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20/12/10 - Stilton Ale - The Blue Brew Arrives!

Forget the royal wedding, we now have the marriage of two other iconic British institutions, real ale and Stilton cheese. Already a classic pairing, Belvoir Brewery has gone one step further and created a new beer – The Blue Brew – which has Stilton whey infused in the fermenting process. The chestnut coloured ale has a unique and smooth taste with light creamy textures.


We took delivery of the beer this week and it tastes delicious!



Nigel White, Secretary of the Stilton Cheesemakers Association said: “People often think of Stilton as a cheese just for Christmas and forget how versatile it is. It has often been used as an ingredient for a wide range of dishes in cooking and now its by-product, whey, has been used to create a delicious beer, which is the perfect accompaniment to any festive fayre!”


Traditionally the whey from cheese making would have been fed to pigs. But now Belvoir Brewery has found another purpose for it and made a fabulous new beer.


The beer is 4.2% abv and is made with beer wort, as this allows the flavour of the Stilton to be appreciated more. For the main brew, 25% of Stilton whey was mixed with 75% strong unfermented fresh wort. This was then fermented in the normal way with fresh live brewers yeast.



It really is tasty and we’ve even created a quirky video check it out:


19/12/10 - Stilton Ice Cream

As the wind chill factor bites ever harder - ice cream seems hardly the priority, but when it's a savoury treat crafted from the finest Stilton.... our blue-veined blogger Neil Sowerby investigates


ONE result of an autumn windfall has been my purchase of an ice cream maker. An all-spinning, all-chilling industrial gelato monster. The last one I had restricted my production since after each batch I had to clean and stick the detachable contents cylinder back into the freezer to re-freeze. Not this one. One power surge and it chills in minutes.

Soon after this decidedly solid piece of machinery arrived I chanced upon a BBC Breakfast filler about an ice cream convention in Harrogate where a swarthy guy called Paulo was proudly displaying his Port and Stilton ice to a regional girl reporter who couldn’t believe her luck – an Italian hunk and more than one cornetto! 

She couldn’t get her head around such a flavour for an ice cream, but the combination worked for me. I speak after returning from a trip to Japan where ice cream flavours include pit viper and raw horse meat (I jest not). I’ve no intention of giving those a whirl, though a green tea ice would be nice.

I don’t know what the Japanese for serendipity is, but awaiting me on my return was a review copy of a fabulous new book by ice cream specialists Caroline and Robin Weir. Heston Blumenthal, he of bacon and egg ice cream fame, is a big fan. And would you believe it? rong> Ice Creams, Sorbets and Gelati: The Definitive Guide (Grub Street, £25) contains a recipe for Frozen Stilton Cheese Cream.


It’s a treat that dates back to Victorian times. It can be a starter with celery seed biscuits or served after dinner – with Port, naturally. I combined it with a piece of Christmas cake. Bad luck possibly to break into it early (a juicy Melmerby Bakery organic example, if you want to know) but it was a lovely match.

To make the Frozen Stilton Cheese Cream, bring 20 fl oz of whole milk and a clove close to boiling point. Discard the rind from 9fl oz of Stilton and chop the rest into half inch cubes. Add to the milk and stir over a gentle heat until melted. Remove the pan from the heat and beat the mixture vigorously for 30 seconds before adding four tablespoons of White Port. Add a touch of black pepper before chilling in the fridge.

When ready remove the clove and delicately beat 18oz of fromage frais into the cheese mixture. After that still freeze or stir freeze in your ice cream maker. After storing in a freezer it needs 30 minutes to soften enough for serving.

It’s altogether a less intense Stilton ice than the nation’s most famous, produced by Worcester dairy Churchfields Farm (

Their Seriously Stilton, made from milk from their own pedigree Friesians contains 25 per cent Stilton, grated into an ordinary ice cream base of sugar, milk and cream. span>

Emphasising the savoury nature of such an ice I’d serve it scattered with chives, accompanied by a basil and tomato salad and some foccacia. Not so strange after all!


22/11/10 - Tasty Titbits From Stilton This Christmas

The nights are drawing in, it’s getting darker earlier and the decorations are slowly going up, it can only mean one thing – Christmas is nearly upon us! Stilton cheese is often thought of as a staple part of a festive cheeseboard, but why not take a look at these inspiring recipe ideas, which use the King of British cheese in an alternative way this Yuletide….


Starters first, check out what Delicious Magazine suggests:


Stilton, leek and celery tart with apple and cranberry chutney -



Or how about a twist on a classic? Take a look at Good To Know’s Leek and Stilton soup:


Leek and Stilton soup –



Still feeling peckish? Want something a little more filling and satisfying? Well, this leftover idea from Asda Magazine is the perfect solution:


Macaroni with Stilton and cauliflower –




Or do you fancy something a bit more meaty? Well give this a go, courtesy of Waitrose:


Fillet steak with Port and Stilton sauce –




After all that indulgence, if you still have room, why not try a delicious dessert that includes Stilton. Yes, something sweet with the blue veined delight in. This one comes from the BBC:


Poached pears with Stilton and walnuts – 



And there you have it, a course to suit a whole range of tastes. Who’d have thought how versatile a wedge of Stilton could be! Do you have any scrumptious Stilton recipes of your own? Leave us a comment or get in touch with your suggestions:

19/11/10 - Big Bubbly and Comedy Cheese!

AROUND this time of the year, I start to plan my annual Big Bubbly Party. Late November, early December the optimum time. Here donning my generous wine writer’s hat, I invite neighbours around to sip, slurp and spit (only occasionally, the last one) their way through a selections of sparklers, mostly champagne but with added mousse factor from cava and prosecco.



The only condition I impose is that everyone contributes a dish to the Bubbly Buffet. The wines are all review samples, the pick of which will feature in my Manchester Confidential wine column’s Christmas sparkler recommendations ( Ultimately it’s my choice. No coalitions here, though I do check the rest of the party-goer’s increasingly garbled notes to check the people’s vote!


A regular attendee at the tasting is a substantial wedge  of Stilton, provided by me. The producer changes according to availability. It doesn’t really matter. Quality is uniformly high in the season when the cheese is at its peak. I’ve never been let down.


I’m not sure festive stalwarts Champagne and Stilton are a match made in heaven. That old smoothie Port invariably seduces the blue-veined lovely. Best Champagne bet is one of those 100 per cent Pinot Noir examples, often labeled Blanc de Noirs, or perhaps pinot-dominated fuller-bodied Champagnes from Louis Roederer or Bollinger. Rose? Mais non.


For canapés I’ve often matched succulent in-season figs with prosciutto, say, but this year I’m going to risk a roasted figs with salami and Stilton dish I found on a folksy American food blog called

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The creator, touching 40 before eating her first fig – “juicy and a little decadent” – bluntly describes her post as “essentially about salami with a slice of roasted fig and a little taste of Stilton cheese”.

She describes Stilton Cheese as in a class by itself, but admits her entire knowledge of Stilton comes from the website you are currently reading! She also uses quality salami she hand-slices to her preferred thickness, not those limp, greasy apologies for salamis stacking supermarket shelves...


“Slice the figs horizontally. Now you must choose a path. Be like my husband and use them as they are, fresh and raw. Or, preheat the oven to 400 degrees, sprinkle them with brown sugar and roast them for 20 minutes, as I did. I liked them cooked– perhaps I am still running away from my childhood aversion – but I thought the flavor was wonderful. However, both are lovely, and one is easier, for sure. If you roast them, allow them to come to room temperature before proceeding.


Slice the salami, place a slice of fig on it, and place a little bit of Stilton on each of the figs. That is it. It is that simple. We ate them at room temperature. The cheese is better that way and you don’t need a hot fig melting your cheese.  It is a little sweet and a little savory with a creamy bit of excellent cheese on top.”


IT’S hard to credit but back in the nineties EMI handed out its first ever £1m record deal to a poet – one Murray Lachlan Young. I must admit he had fallen off my radar until in an interview to promote his current tour and poet’s residency on BBC6 Music he was asked to rather randomly to name his favourite cheese. “I think at the end of the day, a top Stilton is peerless.” We await his Rhapsody on Blue!



COMEDIANS now appear to have replaced poets as the new rock ‘n’ roll. They are everywhere, but few appear to rely on cheese, rather then cheesy, jokes. Still to make up for it there’s one of those new fangled Twitters that will despatch one your way from the ether. They are mildly addictive, mostly old chestnuts...


Which cheese is made backwards? Edam.

Why did Jenson Button have too much cheese? Because he won a grand brie.

Which socialite has a famous blue cheese movie? Paris Stilton.


I’m sure my loyal readers can do better. If any of you out there want to send me a Stilton joke or two I’d be delighted. Nothing too blue, mind.


04/11/10 - Food Festivals and Stilton Dumplings!

AUTUMN, season of mists and mellow food festivals. Already I have clocked up the Dingle Food and Wine fair over in Ireland (where I got to bond with Fungi the legendary dolphin and some very committed producers) and the Manchester Food and Drink Festival. Coming up shortly is the Conwy Feast, which I’m doing a piece about for a magazine.


Sadly such commitments meant I missed this year’s East Midlands Food and Drink Festival at Brooksby Hall near Melton Mowbray in the heart of Stilton territory.



These are jolly occasions, but with a serious purpose, too, celebrating regional food and generating tourist income. Hence the boundary signs proclaiming ‘Borough of Melton; Home of Stilton Cheese and Melton Mowbray Pork Pies' and the recently elected ‘Welcome to Melton Mowbray - Rural Capital of Food'. 

All this self-promotion appears to be working with two million visitors at the last count worth £65m to the local economy. Which can only be good for Stilton’s quality image.


The next step, promoted at the East Midlands fest, is the development of a Rural Food Centre, where visitors will see pork pies, Stilton Cheese, beer and bread being made on a commercial basis with a restaurant and a food hall offering the food produced in the centre.


ALL this is for the future. For the moment the nights are getting chillier and the game season is upon us. At the Manchester festival, a chef friend pressed a partridge on me feathers, beak and all, which I used as a prop in a talk I was giving.



Later I paired it with some wild rabbit and mature Blue Stilton in a beautiful, rib-tickling Game Casserole with Stilton Parsley Dumplings from UK TV’s Good Food Channel (




700 g stewing game meat, cut into cubes

flour, for dusting

3 tbsp olive oil

300 ml red wine

600 ml beef stock

black pepper

2 onions, finely chopped

4 potatoes, peeled and quartered

4 large carrots, peeled and quartered

150 ml port


For the Stilton parsley dumplings

175 g self-raising flour

75 g shredded suet

75 g Stilton, crumbled

2 tbsp chopped parsley

black pepper

water, for mixing



1. Preheat the oven to 180°C /Gas 4. 

2. Toss the game in the flour, then shake it to get rid of the excess flour. 

3. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a casserole dish. Fry the game in batches, browning on each side, then removing with a slotted spoon. 

4. Pour the red wine into the casserole dish and heat through, scraping the pan with a wooden spoon to deglaze it. 

5. Add the browned game to the wine. Add the stock and season with salt and freshly ground pepper. 

6. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a frying pan and fry the onion until tender. Add the fried onion to the game mixture. 

7. Cover the casserole and bake in the oven for one and a half hours. 

8. Meanwhile, make the dumplings. In a mixing bowl mix together the flour, suet, Stilton and parsley. Season with freshly ground pepper. 

9. Make a well in the centre. Add a little water and, using a spoon, mix in the dry ingredients, adding more water as need to form a soft dough. Using wetted hands to shape the dough into small dumplings. 

10. Once the casserole has baked for one and a half hours add the potatoes, carrots and port wine. Top with the dumplings. Return to the oven and bake for a further 30 minutes until the dumplings have risen and the game is tender.


To accompany it, let’s keep it local with a strong ale from Stilton country’s Belvoir Brewery ( – Old Dalby, ruby coloured with roasted flavours and hoppy complexity.


For those who fancy a different meat, Stilton dumplings are also great with beef & ale stew and chicken & red wine casserole.

27/10/10 - The King of Wines in China and Stilton Elvis

Our intrepid Stilton blogger Neil Sowerby laments the cultural divide that stops the King Of Cheeses being served more regularly alongside the King of Wines in China... and recalls the miracle that was the Stilton Elvis.

Claret’s best vintage in decades, the 2009, has been attracting a fresh clientele. While recession-hit Americans are staying out of the bidding, the Chinese are snapping up the coveted first growth bottles and sending prices rocketing. Lafite’s a special favourite with a 12-bottle case recently topping £4,000.

Of course, all this generates snobbery among more traditional aficionados. Some Chinese consumers are said to dilute even the most expensive clarets with lemonade and will spend big on wines irrespective of vintage. It’s all about prestige. Gifts to impress business contacts and the like. But by 2013 Asian drinkers are expected be drinking 1.3 billion litres of Bordeaux wines a year.

Why then shouldn’t the cheese equivalent of Claret be making a similar impact on one of the world’s fastest growing economies? Stilton, step forward. Alas, there is a stumbling block. A nation that doesn’t wrinkle up its nose to a substance such as stinky tofu can’t always get its nose around the mellow ripeness of a mature Stilton. 

It’s not a matter of lactose intolerance. This is the inability to metabolize lactose (a sugar found in milk) because of the lack of the required enzyme lactase. It’s a problem that affects up to 90 per cent of Chinese and East Asian folk. With Stilton (and indeed most hard and semi hard cheeses) the lactose is  removed with the whey, so the only barrier for Stilton to cross is for purchasers to acquire the taste for it! 

Steps are being made in the right direction. Already cheese imports have more than doubled as increasingly affluent urbanites adopt more western diets. 

MilkLink boldly became the first British cheese maker to export Stilton (from its Tuxford and Tebbutt subsidiary) to China, selling its wares in supermarkets along the south east coast. The forecast is for cheese consumption, currently less than four per cent of the country’s dairy market, to rise alongside the expansion of fast food chains such as Pizza Hut and McDonald’s.

The Claret would accompany a nice piece of Blue Stilton much better than a Big Mac methinks. Cheers!


The Pope’s recent visit to the UK inevitably generated a few alleged sightings of holy images in everyday products. Miracle or wishful thinking? You take your pick. It did bring back memories of 2007 when the face of Elvis Presley materialised in the blue veins of a Long Clawson Stilton. Even the fans‘ website for veteran British rocker Billy Fury got in on the act, pointing out Elvis preferred Swiss cheese and Billy had a hit EP called Am I Blue?


And today we’ve still got those aging cheesy boy bands!

01/10/10 - Stilton - Savoury and Sweet

Our intrepid Stilton blogger Neil Sowerby proposes the perfect fodder for “Ploughladies Who Lunch” and decides Port and Stilton must be better encased in chocolate than Marmite...


SAVOURY and sweet. Stilton can handle it. I’ve been pondering what constitutes the perfect Ploughman’s Lunch and wondering what makes a chocolatier put Port and Stilton in a truffle (noting the same whizz also coats Marmite in chocolate).


I always associate a Ploughman’s with a pint in an old-fashioned pub, where crisps, pickled eggs and possibly a pie might be the only gustatory alternatives. An innocent time when lamb shanks in rosemary jus were just a twinkle in a downsizing chef’s eye and hostelries weren’t closing at the rate of 10 a week.

Now that cask ale is suddenly achingly cool I’ve been wondering if the Ploughman’s (which never went away) might suddenly be revered again.



The  2011 Good Beer Guide, out now, reveals there are now more than 700 real ale brewers in the UK, the highest number since the Second World War and their market share is up against non-traditional brews. And the proportion of women who have tried real ale has doubled from 16 per cent in 2008 to 32 per cent this year with the percentage even higher among twentysomethings. Bring on the Ploughladies Who Lunch!


Being pedantic, I’m not sure ploughladies ever existed. In the farming pecking order the lasses got to be milkmaids, occasionally shepherdesses and, of course, in Stilton country they made the cheese in their kitchens.


Did that cheese, back in the 19th century, ever join pickles, celery, apple, tomatoes, perhaps ham on a plate for the classic Ploughman’s? That’s not even entering the debate about whether it should be Stilton or Cheddar. I’m happy for both to share my crusty loaf along with a parade of Branston, piccalilli and pickled onions.


No, what is in question is the exact genesis of the Ploughman’s Lunch.


The Oxford English Dictionary dates the phrase back to 1837 in JG Lockhart’s Memoirs of Sir Walter Scott, but there’s no indication of what constitutes such a dish. Not until the 1970s does it get another mention, leading writer Ian McEwan in his screenplay for the film, The Ploughman’s Lunch (1983), to portray it as as being a recent invention dressed up as a traditional meal.


In 2005, research by Victoria Coren for the first TV series of Balderdash and Piffle traced the origin of the phrase to 1960. The documentary evidence was minutes of meetings of the English Country Cheese Council, and contemporaneous advertising matter. 


The BBC concluded that "the Ploughman's Lunch was invented as a marketing ploy to sell British cheese in pubs", which was done by Sir Richard Trehane, Chairman of the Milk Marketing Board in the 1960’s.


My own common sense suggests that cheese, pickle and beer must have been a farm labourer’s lunch – not necessarily served in a pub at lunchtime, more likely packed or provided by his employers. The tradition was broken by wartime rationing. Remember, Blue Stilton production stopped during World War II.


The Brewers’ Society magazine, A Monthly Bulletin, in 1957, referred to a ploughman's lunch and said that it consisted of "cottage bread, cheese, lettuce, hard-boiled eggs, cold sausages and, of course, beer".

Let’s hope, the Ploughladies Who Lunch don’t demand low-fat goat cheese, avocado, rocket and mostarda di cremona, accompanied by  Belgian cherry beer. Some things are sacred. Especially Stilton.


I’ve been trying to persuade an old girlfriend who lives in North London to fetch me up a box of Paul A Young’s Port and Stilton Truffles. The acclaimed chocolatier, with shops in Islington and Bank, has married chocolate to sage and chestnut and (a bete noir, not a chocolat noir of mine) Marmite, savoury innovations that have led to his book, Adventures With Chocolate (Kyle Cathie, £17.99) being named Best Chocolate Book In The World.



Alas, Liz liked the Port and Stilton truffles so much, she ate them on the train, so my review is lifted from an independent chocolate lovers’ website,


“The flavours were subtle – initially soft, balanced and without any hint of the blue cheese. But after a while, and as the dark chocolate notes subsided, the Port started to take prominence. But it was nothing more than a little nudge. The Stilton flavour took second stage and only came through as the truffle melted away into nothing.” Lee (who also took the pictures).

For the full Young range and prices visit





We have created a stunning couture dress to highlight just how versatile Stilton cheese can be and one lucky winner will be able to take it home in our competition to celebrate London Fashion Week.

A delicate cream colour with a striking blue pattern weaving across the bodice, mini skirt and floating chiffon layers, the dress is instantly recognisable as featuring the same pattern as Stilton cheese.

Created especially in time for London Fashion Week, the dress captures a number of key trends for Spring/Summer 2011. Made from cream brocade and chiffon, it has a decayed look with raw edges and asymmetric styling. This trend complements Stilton cheese as it needs to mature for least nine weeks, during which time it is pierced to encourage the growth of Penicillium roqueforti mould, which creates the blue veins.

The bodice was appliquéd with navy chiffon, beads and lace to create the characteristic blue veins. The veins were also painted on to the bodice and the skirt, moving a current trend for painted and watercolour prints forwards for Spring/Summer 2011.

Coronation Street star, Brooke Vincent, certainly scrubbed up well when she wore the dress during our exclusive photoshoot. Looking a million miles away from her on-screen character, Sophie Webster, Brooke wore the specially designed and handmade dress to highlight the versatility of our famous blue cheese. 

Brooke was styled with dramatic dark eyes and birds nest, back combed hair to complement the style of the dress and add to the ‘decayed’ trend. The classic shape was updated with ruffles on the miniskirt and dramatic long lengths of chiffon trailing at the back.

In addition, the lucky winner will take home a pair of tickets to London Fashion Weekend at Somerset House in London, featuring essential designer shopping in one weekend topped off with a stunning fashion show.


Now, the most important part.. How to win the dress!


Simply join our Facebook fan page at


Then tell us what your favourite way to eat cheese is and the best answer will win.


Follow us:

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08/09/10 - Autumn Flavour Combinations

Neil Sowerby, our intrepid Stilton Blogger, recommends not wasting a crumb of this glorious cheese and discovering new flavour combinations for the autumn...

CHEESE, a treat in itself, is a store cupboard godsend to those charged with catering for the vegetarian turning up for dinner. Vegans make it more of a challenge, obviously. Blue Stilton, of course, is always going to zing up any greens-based cuisine. It’s worth keeping the ends and crusts, not pretty in themselves but, when melted into a savoury dish, flavour-enhancing... and laudably thrifty.

As a supporter of the Love Food, Hate Waste campaign, I was delighted wit the high profile given to the 90-minute BBC documentary, The Great British Waste Menu.

Supermarkets have got so picky about what food looks like that an obscene amount of perfectly edible fruit, vegetables and eggs are thrown away, fed to pigs or ploughed straight back into the soil before they even leave the farm.

The challenge in the Great British Waste Menu was for four top chefs Angela Hartnett, Richard Corrigan, Matt Tebbutt and Simon Rimmer to prepare a banquet for 60 VIP guests purely out of all the meat, fish and other ingredients that would otherwise have gone to waste. It’s all designed to prove that saving scraps is good.

I’ve been a fan, and latterly a friend of Simon Rimmer since 20 years ago when he set up Greens vegetarian restaurant in Didsbury, Manchester. Twice since it has doubled in size and self-taught Simon (pictured second left in Great British Water Menu line-up) has diversified into a non-veggie restaurant in Hale, Cheshire and become a telly kitchen stalwart.


Stilton has featured frequently in his recipes. I remember fondly his Stilton asparagus and caramelised shallot roulade with pear and ginger chutney  for the Good Food Channel.

But with autumn approaching I’d like to salute one of his classic comfort dishes, Peppered Mushroom and Stilton Pie from last year’s The Seasoned Vegetarian (Octopus, £14.99).


The ingredients:

225g (8oz) plain flour

100g (3½ oz) butter

1 egg

A little milk to bind, if needed

1 egg, beaten


1 onion, sliced

500g (1lb 2oz) button mushrooms, halved

2 tbsp vegetable oil

1 tbsp tomato puree

1 tbsp soy sauce

1 tbsp green peppercorns in brine, drained

250ml (9 fl oz) vegetable stock

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

200g (7oz) Stilton cheese, crumbled

The method:

For the pastry, simply pulse the ingredients together in a food processor to form a dough, adding a little milk if needed. Wrap in cling film and chill for at least 30 minutes.

Now make the filling. Start by frying the onion and mushrooms in oil until soft.

Add the tomato puree and cook for 5 minutes, then add the soy sauce, peppercorns and stock. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat slightly and cook until the liquid has reduced by half. Season to taste.

Divide the filling mixture between four individual pie dishes. Divide the Stilton between the dishes too.

Preheat the oven to 200ºC/ Fan 180ºC/Gas 6. Cut the pastry into four pieces and roll into four circles, just bigger than the dishes.

Damp the rim of the dishes with water and cover the pie dishes with pastry, trim the edges and cut a little hole in the top of each. Brush all over with egg wash to glaze. Bake the pies for about 20 minutes until crisp and golden. Serve with buttery mash and green beans.

SIMON'S is a straightforward recipe with a pictures volume, but I’ve been entranced by a recently published, inspiring book, The Flavour Thesaurus (Bloomsbury, £18.99), which the Sunday Times called “a simple little masterpiece”.

The author Niki Segnit, whose background is in food brand marketing, has compiled a compendium of food combinations, trying to understand why some work and some don’t. Blue cheese in its varied manifestations, figures in a section of its own, first being identified by its chemical make-up. Dominant flavours are the fruity spicy notes attributable to the ketone 2-heptanone, apparently, while a green, fatty metallic note is attributable to 2-nonanone.

Niki Segnit

Her combination involving Blue Stilton was a winner for me, even before I had tried it out in the kitchen. Mainly, I admit, because it features black-purple mission figs, their intense flavour reminiscent of Port. Her Stilton and fig straws should be served, naturally, with a chilled Tawny.

To make them is simple. In a processor make a dough from 125g plain flour, 225g crumbled Stilton, 50g butter, a pinch of salt and 1-2 tbsp cold milk. Roll out into a rectangle 30cm x 20cm. Snip 8 dried mission figs into thins strips and lightly press into the dough. Fold one half of the dough into the other with the fig on the inside. Roll it all out till it’s 5mm thick, cut it into straws and place them on a greased baking tin. Bake at Gas Mark 4 for 15 minutes.



27/08/10 - Stilton Cheese, the PDO and Worzel Gummidge by Neil Sowerby

IT was encouraging to see James Paice, the Minister for Agriculture and Food, visiting Stilton's heartland. The Tory MP for South East Cambridgeshire and former Shadow agriculture spokesman has a background in farm management, so his Coalition appointment was an obvious horses for courses choice. Unlike some.

Ostensibly he was in the Melton area to learn about food labelling. More specifically to gauge how Stilton cheese and Melton Mowbray pork pies have protected and promoted their high quality image.

 Food tourism is all the rage and the spin-offs from such high profile products benefit a community as well as the six dairies crafting it. In the 21st century the quality of local produce is inexorably tied up with the whole weekend break package.

 We're still a long way off from 'Welcome To Stilton Country' with subtitles in Japanese on boundary boards across the three counties allowed to produce the cheese, but there is no doubt world renown helps swell visitor numbers.

We must remember that the purity of the Stilton image has not come about without real perseverance on behalf of the Stilton Cheesemakers Association in pursuing a PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) for it and gaining it in the mid-Nineties.

 Stilton was used to fighting its corner. There had been a very public spat in the Seventies over an American cheese producer's use of the word Stilton. A lengthy legal battle was finally won to force the name off the packaging of a blue-veined cheese made in Wisconsin.

 A PDO is what he French call an "Appellation d'origine controlee" or AOC. Giving it similar protected status, among cheeses, as Gorgonzola, Parmiggiano-Reggiano and Camembert de Normandie, as well as Champagne, Parma Ham and Balsamic Vinegar.

 You only have to compare the muddied path of Cheddar, a name that encompasses everything from the classic aged cheeses from the West Country with their mellow nuttiness, to some waxy, positively nasty impostors from around the globe.

 The European Union now recognises traditional West Country Farmhouse Cheddar cheese from Somerset, Dorset, Cornwall and Devon as a PDO, but it has come a too little too late to police internationally.

The consumption of Cheddar in the US alone is many times the amount  Cheddar could feasibly produce. Hence the "Cheddar" name is not protected, but the more specific name "West Country Farmhouse Cheddar" is.

In contrast Stilton is the most strictly prescribed cheese in the UK. Before the PDO was achieved it was protected by a certification trademark from the 1960s which stipulates how it can be made and that it can only be made in Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire. The same certification trade mark applies in 18 other countries throughout the world so assuring consumers in Stilton's key overseas markets about the origin of the cheese they are buying.


It's all about what the French call "terroir". These three counties contain the correct type of pasture to produce the appropriate milk. Critics may call it ring fencing. I say it reassures me whenever, from whatever source, I purchase a piece of Stilton.

 ON a lighter note, it was lovely to see the evergreen Una Stubbs appearing as Mrs Hudson in the BBC's sensational Sherlock series. It seems a long time since the Leicestershire-born actress was in Sixties sitcom Till Death Us Do Part.

 About the time (two decades later) she was most famous for playing Aunt Sally in Worzel Gummidge, she turned up at the Nantwich Cheese Show sampling a winner from Long Clawson Dairy. There she is, most un-Sallylike, in a press picture. Elementary, dear Worzel.