Thursday, 26 February 2009

Cheddar Cheese and Chateau Graves de Barrau

Cheddar cheese is the UK's favourite - accounting for 51% of the country's £1.9 billion annual cheese market. It originates from the village of Cheddar in Somerset and has been produced since at least 1170. In times past Cheddar was matured in the caves at Wookey Hole and the Cheddar Gorge. Cheddar has always been popular with Royalty - records show that King Henry II purchased 10,420 lbs of it. When Charles I was on the throne, demand outweighed supply so much that you could only get Cheddar at the King's court, and even then you had to pay before the cheese was made. Queen Victoria was presented with a Cheddar cheese which weighed 11cwt, made from the milk of over 700 cows and in 1901 the village of Cheddar was chosen to despatch an order of 3500lbs of cheese to Captain Scot RN aboard the ship "Discovery", for his famous Antarctic Expedition.

Cheddar, made in the classical way, tends to have a sharp, pungent flavour, often slightly earthy. The ideal quality of the original Somerset Cheddar was described by Joseph Harding in 1864 as "close and firm in texture, yet mellow in character or quality; it is rich with a tendency to melt in the mouth, the flavour full and fine, approaching to that of a hazlenut". Joseph Harding was a 19th century dairyman who is credited with being the Father of Cheddar cheese due to his technical developments, promotion of dairy hygiene and modern cheese-making techniques.

Cheddar is great with Chateau Graves de Barrau (£4.89) – which is crimson red and offers big ripe fruits characteristic of the Merlot grape. When Merlot predominates in a blend in Claret it makes a softer, more rounded wine rich in fruity flavours. The wine has beautiful aromas of cherry and just a fine hint of vanilla. It's well rounded and fleshy in the mouth and has a long silky finish. To enjoy its potential, decant and let it breathe for a good while whilst bringing it up to room temperature.

Château les Graves de Barrau comes from an estate that has been making wine for many centuries and is 18 miles north of Bordeaux. The wine makers are Serge Musset and Dominique Château les Graves de BarrauHébrard (famous for Cheval Blanc and Bellfont Belcier). Château les Graves de Barrau takes its name from the gravelly soil on which the vineyard stands – the word Barrau is Gallo Roman and means a difficult place to access – the English equivalent is barrow.

Cauliflower Cheese

1 large cauliflower
300ml milk
110g Cheddar cheese
3 tbsp plain flour
50g butter
25g breadcrumbs
½ tsp mustard
pinch of nutmeg
salt & black pepper

Trim the cauliflower boil in salted water for 10-15 minutes or until just tender. Drain and place in a flameproof dish. Add the milk, flour and butter to a saucepan. Heat, stirring continuously until the sauce thickens, boils and is smooth. Allow to simmer for a further 2 minutes. Add three-quarters of the grated cheese, mustard, a pinch of nutmeg and seasoning. Cook for further minute stirring well. Pour the sauce over the cauliflower. Mix the remaining cheese and breadcrumbs together, sprinkle over the top. Place under a hot grill until golden brown.

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