The secret of a legendary cheeseboard
PUBLISHED: 15:41 08 December 2015 | UPDATED: 15:42 08 December 2015
Mark Hartstone, who won Chef of the Year at the Dorset Magazine Food, Drink and Farming Awards, shares the secret of his legendary cheeseboard at La Fosse with us
The good news is that virtually all styles of cheese can be found within our fine county. When putting together a local cheeseboard have a range of both cow and goat. Though it’s possible a native ewe’s cheese may require you to step over the border to the Bartlett Brothers in Somerset.
When it comes to the number of cheeses, it really depends on the occasion. For a large party I would suggest a handful of large cheeses/wedges. But if it’s a dinner party of foodies then you can have some fun, though more than 10 and it can become challenge. It’s best to visit a good fromagerie counter for bespoke sizes. Make notes as you buy, so when you unpack your shopping you know which cheese is which.
When collating your cheeseboard try to include the main styles of cheese and different types of milk. I would recommend the following local cheeses:
• Fresh: Woolsery soft goats cheese, from Up Sydling, ticks several boxes and is a splendid introduction to goats cheese as it is not too strong - woolserycheese.co.uk.
• Soft: A youthful Cranborne for those liking a milder soft rinded cheese, a mature Dorset White for those with fuller flavoured stronger palettes. Both from are from Chalke Valley Cheese, based on the Cranborne Estate - chalkevalleycheese.co.uk.
• Semi hard/rind washed: The king of local washed rind cheeses is Francis, technically starting life just over the county boundary at Lyburn Farm though really developing its style by the hands of a master affineur James McCall at James’s Cheese in Child Okford - jamesscheese.co.uk. If the Stinking Bishop style aroma is too much, then a nutty Tilly Whim from Chalke Valley Cheese is a formidable semi-hard cheese.
• Hard: Over the border at Evercreech in Somerset, Tom Calver at Westcombe Dairy makes a couple of splendid classic cheeses with the farm’s own unpasteurised milk. Their Duckett’s Aged Caerphilly or Westcombe Cheddar is of a quality to grace any cheeseboard - westcombedairy.com.
• Smoked: Ford Farms Dorset Red, made at Ashley Chase in Litton Cheney, is the marmite of cheese (you either love it or hate it) is very heavily smoked and a vibrant orange in colour all the way through - fordfarm.com.
• Blue veined: It has to be Dorset Blue Vinney, reinvented by the Davis family on their farm near Sturminster Newton, helped to rejuventate a farm suffering from poor milk prices 20 or so years ago - some things do not change alas - dorsetblue.com.
• Pasteurised or unpasteurised: Ten years ago you would have been hard pushed to find many unpasteurised cheeses north of the English Channel, with the reverse in France. Now camemberts that are made with raw milk are a fraction of their productions. That said it is still possible to get a great tasting pasteurised cheese. It’s just harder for the cheese maker.
For tasty local biscuits look no further than Fudges fine array or try Moores Dorset Knob biscuits which have been made in their Morcombelake bakery since 1880. These twice-baked delights are a fine accompaniment to cheese. Sour dough bread also works well with cheese.
There is a myriad of Dorset chutney and jam makers whose sweet and acidic creations are a foil to the king of fermented foods. Try brands like From Dorset with Love or Ajar Of. My time working on the French side of the Pyrenees was an introduction to confiture de cerise avec brebis (cherry jam with a mixed milk hard cheese) - think Wensleydale and fruit cake; marmalade also works with cheese.
Drinks wise Somerset Pomona from the Somerset Cider Brandy Company is a good alternative to the standard port combo. Also try Liberty Fields Apple Aperitif. If you prefer wine, then L.A. Cetto Petite Sirah, Baja California, is loaded with ripe black and blue fruit, pepper accents, hefty tannins and cocoa notes, perfect for medium-stronger cheeses.
Gifts for cheese lovers
A funky cheese board and knife set from Harts of Stur would be a welcome Christmas gift or book a cheese making course at All Hallows Farmhouse at Wimborne St Giles, where they will learn to make simple cheeses such as ricotta and halloumi. But if letting someone else prepare your perfect cheeseboard is more your style, then maybe a visit to La Fosse at Cranborne should be on Santa’s list? Find out more at la-fosse.com or call 01725 517604.
• Meet the chef - Dan Syndercombe at 10 Castle Street - Head chef, Dan Syndercombe brings his skills for creating innovative dishes inspired by the landscape of South Africa, to the newly opened 10 Castle Street on the edge of Cranborne Chase
• Meeting master butcher Richard Balson - I’ve always yearned to live in Bridport and now I fully understand the reason why: the town’s butcher extraordinaire, Richard Balson. What a gem.