last year I’ve tried to atone. In the last year I’ve worked to recover.

In the next year I’ll try and get stronger. In the next year I’ll try to be better. In the next year I’ll try to get better. In the next year I’ll recover some more.

Recovery

My Sunday Photo 27/7/14

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Arroz al Horno – traditional dish from the Costa Blanca

I really love cooking and trying new things, but being a busy mum these days the things I cook need to be quick, easy and nutritious, not to mention kind to my purse. When I was asked by Villa Plus to recreate a recipe from the Costa Blanca, I quickly accepted the challenge.

I struggled to come up with a suitable dish which went with my “bung it all in a pan and enjoy your holiday while it cooks” mentality. I wanted something that I could quickly prepare and just leave to cook while I could get on with the business of relaxing. Eventually I came across a recipe for Arroz al Horno. A traditional dish from Valencia which literally means oven baked rice. It’s a popular dish and each town and each family seem to have their own variation of it.

I managed to find all of the ingredients in shops in Didsbury in Manchester; going to the butcher and the greengrocer and then a deli for the last few bits. All of the ingredients could be found much more easily on a sunny Spanish market, but my meal feeding 6 comes in at just £1.66 per head.

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Ingredients: (to feed 6, or 4 very generously)

1 lb of diced lean pork
3 small morcilla sausages (if you can’t find then use chorizo)
1 whole garlic bulb
500g of paella or risotto rice
2 pints of stock (I used vegetable but you could use chicken or beef)
4 medium tomatoes
1 pepper (I used yellow, but red or orange would work)
1 tin of cooked chickpeas
1 teaspoon of smoked paprika
Olive oil (Spanish if you have it)
Pinch of saffron
Salt and pepper

Method: (Don’t panic, it’s easy)

  1. Cut the morcilla into thick slices and pour two tablespoons (approx) of olive oil into a large frying pan. Fry the diced pork and morcilla until brown.
  2. Slice up two tomatoes and cut the pepper into four or five thick slices and add to the pan. Throw in the whole garlic bulb.
  3. Add the rice to the pan, the morcilla should be giving off some delicious oils by now, stir and let the rice soak up the oil. Tip in the tin of chickpeas. Add half the stock, a pinch of saffron and a teaspoon of smoked paprika. Season generously with salt and pepper and transfer to a casserole dish. Add the remainder of the stock and stir.
  4. Bake in the oven with the lid on for 20 minutes at 220 degrees. After 20 minutes give it a good stir and add more stock if required.
  5. Artistically decorate your Arroz al Horno by pushing the garlic bulb in the middle, draping the pepper slices around it and topping with halves or the remaining two tomatoes. Put the lid back on and bake for a further 10 minutes.
  6. Then remove the lid and drizzle with some more olive oil, bake for a further 10 minutes, remove from the oven and serve.

The garlic bulb? The cloves should be perfectly cooked after their time in the oven. If you like you can squeeze the garlic out and mash a clove or two through your Arroz al Horno, or they’d be delicious spread on crusty bread.

Arroz al Horno

It was incredibly quick and easy to make and it went down an absolute storm. I made the Arroz al Horno with pork, but recipes from the Costa Blanca region also use chicken or rabbit, some top with sliced potatoes or use different vegetables, which is how it should be, true Spanish cuisine is about using the best ingredients you have available to you at the time.

Arroz al Horno

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Gin and Tonic Lemon Lollies – Strictly for grown ups!

These gin and tonic lollies are great fun at parties and barbecues, and they’re perfect to make in advance for an easy dessert. Try using your other favourite drinks such as Pimms or Mojitos for a refreshing summer treat.

Makes 6 lollies - Ready in 4 hours
35 ml gin
½ lemon, juiced and zest finely grated
45 ml (3 tbsp) sugar syrup (available in most supermarkets)
250ml tonic water

  1. Prepare the lolly moulds by first rinsing with warm water.
  2. Combine all the ingredients in a jug and pour into the prepared moulds, leaving a small gap at the top. Clip the handles onto the moulds and place in the freezer and leave for a minimum of about 4 hours.
  3. To serve the lollies, run the lollies in their moulds very briefly under warm running water and serve immediately.

Gin and tonic lollies

This recipe was developed by an Appliance House Chef. For all your kitchen appliances at discounted prices please visit www.appliancehouse.co.uk

 

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