Tag Archives: Cheese

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

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.

Spaghetti with Yellow Courgette Sauce

This is an old family favourite and perfect for batch making and freezing when you’ve grown a glut of courgettes (of any colour) or they are extra cheap in the shops. We grow our own so this is a summer staple for us and a cheeky way of getting veg into a toddler without him realising.

I admit it’s not pretty but it tastes delicious and you can make is as healthy or naughty as you want.

Here’s what I do…

Grate (in the food processor, life’s too short) 2-3 courgettes per person and then ping in the microwave or just cook on the hob until soft. Season generously with salt, pepper and dried chilli flakes then whizz up in the blender until smooth.

Return to the hob and reheat. Stick some spaghetti on to cook and grate some cheese (this is the healthy/naughty part) and add it to the sauce, stir until melted through. Use your judgement and taste as you go, you can always add more, but I added a dollop of soft cheese with garlic and herbs, cheddar and Parmesan. Melt through and taste for seasoning and cheesiness. Once the spaghetti is cooked drain and stir the sauce through and serve.

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Yes it really is as easy as that. When dealing with a glut we freeze before we add the cheese as it seems to freeze better. It really is delicious, though admittedly it’s slightly prettier with green courgettes.

If you try it let me know what you think.