Tag Archives: Cheese

Judging the International Cheese Awards 2017

Each July thousands of cheese producers and retailers from across the world descend on the sleepy market town of Nantwich in Cheshire to take part in the International Cheese Awards. The awards are part of the Nantwich Show, but trade day and judging takes place the day before the gates are opened to the public. I’ve been going for four years now, and judging for the last three. It is the highlight of my foodie calendar, but what did I judge at the International Cheese Awards 2017 and who won?

Judging the International Cheese Awards 2017

The judging day starts early, but there’s plenty of coffee and lots of really interesting people to talk to. I arrived early, just as they were opening up the cheese pavilion and was first in line to collect my judging pack. Taking the chance, I had a quick wander around to have a look at some of the 5685 entries and then settled down for a coffee. I found myself sat next to Jill Allen from the The Tillamook County Creamery Association in Oregon. Jill is lovely and we had a good chat about cheese (what else?) and her plans to visit the Cheddar Gorge before she goes home to America.

The judges were briefed and we made our way to the judging tables. I was in a judging team with retired cheese maker David Slater and Sarah De Wit, Product Development Manager for ASDA. Both were very knowledgeable and I like to take the opportunity to learn what I can about cheese from my fellow judges.

We judged the following categories – 
DP54 – Derby Block, UK Creameries – Winner Belton Farm
DP55 – Red Leicester Block, UK Creameries – Winner Belton Farm
DP389 – Packaged Fresh Cheese Snacks – Winner AB Zemaitijos Plenas 24 month aged solid fermented cheese chunks

Judging the International Cheese Awards 2017

Between the three categories judged we sampled 41 different cheeses, which was not a record breaker, but still a fair amount of cheese to eat in one sitting. Judging over, I retired to the press tent for a sit down and a cup of tea and to compare notes with some of my fellow press judges. We just had time for a quick look around some of the trade stands in the cheese pavilion before lunch. And yes, we did eat some more cheese.

Judging the International Cheese Awards 2017

Lunch at the International Cheese Awards is always a treat. After a feast of cheese, the lunch of excellent salads, thick slices of beef, ham, poached salmon or veggie quiche is very welcome. Pudding at an event which celebrates all things dairy is as cream-filled as you’d expect; with sherry trifle, excellent pavlova, chocolate roulade and a huge dish of fresh strawberries. It’s hard to know what to choose (so it’s best to have a little of each). You should save a little room for the best cheese board you will find anywhere in the world, this is the International Cheese Awards after all.

After lunch, the winners of the retail classes were announced, along with the International Cheese Awards 2017 Supreme Champion, which was the Roquefort Papillon Révélation from Bradburys Cheese. It’s available from Waitrose if you fancy tracking down this wonderful blue cheese.

Judging the International Cheese Awards 2017

It was a wonderful year for the International Cheese Awards 2017. Each year I discover some new cheeses and learn more about cheese tasting. I love it. I know being a cheese judge is something of an honor bestowed on the few and that I was in incredibly knowledgeable and gracious company, for which I am grateful.

This year was the 120th anniversary of the International Cheese Awards. Today (26th July 2017) the doors are open to the public; complete with cookery demonstrations from celebrity chefs including James Martin, Sean Wilson and Will Holland. If you can’t make it to the cheese pavilion this year, then put it in your diary for next year. It’s an unmissable event for cheese lovers and food enthusiasts!

For more information about the International Cheese Awards 2017, visit their website.

Review: Papa John’s new lighter pizza

Pizza night is always popular, but I am conscious that it is a slightly less healthy choice than a green salad. As a result I do try and order lighter versions whenever I can. Papa John’s has recently launched a lighter option for their pizzas, specifically for people who are conscious of what they eat, but still enjoy the occasional treat.

Papa John’s is now offering a lower fat cheese as an option on all of their pizzas. The lower fat light cheese contains one third less fat than regular cheese and I think it will be popular with a lot of people. There is always the worry that a slight change in the recipe will dramatically change the flavour of the pizza, so we put the new lighter cheese pizzas to the test.

Papa John's Lighter

We sampled two medium original crust pizzas with Papa John’s lighter cheese. I had the Mediterranean Garden Party – a pizza heaving with lots of lovely veg so at least you feel that you’re getting one of your five a day. Hubs had an “All The Meats” which suited him down to the ground. They were both made with the lower fat cheese instead of the standard cheese Papa John’s use on their regular pizzas.

Papa John's Lighter

It was Friday night at the start of a Bank Holiday weekend and we were all tired and needed pizza. We ordered Papa John’s and decided to picnic eat it in the garden to make the most of the sunshine. 

The pizzas arrived and I opened them up to check they didn’t look any different from how they usually do. There was no difference. The cheese looked good, melted nicely all over and we couldn’t wait to get stuck in.

Papa John's Lighter

We all devoured our pizzas, the small boy shared ours and enjoyed them as much as he would normally. To me there was no noticeable difference in the taste or quality of the pizza (and I’ve been a cheese judge at the International Cheese Awards). If there’s no real taste or texture difference, and there is 1/3 less fat in the lighter cheese then that’s a bit of a no-brainer for me. 

Papa John's Lighter

In future when we order pizza we will be ordering Papa John’s Lighter pizzas. We might even take another healthy step and go from original crust to thin crust. That one might take a bit more getting used to though. 

For more information about Papa John’s Lighter options visit www.papajohns.co.uk

Recipe: Super Speedy Cheese and Onion Pinwheels

Back in July I spent a day judging at the International Cheese Awards. During the day I sampled hundreds of cheeses, learned a fair amount about cheese making and met celebrity chef  Joe Hurd for a chat about Parmesan. As you do.

I love the International Cheese Awards, it’s a great opportunity to try lots of new cheeses and to see what I like and what I probably wouldn’t try again. I spent quite a lot of time visiting the trade stands. I made a bee-line for the Lactalis stand which featured familiar household names such as Galbani, President and Seriously Strong Cheddar. 

Joe Hurd was on hand to give cooking demonstrations throughout the day and to talk about his love of Anglo-Italian cookery. We chatted about Galbani Parmesan which is an iconic brand in Italy. It’s matured for 9 months and is sweet and dense and used predominantly as a seasoning in Italy. 

I asked Joe how he likes to serve Parmesan and his answer quite surprised me. Joe said that Parmesan barbecues really well with garlic and Italian sausage. Apparently it grills really well and doesn’t melt like a cheddar style cheese might. Sounds delicious! In Cyprus I’ve had Parmesan with honey as a dessert, so it really is a surprisingly versatile cheese. 

Cheese & Onion Pinwheels

I came home from the International Cheese Awards with bags bursting with cheese from all over the world, but my goodies from Lactalis were especially lovely. After my chat with Joe I was keen to see what I could make with them.

Being a simple soul, and it being summer and the season of picnics I decided to make some Cheese and Onion Pinwheels. I’ve never made pinwheels before, but they seemed the sort of easy thing a busy person could throw together in very little time and have something impressively homemade for a picnic in the park with friends.

Cheese & Onion Pinwheels

As it happened, they were delicious. They required very few ingredients and took no time at all to knock together.

Cheese & Onion Pinwheels
Yields 15
Super simple and really speedy cheesy snacks for picnics and parties.
Write a review
Print
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
25 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
25 min
11 calories
2 g
1 g
0 g
0 g
0 g
18 g
17 g
1 g
0 g
0 g
Nutrition Facts
Serving Size
18g
Yields
15
Amount Per Serving
Calories 11
Calories from Fat 3
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 0g
1%
Saturated Fat 0g
1%
Trans Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0g
Monounsaturated Fat 0g
Cholesterol 1mg
0%
Sodium 17mg
1%
Total Carbohydrates 2g
1%
Dietary Fiber 0g
1%
Sugars 1g
Protein 0g
Vitamin A
0%
Vitamin C
2%
Calcium
1%
Iron
0%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your Daily Values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
Ingredients
  1. 1 large onion, finely chopped
  2. 1 teaspoon of butter
  3. A pinch of salt, pepper and sugar
  4. 1 teaspoon of balsamic vinegar
  5. 1 pack of ready made puff pastry
  6. 1 tub of Seriously Strong spreadable - Caramelised Onion flavour
  7. 1 tablespoon of Galbani Parmesan, finely grated
Instructions
  1. In a frying pan melt the butter and gently fry the onion until soft but not brown. Add the salt, pepper, sugar and balsamic vinegar and stir. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
  2. On a large board unroll the sheet of puff pastry, leave it on the paper it comes wrapped in. Spread the Seriously Strong Caramelised onion cheese all over the pastry, be fairly generous but spread it evenly if you can. Cover with the cooled fried onion.
  3. Roll the pastry up along its long side, wrap in the paper and put in the fridge for 10 minutes or so.
  4. Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees.
  5. Remove the pastry from the fridge and carefully cut into rounds approximately 1.5cm thick. You should get around 15 pinwheels from this.
  6. Place each round on a greased baking tray and top with a little of the finely grated Galbani Parmesan. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown.
  7. Remove from the oven and leave to cool on a rack for 15 minutes or so.
  8. Serve on their own or with your favourite chutney.
beta
calories
11
fat
0g
protein
0g
carbs
2g
more
HodgePodgeDays http://hodgepodgedays.co.uk/
It really is a very simple process, my cheese and onion pinwheels hardly took any time at all and now I know what I’m doing I can go wild with the fillings and flavours if I want to.

Cheese & Onion Pinwheels

You can easily put these together in no time at all and once they’re cooked they look like you’ve spent hours slaving away in the kitchen. They’re so easy you could even get the kids involved.

Cheese & Onion Pinwheels

The Seriously Strong spreadable cheese is ideal for these cheese and onion pinwheels. It cooks really well and with it being a caramelised onion flavour it packs a lovely punch which works beautifully.

Cheese & Onion Pinwheels

What flavour combinations would you try in your pinwheels?

Parma Violet Cheese – love it or hate it?

Last month I went to the International Cheese Awards and joined the ranks of over 200 cheese judges to find the best cheese in the world. It was my second year of judging and I can tell you, I’ve tried plenty of weird and wacky cheeses in pursuit of cheese perfection. Firmly in the wacky category is this Parma Violet Cheese which is the result of a collaboration between The Cheshire Cheese Company and Swizzels Matlow.

Parma Violet Cheese

The Parma Violet Cheese itself is a waxed cheese, branded in the familiar Parma Violet colours and logo you’ll remember from your childhood favourites. I love Parma Violets, they are by far my favourite sweet so I was weirdly excited to try this new cheese. 

The creamy Cheshire cheese has crushed Parma Violets blended through it and it certainly makes for a unique cheese. 

Most people will be familiar with cheese with fruit flavours, I’m thinking of cheeses like Wensleydale and Cranberry, White Stilton and Apricots. Cheese with more floral flavours is starting to find its way onto our cheeseboards. During the judging I tried cheese with lavender in it for example. I don’t think floral cheese necessarily has mass appeal, but it is a novelty and an after dinner talking point.

I visited the Cheshire Cheese Company stand at the International Cheese Awards with my friend and foodie Claire from Good Egg Foodie. We were both equally keen and nervous to try it. 

The cheese itself is nicely creamy and a good base for taking on added flavours. It is a slightly grey, very pale Parma Violet colour and it has a smooth creamy texture.

Parma Violet Cheese

At the International Cheese Awards I tried the Parma Violet cheese at room temperature and even I felt a bit challenged by it (and I’d tried lots of very unusual cheeses that day). Claire was not a fan at all, I think it might be the marmite of the cheese world, some like it, some really don’t.

I was given a 200g wax truckle to try at home and I admit it sat in my fridge for a week before I got the nerve up to try it again. I tried mine still cold from the fridge and I think that made a difference, it slightly muted the floral flavours and the texture was firmer and I ended up gobbling down a quarter of the truckle by myself.

It is a bit wacky, but if you like Parma Violets it could be just the novelty talking point your cheeseboard needs this year!

Parma Violet Cheese is available from a range of retailers priced around £6.99 for a 200g wax truckle.

Note: I was given this cheese to try by Swizzels Matlow, all images and options are my own.

Judging the International Cheese Awards – ICA2016

Last year I was honoured to be asked to be a judge at the International Cheese Awards and I was delighted when I was asked back this year for more of the same. Except it’s never the same, because there are literally hundreds of categories and literally thousands of cheeses. 5000 cheeses this year in fact – making the International Cheese Awards at Nantwich the biggest and best cheese show in the world!

IMG_8261

The day began like no other, in the car at 7am speeding towards Nantwich. Arriving at the show ground in good time, I registered as a judge and readied myself for the judges briefing. Once I’d donned my official white coat I joined my fellow judges, Victor Hyman from the Barbakan Deli in Chorlton and Laura Barnes from Dewlay Traditional Cheese Makers in Lancashire. I was in excellent and very knowledgeable company.

We had four categories to judge at ICA2016 –
  • DP76 – Two Halves Standard Blue Stilton. Open to producers who are producing less than 1,000 tonnes annually.
  • DP77 – Two Halves Mature Blue Stilton. Open to producers who are producing less than 1,000 tonnes annually.
  • DP90 – Cheese – Any variety that contains Savoury Additives. Hard Cheese other than Cheddar. Cheese produced in UK only.
  • DP97 – Cheese – Any variety that contains Sweet Additives. Soft Cheese produced outside UK only.

We were efficient in our judging. Tasting and discussing the merits of each of the cheeses, examining their appearance, smell, texture and taste, weighing up the sometimes tiny differences between them. Loving some, liking most, disliking the minority. 

The great thing about judging is having to try new things you might not normally choose to put on your cheese board. It expands your horizons and makes you appreciate a cheese even if that cheese might not be to your normal tastes.

ICA2016

I’m not generally a blue cheese fan, but trying the Stilton and learning more about what to look for and what makes a great Stilton has made me appreciate it a little more, so much so that I added a generous portion to my cheese plate at lunchtime.

Judging the four categories took us around two and a half hours. It’s surprisingly hard work and afterwards I had to sit down with a cuppa to recover myself. By the time I was rejuvenated lunchtime was upon us and it was time for a feast, followed by probably the worlds best cheese board.

At lunch La Guilde Internationale des Fromagers took their chance to induct some new members into their ranks, including Chef James Martin. I managed to film that bit, you can view the clips below on YouTube.

And this one…

After lunch the winners were announced and the Supreme Champion and winner of the Westminster Cup 2016 was Treur Kaas for their aged Jerseyhoeve Schorren. Reserve Supreme Champion and Reserve Champion Overseas was awarded to Elite Imports, whilst Champion UK went to Arla Foods with a Double Gloucester from Taw Valley Creamery.

ICA2016 was an absolutely fantastic day, exhausting yes. Will I want to eat cheese tomorrow? Maybe not, but probably by the day after. It’s a truly unique event and a truly unique experience. I’m proud to be a little part of that.

The International Cheese Awards is a two day event, day one was trade and judging day, day two (27th July 2016) the cheese pavilion doors are thrown open to the public and you can sample some of the 5000 wonderful cheeses there from all over the world. 

ICA2016

You can find out more about the International Cheese Awards 2016 on their website, and you can find out more information  and buy tickets to the Nantwich Show here.

Preview: The International Cheese Awards 2016

This year will be my third visit to the International Cheese Awards at the Nantwich Show. It goes without saying that this fantastic event is the highlight of my foodie year. Last year I had the privilege of being asked to be a judge and I must have done something right, as I’ve been asked to judge again this year.

Judging takes place on trade day, which this year is on 26th July, and the massive International Cheese Awards marquee is thrown open to the public on 27th July.

This year is the 119th International Cheese Awards, which are held as part of the Nantwich Show in Cheshire. This year there have been a record breaking 4956 entries across literally hundreds of different categories of cheese, with entries from small artisan producers, to huge dairies and supermarkets.  Last years Supreme Champion  was the Greenfields Dairy Crumbly Lancashire Cheese, and I can personally vouch for this beautiful cheese, it’s a regular in our shopping basket!

Image-1

On show day (27th July) the demo kitchen is in full swing, with a host of familiar faces returning to this year’s show – including James Martin, Sean Wilson and Will Holland. Book your tickets for the demos in advance (£5 on  the Nantwich Show website) – they always sell out so quickly! Plus there’s a whole marquee of cheese to sample and explore.

As well as hosting the The International Cheese Awards 2016, the Nantwich Show is a brilliant day out for all the family, there’s so much to see and do, the Nantwich Show is apparently the biggest agricultural show in the UK, with everything from cows, sheep, pigs and pigeons to horticulture and honey. Check out the vintage cars and agricultural machinery as well as the latest in tractor technology! I know my boy would love it there!

Tickets are available on the gate priced at £18 for adults, £7 for children, £13 for senior citizens and family tickets for £45. However, if you book via the Nantwich Show website in advance, you can get discounted tickets (£15/£5/£10/£35). Your ticket covers admission to both the biggest cheese awards in the world and the largest one-day agricultural show in the UK, making it even more of a bargain!

The International Cheese Awards 2016

I can’t wait to get my judges coat on again and get sampling some of the finest cheeses from across the world. If you like cheese and want to learn a little more about the industry, I really can’t recommend the International Cheese Awards 2016 enough. It’s a HUGE marquee of cheese, and an experience every cheese lover should experience at least once in their lifetime.

You can find out more about the International Cheese Awards 2016 on their website, and you can find out more information  and buy tickets to the Nantwich Show here.

Five ways to beat hunger with my Healthy Snacks round-up

We have a hard and fast rule in our house about snacks. Healthy snacks are fine, fruit and rice cakes, that kind of thing. But if you want a biscuit or some crisps you have to put your shoes and coat on and walk to the shop and get it. The thought of making an effort to get a treat is often enough to put us off and turn to something healthier, and if you do put your coat on and go and get your treat, then you’ve earned it, enjoy it.

But try explaining that to a 5 year old. A hungry 5 year old who has to wait a few minutes to be fed is essentially a tornado of rage. The living embodiment of “hangry”.

healthy snacks

Top tip: A hungry (hangry) 5 year old will happily eat carrot sticks and other normally shunned fruit and veg if they are hungry enough. A bag of carrot sticks to munch on the way home from school is a good way to deal with the tornado of rage and the 5 a day problem at the same time.

Having some healthy snacks on hand for when your family need a little something to tide them over is incredibly useful. I’ve picked out some healthy snacks which we enjoy at home.

1. More Cheese Please!

Cheese is in the small boys top 3 favourite foods, we always have a handful of Babybel in the fridge. It’s easy for me to slip a couple in my pocket for him to munch on the way home from school and I don’t mind him snacking on cheese because it’s full of calcium and other good stuff.

2. Fruit Bowl Snacks

We discovered Fruit Bowl about 6 months ago and the boy has been enjoying sprinkling their fruit flakes on his yoghurt ever since. The Fruit Bowl peelers and school bars are great little snacks for nibbling on the way home from school, contain no added sugar and count towards your five a day.

healthy snacks

3. Chocolate!

Yes really. Sometimes you really NEED something sweet and often a couple of small pieces of good dark chocolate is enough to satisfy your craving. Of course my son won’t even contemplate dark chocolate, but having some small individually wrapped pieces of good chocolate, like these from Drop Dead Chocolates is enough to stop you accidentally devouring a 1kg bar of Dairy Milk. Sometimes. 

4. Stick the kettle on

Sometimes you can feel hungry but you’re just thirsty. I always give the small boy something to drink and have water freely available to him. If I’m feeling especially hungry I find a nice cuppa can fill the gap for an hour or so, or sometimes I’ll have a glass of juice which I usually add a splash of water to so it is slightly diluted, but that’s a personal preference.

I do enjoy drinking aloe vera juice and I’ve tried for a while now to have a small glass of aloe vera juice on a daily basis. It’s not for everyone in the same way that orange juice with bits in isn’t for everyone, but it’s worth trying if you like the sound of the many health benefits of drinking aloe vera.

healthy snacks

The aloe vera juice from Grace Foods UK contains 50% less sugar than other brands I’ve tried. These handy 500ml bottles (I drink 100ml per day) are available in three flavours, Original, Strawberry and Mango and contain real aloe vera pieces. They are gluten free and suitable for vegetarians, with Original and Mango containing 100% RDA of Vitamin C. It’s available from a wide range of retailers including Tesco and Waitrose. I love aloe vera juice, I think it’s very underrated. 

5. Rice Cakes and peanut butter

This may seem very dull indeed, but I always have a packet of Co-op unsalted rice cakes in my cupboard. They’re just 25 calories each and if I’m ravenous and simply cannot wait, or if I’ve no time to make myself something more exciting for lunch, a couple of rice cakes with reduced fat peanut butter are enough to tide me over until tea time. In fact the small boy is also a big fan of this as an after school snack, so we’ll often indulge together. Rice cakes are remarkably filling and contain very few calories. Trust me, I didn’t think I’d like them either.

What are your go to healthy snack choices? I’m always after munchable inspiration!

Recipe: Posh Cheese on Toast

Back in July I got to be a Judge at the International Cheese Awards and I came home with enough cheese to make a colony of mice very happy indeed. Between us we’ve been slowly working our way through the South Manchester Cheese Mountain, with me commandeering the lovely Brie type cheeses I generally adore.

We seem to have a surfeit of cheddar style cheeses, which is fine, they’re a good multi-purpose cheese and a nice mature cheddar always has a place in our fridge. It’s tempting to cook up a big extra cheesy macaroni cheese or something similar, but when it comes to it, I don’t think you can beat a plate of cheese on toast. Not just any cheese on toast though, but posh cheese on toast.

Posh Cheese on Toast

This is one of my favourite quick meals. Take the comforting loveliness of cheese on toast, add a bit of frippery and it suddenly becomes more of a meal. It’s easy too and doesn’t take much longer than your bog standard cheese on toast.

Posh Cheese on Toast

Posh Cheese on Toast (feeds one hungry person)
One individual ciabatta, split in two lengthways
A handful of rocket 
A dollop of your favourite relish, I’ve gone with Ballymaloe original relish
Some Seriously Strong Extra Mature Cheddar

Method
1. Toast one side of your ciabatta (the crust side), once toasted remove from grill and spread over your Ballymaloe relish on the untoasted side. Thinly layer your rocket (or baby spinach if you prefer) on top, then evenly cover with Seriously Strong Extra Mature Cheddar. Pop under the grill.
2. Grill until the cheese has melted to your satisfaction.
3. Remove from the grill, leave for a minute to cool slightly, then devour.

Posh Cheese on Toast

Posh Cheese on Toast

Posh Cheese on Toast

It’s simple, but the best things often are. I guess in some ways it’s a bit like a pizza, but quicker and for my money nicer.

Note: We were given a block of Seriously Strong Extra Mature Cheddar Cheese to try free of charge on the proviso I used it in a recipe and blogged it. All images and opinions are my own.

Judging the International Cheese Awards 2015

This week I went to the International Cheese Awards in Nantwich in Cheshire. I went last year and had a brilliant time, discovered some lovely new cheeses, met some nice new people, had an delicious lunch and ate an awful lot of cheese. I was looking forward to more of the same this year, but it was not to be. It was better!

I was really pleased and honoured to be invited to help judge four categories of cheese this year, these were –

– Class DP54 Derby Block, UK Creameries only
– Class DP179 Lighter Cheese (17-24% fat)
– Class DP133 Speciality Cheese, Hard Pressed
– Class DP170 Smoked Cheese

Nothing too alarming there. In fact I was delighted with those categories as they’re the kind of cheeses I would normally buy and eat anyway.

Dressed in my judges white coat with my clipboard tucked under my arm, me, two judges, both cheese experts, and a steward began judging. Each of us thoroughly examining the cheese, and my fellow judges, both industry experts, taking time to talk me through what we should be looking for and the typical characteristics of each cheese.

International Cheese Awards 2015

Thankfully we were all of a similar mind when choosing the winners, so there were no arguments. I made sure I went around afterwards too to make a note of any cheeses I especially enjoyed. It was an experience I will never forget, it’s not everyone who can say (and have the enamel badge to prove it) that they were a judge at the International Cheese Awards 2015.

After my official duties were over I ambled over to where the Irish cheeses were displayed and took part in their special cheese matching session, in which three superb Irish cheeses were matched with three equally delicious Irish whiskeys.

International Cheese Awards 2015

During this whiskey and cheese session I discovered this very, very sexy Brie style handmade Irish goats cheese. It’s was fantastically ripe and oozed seductively across the cheese board towards me. It was love at first bite!

It would be a cliché to say I was charmed by the Irish contingent, but I was. The whiskey was interesting, the cheese was so good (there was also a beer washed continental style cheese I need to find again) and the lovely chaps at Ballymaloe made exceedingly good chutneys and relishes, which went beautifully with the Irish cheeses. It can be slightly harder to find these lovely Irish cheeses in England, but I was told that Booths and some speciality cheese shops stock them, and the Ballymaloe relish is available in some supermarkets.

Full of whiskey and cheese I sat down to enjoy lunch, canapés, quiche and salad, a selection of desserts and of course an amazing cheese board. After lunch and much deliberation they announced the winner, the Supreme Champion UK of the International Cheese Awards 2015 was the Greenfields Dairy with their delicious crumbly Lancashire cheese.

The giant 83,000 sq ft cheese marquee was home to what felt like hundreds of trade stands, small artisan cheese producers to huge dairies as well as supermarkets; there was a chance to try every kind of cheese under the sun, and from all over the world.

Just to give you an idea of the scale of the awards, I made a short and slightly shonky film, but it gives you an idea of just how much cheese was there to be judged – this year I believe there were 4,615 entries – a record breaking year for the awards!

For me at least it was an incredibly memorable day, I became a cheese judge (with badge to prove it), I met some delicious cheeses and I made some new friends. Here’s to next years awards – sláinte!

My Mummy's Pennies

Preview: International Cheese Awards 2015

It hardly seems like a year since I returned home from the International Cheese Awards, a bag of cheese slung over my shoulder and the inspiration for a thousand cheese boards filling my head. Since my invitation to this years International Cheese Awards arrived, I have been eagerly watching the construction of the massive (massive is an understatement really, it’s 83,000 sq ft) marquee on Twitter and sneaking a peak at some of the entries.

This year is the 118th International Cheese Awards, which are held as part of the Nantwich Show in Cheshire on 28th (judging and trade day) and 29th July 2015 (show day). This year there have been a record breaking 4,611 entries across literally hundreds of different categories of cheese, with entries from small artisan producers, to huge dairies and supermarkets. Last years Supreme Champion  was the Nottingham based Colston Bassett Dairy with their Whole Blue Stilton, and rather delicious it was too.

I’ll be there on trade day, but the 29th July sees the International Cheese Awards marquee open to the public as part of the Nantwich Show. You can take a tour of the trade stands, try a few cheeses and book in and watch a cookery demonstration by a celebrity chef – James Martin, Will Holland, Jonathon Harrison and Sean Wilson will all be there, and last year I bumped into Aldo Zilli too!

The Nantwich Show is a brilliant day out for all the family, there’s so much to see and do, the Nantwich Show is apparently the biggest agricultural show in the UK, with everything from cows, sheep, pigs and pigeons to horticulture and honey. Take a look at the vintage cars and agricultural machinery as well as the latest in tractor technology! I know my boy would love it there!

The morning of the judging day is a hectic whirlwind of activity, with the marquee packed full of huge wheels of cheese, it is a sight to behold and enough to keep several large villages in cheese for a lifetime. The white-coated judges patrolling the tables, deliberating over their category and choosing the very best cheese. It’s an opportunity for non judges like me to take a turn around the trade stands and explore new cheeses and other dairy products (though chocolate cheese has yet to find a place in my heart).

The afternoon of judging day will this year see 1,144 people sitting down to a delicious four course meal, followed by the announcement of the winners and of course the supreme champion. The International Cheese Awards is the largest dairy hospitality event in the UK and the highlight of my foodie calendar!

You can find out more about the International Cheese Awards on their website, and you can find out more information  and buy tickets to the Nantwich Show here.

International Cheese Awards