Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Rosé Wines from Around the World

There are less Rosé wine producing countries than for the reds and whites, but this includes countries such as France, New Zealand, Australia, Chile, Greece, South Africa, USA and Argentina.

France produces the most Rosé and some of the best come from the Loire Valley (Rosé d'Anjou is one you will recognise) and the southern areas of the Languedoc and Provence (especially from the areas of Tavel and Bandol). The appellation of Tavel is the only one in France to specify Rosé as its sole authorised wine.

I was surprised to see Greece included as a Rosé producing country but given that Greece has over 300 indigenous grape varieties, and a history of wine making that dates back to almost 4,000 years I suppose I shouldn't be.

Spanish Rosés are called Rosados and the better ones come from the Navarra region north of the Rioja, and are made of the Grenache grape. Italian Rosés are difficult to find and are called Rosato - look for ones that come from the Puglia and Basilicata region. In addition to rivers (perhaps torrents) of blush wine, California also makes a fair amount of dry Rosé.

The Row Over Rosé Wine

France is the world's biggest producer of Rosé wine and Provence is the biggest Rosé producer in France. There has recently been a row between French Rosé wine makers and the EU (see Nick's Blog The Row Over Rosé – France v the EU). The EU planned to let producers make Rosé by mixing red and white wine together.

Good quality Rosés are made by the traditional saignée method which involves leaving the wine on the lees to achieve depth of flavour and structure. Making Rosé simply by blending red and white wines, as some producers do for mass markets, would lower the quality of the wine, damage the brand and create job losses within the industry. Due to the growing furore over the situation the EU is making a special designation for French Rosé to distinguish it from products made simply by mixing red and white wines.

Rosé Wine Used to Measure Inflation

The Office of National Statistics(ONS) has updated the 650 items and services to better reflect what people are spending their money on. Their new basket of goods has been used to calculate the Retail Price Index. It is a main measure of inflation and among the other additions to the basket is Rosé wine, where sales have soared on the back of demand from women looking for a lighter alternative to red.

Also new to the basket are Rotisserie chicken, Parmesan cheese, free range eggs (the first time battery eggs have not been included since 1947), individual yoghurt, fresh double cream, plums and nectarines, and chilled ready meals.

Items thrown out of the basket were frozen imported lamb chops, imported Cheddar, battery eggs, single cream and peaches.

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Whisky Soap

Spirited Soaps are based on the Hebridean Island of Islay. Famous the world over for its whisky, this “whisky isle” is also home to miles of empty beaches and spectacular cliffs. It's also at the mercy of the Atlantic surf and is isolated from the mainland. Spirited Soaps have tried to capture the essence of this unique island in their hand crafted transparent whisky soaps and related bath products.

The soaps are made by firstly mixing the vegetable oils in small batches using the traditional cold process. This means that the fats and oils are melted and reacted with caustic to form normal opaque soap. This is an exothermic reaction, meaning that it generates its own heat. No external heat source is required to drive the neutralisation – hence “cold process”.
When this reaction is complete the soap mixture is cooked with soft Islay water, extra vegetable glycerin and Islay Malt whisky to keep the soap crystals nice and small. The soap now resembles liquid gold and is ready to pour &and scent with pure essential oils. When set the blocks are left to dry for 2 weeks allowing the angels to have their share of the whisky and to ensure you won’t smell like a distillery!

The resulting soaps look like a solid dram but have the scent of the carefully blended essential oils. They produce a luxurious lather and are extremely mild on the skin. 100% pure, 100% Islay.
Spirited soaps makes transparent whisky soap for Bunnahabhain, Kilchoman, Laphroaig, Isle of Jura as well as Ardbeg and Bruichladdich on Islay. From further afield they offer soaps made with Benromach, Glen Moray, Dalmore and Tullibardine.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Rum Soap

I love the smell of rum – in fact rum and raisin ice cream used to be one of my favourites just because of its scent. Calabash Handmade make a Caribbean Bay Rum Soap that smells good enough to eat - fragranced with their of Bay Rum from Dominica, in the Caribbean. It's a blend of West Indian Bay, spicy cloves, cinnamon and lime made with bentonite clay which makes it the perfect natural handmade shaving soap.

At Calabash owner Sharron Hardy was inspired by memories of her parents’ homeland in Dominica whilst creating her products and she mimicked those familiar delicious, warm tropical scents and fragrances in her formulas. Sharron only uses natural oils in her handmade soap, made from plant oils and extracts, botanicals, aromatherapy blends of pure essential oils and high quality fragrance oils. Calabash uses the Cold Process Soap making method which retains all the natural skin conditioning glycerine released from the oils that are normally removed from commercial soaps.

Commercial soaps are manufactured from a ready made base derived from cheap animal fat, foaming agents and detergents. All the natural skin nourishing glycerine is actually often removed and sold on to be added to other cosmetics and toiletries. Because Calabash's soaps are pure and natural they can be used on your face (avoiding the eye area) without that horrible, familiar dryness and tightening of the skin associated with regular detergent based commercial soap.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Soap made with Gin

The Littlecote Soap Co also make a Gin and Tonic soap which is made with Juniper and organic lemon grass essential oils with a dash of gin. Gin is made from Juniper Berries which is a great tonic and the fresh, zesty lemon grass is uplifting and refreshing - a touch of glitter is added for that tonic sparkle.

Gin was developed in the 17th century in the Netherlands. It was first intended as a medication; Juniper Berries are a diuretic and were also thought to be an appetite stimulant and a remedy for arthritis. The name gin is derived from either the French genièvre or the Dutch jenever, which both mean "juniper".

Juniper berries have been found in ancient Egyptian tombs such as Tutankhamen's, the ancient Greeks used the berries in many of their Olympics events because of their belief that the berries increased physical stamina in athletes and the Romans used them as a substitute for the expensive black pepper. According to legend, when the Virgin Mary and the infant Jesus were fleeing from Herod into Egypt, they took refuge under a Juniper bush. I use them in cooking to season game birds such as woodcock or with venison. They are good in mulled wine too!

Monday, 23 March 2009

Pink Champagne Soap

Having found soaps made from wine and beer I decided to go on a mission to see what else is out there online. Here in the UK we are a little behind the USA which has lots of soaps, beauty products and cosmetics on a wine or alcohol theme but I found a couple of gems.

It's hard to find a Champagne soap that actually contains champagne but the Littlecote Soap Co has a brilliant range of handmade soaps. The Pink Champagne soap really does contain champagne:

Fresh, light, sparkling and uplifting with a tiny hint of fruitiness. Pink Champagne Soaps are clear pale pink made with real Champagne and a touch of glitter.

Littlecote Soap Co is set in the heart of the English countryside, in Buckinghamshire's Vale of Aylesbury on a working farm. The vintage, apothecary style shop and workshops are popular with visitors who enjoy viewing the herbs and ingredients on display. They use both ancient and contemporary methods with an emphasis on natural, pure ingredients with no harsh chemicals. The natural bath and body care luxuries are all still carefully made by hand, individually hand-cut, hand-poured and hand-wrapped.

The soap sounds lovely – it would be perfect relaxing in a candle lit bath sipping the real thing! If you like fruit driven Rosé Champagne check out Philippe Secondes – it's very moreish!

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Beer Soap

Bet you didn't think anyone made Beer Soap? Well the Black Isle Brewing Co does. It is a small intensely independent organic brewery in the heart of the Scottish Highlands. They also make Beer. Their mission is to produce a range of top quality organic beers packaged in recycled materials. The barley and hops used are grown on organic farms, without artificial fertilisers or herbicides.

Their range of organic Beer Soaps are pure and natural soaps made with lavender and lemongrass and other deliciously scented things, including beer, spent hops and barley from the brewing process. Apparently they are also excellent as shaving soap for the one or two CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale) members without beards and cardigans (their words not mine!)

You can choose from:

Lavender and Heather Honey Beer Soap
Sweet Gale, Alpine Perle Hops and Blonde Beer
Lemongrass and Black Isle Scotch Ale
Orange, Marigold and Yellowhammer Beer
Grapefruit, Oregano and Yellowhammer Beer
Lemon balm and Black Isle Wheat Beer.

There is an old wives tale that says that washing your hair in Beer makes it shiny and full – and there may be some truth in it as organic beers tighten the hair shaft and give the hair a beautiful shine. Beer is also great as a setting lotion as it holds the hair in style and gives it body.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Wine Soap

The Grape Vine has a multitude of uses – more than I thought to be quite honest! The principle one, in my humble opinion, has been the wine it produces . . . however it is used in a plethora of different ways.

The leaves are preserved in brine and used to parcel fillings, such as minced meat, fish and rice (Dolmades). The fruits are made into wine, vinegar, juice and jelly. Dried fruits are known as currants, raisins and sultanas according to their variety. Seeds yield a polyunsaturated oil, suitable for mayonnaise and cooking, especially frying. Cream of Tartar or potassium bitartrate, a crystalline salt, is extracted from the residue of pressed grapes known as ‘marc’ and the sediment of wine barrels. It is used in baking powders, laxatives and soldering fluxes.

And now the Vine’s latest use is in Soap.

The Curly Vine offers:

“Handcrafted using a cold press method combining wine lees, selected oils and rain water. Essential oils have been added to the soaps, so Chardonnay is perfumed with Lime Oil, Cabernet Sauvignon with Eucalyptus and Shiraz with Vanilla. The soaps retain glycerine and are blended with Olive Oil for deep skin moisturising.”

This is all a long, long way from how soap was traditionally made. Traditionally, in the UK, the fat used to make soap were beef (tallow), sheep and pig (lard). Not a very enticing recipe compared to Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz!

And I bet it didn’t smell as good!

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Bordeaux Churches and Places of Worship -Saint Seurin Basilica

One of the 3 churches given UNESCO World Heritage status. Saint Seurin dates back to the 5th century and is the oldest church in Bordeaux. French pilgrims stopped here to pray on route to Santiago de Compostela in the Middle Ages. Saint Seurin (or Severinius is somewhat of a mystery – he joined Bishop Amand in his ministry and succeeded him as head of the Bordeaux See. A monastery is said to have been established outside the town walls by Seurin on the site of a Gallo-Roman cemetery where both bishops were later buried. Following Seurin's death in 420 AD, his grave became the objective of pilgrims, and his patronage of the city was declared after a number of miraculous cures were attributed to his intervention.

Charlemagne, King of the Franks, is said to have lain down Roland’s ivory horn, Olivant, after the defeat of Ronceveaux there. The horn was made of ivory hence it's name (oliphant, or elephant ivory) and Roland was the bravest and most loyal of the 12 legendary paladins, or knights, who served Charlemagne. Although Charlemagne was a historical figure, many fanciful tales about the king and his knights appeared during the Middle Ages. It was said that Roland stood 8 feet tall and carried a magical sword called Durindana (or Durendal) that had once belonged to the Trojan hero Hector.

According to medieval stories, Roland (or Orlando) was the son of Charlemagne's sister. Living as a poor peasant in Italy, he was welcomed to the court of the king after his true identity was revealed. Although a powerful warrior, Roland's concern with winning honour and fame eventually cost him his life.

Ganelon, another Paladin and Roland's close friend, was sent to negotiate with the Muslim leader. Instead, jealous of Roland, Ganelon plotted with the enemy and revealed the route Roland's army planned to take. The Muslims waited for Roland and ambushed him at Roncesvalles in the Pyrenees Mountains.

The paladins had told Roland to blow his ivory horn to summon reinforcements from Charlemagne, but Roland refused to call for help until the battle was almost lost. By then it was too late. When Charlemagne's troops arrived, Roland and many of the bravest paladins were dead. At the end of the story, Charlemagne had Ganelon killed for his treachery.

Monday, 16 March 2009

Bordeaux Churches and Places of Worship - Sainte Croix

The Sainte Croix Quarter is dominated by the spire of the Romanesque Saint Croix Church (Church of the Holy Cross) and only became part of the fortified city in the early 14th century. The church lies on the site of a 7th century Abbey destroyed by the Saracens. Rebuilt under the Carolingians, it was again destroyed by the Normans in 845 and 864. It is annexed to a Benedictine abbey founded in the 7th century, and was built in the late 11th-early 12th centuries.

Sainte-Croix was the seat of the Parish from 1130. Although the church choir was reserved for Benedictines, the transept was for the locals. The principal altar was dedicated to the Virgin Mary and it was a pilgrim site for Notre-Dame-des-Marins with illustrations showing scenes of lost ships being saved.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Holidays in Bordeaux - The Saint Eloi Quarter and the Grosse Cloche

The Saint Eloi Quarter is full of winding cobbled streets and is home to Bordeaux's main shopping street which is 1 mile long! This focal point of the Saint Eloi Quarter is the Grosse Cloche, known as the Saint Eloi Gate and is just next to the 12th century Saint Eloi church. This imposing gate was built in the 13th century and originally, one of its towers served as a prison where delinquents who had had one too many drinks were locked up.

The St Eloi Gate became the city’s belfry in the 15th century and a bell was added to it. The Big Bell came to regulate the inhabitants’ lives – even ringing to announce the grape harvest. and would ring in major events. The bell was replaced in the 18th century, and it took 14 pairs of ox to carry it. It was the biggest civilian bell in France, which weighed 16,535 and the Belfry and the Big Bell still appear on the Bordeaux coat of arms.

Saint Eloi is the Patron Saint of goldsmiths and other metalworkers. He is also the patron saint of the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME). But he is best known for being the patron saint of horses and those who work with them such as Blacksmiths. Eloi (his Roman name was Eligius) was chief counsellor to Dagobert I, Merovingian King of France. He was appointed the Bishop of Noyon Tournai and worked for 20 years to convert the pagan population of Flanders to Christianity.

Eloi was born in Aquitaine around 588 into an educated and influential Gallo-Roman family. His father, recognizing unusual talent in his son, sent him to the goldsmith Abbo, master of the mint at Limoges. Later Eloi worked under Babo, the royal treasurer, on whose recommendation the King of the Franks, is said to have commissioned him to make a throne of gold adorned with precious stones.

Friday, 6 March 2009

The Best Bordeaux Wine Holidays – The Saint Pierre Quarter

The Saint Pierre Quarter lies right at the heart of Bordeaux and is one of the most beautiful and historic quarters. If it's magnificent architecture seems familiar this is because the quarter has featured in many film sets! As Bordeaux's livelihood relied on the waters of the river they honoured Saint Peter - the fisherman and apostle of Jesus – and the quarter is named for him. It is made up of beautiful little streets, some of which are still paved.

Saint Pierre is Bordeaux's culinary capital, with a large amount of restaurants to suit every taste and pocket—something for gourmets and gourmands. The Place du Parlement is home to some wonderful architecture and a decorative fountain. Also in the area is the Saint Pierre Church, built in the 15th and 16th centuries on the site of the former Gallo-Roman port.

In the 4th century, the Rue du Cancéra marked the entrance of the ancient harbour. Hercules was it's guardian and in 1832 a bronze statue of Hercules was discovered under the mud. It is now in the Museum of Aquitaine.

The Saint Pierre Quarter is lined with the Louis XV residences and The Place du Parlement is home to wonderful architecture, a decorative neo-renaissance fountain, and many bars and restaurants with open-air terraces, perfect for a late-afternoon drink in summer. The market held in front of Saint Pierre church is the leading organic market with a 20-year history of bringing naturally cultivated produce to old Bordeaux.

Thursday, 5 March 2009

The Best Bordeaux Wine Holidays – Les Jardins

Nearby the Chartrons Quays is the Jardin Botanique which is part of Bordeaux's first ever park, the Jardin Public. It is a classic French garden with a lake, arranged flowerbeds and 3,000 different plant species. Although the botanical garden's origins extend back to 1629, with the creation of Bordeaux's first medicinal garden, today's botanical garden dates to 1858.

The Jardin Public was created in 1746 and he first trees were planted in 1749. The architect Voisin built a terrace with three entrances, decorated by Masset and Laconfourque, while the architect J. Ange Gabriel designed the classical French gardens. This was a place for promenades and meetings - there was even a space for horse training. However, after the revolution, the gardens were transformed into the Champ de Mars where official ceremonies took place. The creation of the parks allowed the area of Saint-Seurin to be linked to the city, as well as the quarter of the Chartrons. Under Napoleon III the gardens were transformed into a traditional English formal garden, and extended. This is the present form of the gardens.

The botanical gardens contain more than 3000 plant species, both those indigenous to Aquitaine and exotic plants from North America, China and Japan. The garden's seed collection contains 2,000 species, and its herbarium contains about 85,000 specimens.

On the other side of the river is the new Jardin Botanique de la Bastide (quai de Queyries). This garden opened in 2003 and has 6 sections including an arboretum, fields of grain, an alley of vines and a water garden. It also contains greenhouses as well 11 landscapes representing the environments of Aquitaine, including dunes, cliffs, wet grassland and moorland. Six gardens in the south represent the landscapes of the left bank of the River Garonne.

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

The Best Bordeaux Wine Holidays – The Port of the Moon and the Chartrons Quays

Bordeaux is a fabulous place to go on holiday, even more so if you love its wines. The historic city of Bordeaux is built on a bend of the River Garonne, and is divided into two parts: the right bank to the East and left bank in the West. Bordeaux is classified "City of Art and History". The city has been inscribed on UNESCO World Heritage List as "an outstanding urban and architectural ensemble". Bordeaux has nearly 350 classified buildings and buildings listed as Historic Monuments, including 3 religious World Heritage buildings since 1998 as part of the Routes of Santiago de Compostela in France. In 2007 the cities of Bristol and Bordeaux celebrated the 60th Anniversary of their twinning.

From the 12th to the 15th century, Bordeaux grew in importance following the marriage of Eleanor of Aquitaine to King Henry II of England. The city flourished, primarily due to wine trade, which is where Britain gained its love of claret from. Bordeaux was also once the capital of an independent state under Edward the Black Prince but at the end of the Hundred Years War Bordeaux was annexed by France. In fact Bordeaux did not officially become part of France until 1653 when King Louis XIV entered in the city.

The ancient port of Bordeaux is called the Port de la Lune (the Port of the Moon) due to the enormous curve of the river in the city centre. The Port de la Lune unites the heart of the city around its crescent shape - which inspired the Bordeaux coat of arms. While most of its commercial activity and installations have been transferred downstream to the estuary (the largest in Europe) to accommodate larger vessels, the harbour now attracts a growing number of cruise liners and pleasure craft. The old port offers a unique 5 mile long panorama of the 18th century building façades of aged white stone, most of which originates from the limestone quarries around Saint-Émilion.

The 18th century was the golden age of Bordeaux. Many down town buildings (about 5,000), including those on the quays, are from this period. Victor Hugo found the town so beautiful he once said: "take Versailles, add Antwerp, and you have Bordeaux". Baron Haussman, a long-time prefect of Bordeaux, used Bordeaux's 18th century big-scale rebuilding as a model when he was asked by Emperor Napoleon III to transform a then still quasi-medieval Paris into a "modern" capital that would make France proud. Bordeaux is divided into “Quartiers” or quarters, each with distinct characters and atmospheres.

Wine has undeniably left its mark on the city. The Chartrons Quays are a “must see” if you are visiting Bordeaux. The Quays take their name from the Chartreux Convent that was built at the end of the 16th century and owe their fine golden hued buildings to the wine trade. In the 18th century behind the fine facades of the wealthy wine merchants residences, warehouses and chais a whole crowd of sailors and workers contributed to the activity of the commerce among the piles of cases and barrels. River boats would pull up to the quayside loaded with the wares from the larger tall ships that were anchored in the channel. Lines of lime trees and two fountains gave the Quays a certain charm and made for an agreeable promenade.

The Chartrons have a roughly quadrilateral shape, and its limits are, to the south, the Esplanade des Quinconces, to the east, the Garonne waterfront. To the north, the limit is the Médoc and the Bacalan area, and to the west it is the Rue Frère and the Jardin Public. The architecture reveals the Chartons wine inspired past with "Pampres" (vine branches), grapes, Bacchus-like characters, elements of wine-growing and wine-making paraphernalia decorating gables, pilasters and bas-reliefs. If you close your eyes and use your imagination, you can almost smell the "chais", with their typical mixed fragrance of red fruit and wood-like tannins.

Nowadays you can find locals enjoying oysters with a glass of dry white wine before midday on Sundays at the quayside market, the Marché des Chartrons. The Chartrons is also called the antique district and has many charms. Old and new cohabit in an engaging mix of antique shops, boutiques, restaurants, and relaxed squares.
If you are interested in knowing more about the city of Bordeaux visit the Tourism site – it's a fountain of information!

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Château de Sainte Hélène and Roquefort

Only cheeses aged in the natural Combalou caves of Roquefort sur Soulzon may bear the name Roquefort. Legend has it that the cheese was discovered when a young shepherd, eating his lunch of bread and ewes' milk cheese, saw a beautiful girl in the distance. Abandoning his meal in a nearby cave, he ran to meet her. When he returned a few months later, the mould (Penicillium Roquefort) had transformed his plain cheese into Roquefort.

Roquefort, or similar style cheese, is mentioned in literature as far back as AD 79, when Pliny the Elder remarked upon its rich flavour. When the Romans built the great highway, the Via Domitia, that linked the Pyrenees with Italy, it passed not far from Roquefort, and it became relatively easy to send the cheeses to the sea coast and then by coastal shipping to Rome. The Romans, it seems, fell in love with Roquefort. Like all the Mediterranean peoples down to our own time they were used to cheeses, most of which tended to be dry and hard. Roquefort, by contrast, was smooth and soft and tasty, and the Roman aristocrats were willing to pay high prices to have it on their tables. The Emperor Charlemagne, it is said, used to have a pack train of mules bring Roquefort to his court at Aix-la-Chapelle every Christmas. Rich landed proprietors like the Knights Templars, who were once in charge of the area near Roquefort, received payments in cheese from local peasants.

Traditionally the cheese makers extracted it by leaving bread in the caves for six to eight weeks until it was consumed by the mould. The interior of the bread was then dried to produce a powder. Roquefort is made exclusively from the milk of the red Lacaune ewes that graze on the huge plateau of Rouergue, Causses in the Aveyron. A genuine Roquefort has a red sheep on the label!

Sauternes are often paired with desserts, crystallised fruits and chocolate but Château Sainte Hélène (£15.16) can accompany fish such as monk fish, prawns, scallops and sea bass as well as Roquefort cheese. Sainte Hélène is an exceptional wine. It is the second wine of the Second Growth (2ème Cru) Château de Malle, owned by the Comtes de Bournazel. Sainte Hélène has the creamy sweet taste of honeysuckle, orange peel, apricots, cinnamon and honey. It is made by the same team as the first wine and the cultivation of the vineyard is carried out with the same measure of rigorous attention and meticulous care. The wine is made following the same classical tradition as for great Sauternes and is the result of a draconian selection process. Try it with the Roquefort and see how good it is for yourself!

Pear and Roquefort Tart

2 cups flour
1 cup butter
pinch of salt
½ cup water
8 pears
2 cups Roquefort
Toasted Almonds

Mix the flour, butter and salt together in a large bowl, make a well in the centre and add the water to make the pastry. Roll out to fit a flan dish and slice the pears, arranging them in circles. Crumble the Roquefort over the pears and bake for about 20 minutes. Sprinkle with almonds.

Monday, 2 March 2009

Stilton and Chateau Pessan

Did you know that there are over a million Stilton cheeses are sold a year and that a third of Stilton’s annual sales are made in run up to Christmas totalling up to 2,500 tons in the UK alone. Stilton is smooth and creamy with an acidic flavour. It is the perfect cheese to drink with Chateau Pessan (£12.72) - if you are eating Stilton with biscuits and you are looking for a wine, then Stilton needs one with a depth of flavour. Château Pessan hails from Graves – which is often considered to be the birthplace of claret. The château is owned by the Comtes de Bournazel who have 400 years of wine making experience and also own Chateau de Malle. It is a deliciously velvety wine, deep and dense, perfectly balanced with hints of black fruits, spice, coffee, smoke, eucalyptus, pepper and oak. The wine is a superb buy and is starting to attract attention on the world market.

The Comtes de Bournazel have been making wine for a century longer than the cheese makers have been making Stilton. Stilton is relatively young compared to some British cheeses having first been made in the 18th century. Stilton is still made in much the same way as it was when Daniel Defoe, writing in his “Tour through England & Wales” in 1727, remarked that he “. . . passed through Stilton, a town famous for cheese." And yet, Stilton was never made in the town of Stilton!

Stilton is situated about 80 miles north of London on the old Great North Road. In the 18th century, the town was a staging post for coaches travelling from London to York. Horses would be changed and travellers served light refreshments at one of the hostelries in the town. Cooper Thornhill, an East Midlands entrepreneur, was landlord at the famous Bell Inn and it was he who introduced these travellers to a soft, creamy, blue veined cheese which subsequently took its name from the town. Thornhill had brought the cheese from a farmer’s wife by the name of Frances Pawlett who lived near Melton Mowbray.

Stilton and Cauliflower Soup

1 onion
1 cauliflower
2 potatoes
1oz butter
2 tbsp olive oil
3 pints of vegetable stock
stilton, to taste

Dice the potatoes, cauliflower and onion and add to pot with the butter and oil and about 4 tbsp of water. Heat whilst stirring, then put the lid onto the pot and cook gently for around 15 minutes to soften the vegetables, stirring occasionally and replacing the lid or shaking the pan to avoid sticking. Next add the water, bring to the boil and then simmer gently for around 25 - 30 minutes, then reserve the liquid and liquidize the vegetables in a food processor. Return to the water and crumble the Stilton cheese in and season to taste.