Anybody who knows me well knows how much I love cheese. I’d eat it every single day and sometimes do and it would be a close run thing with bread if I could only choose one food for a desert island. If you come to my house for dinner I will spend my time making all manner of savoury dishes but if you want a sweet dessert you’ll probably have to cajole me as I’ll invariably serve a cheeseboard. Even if I do on occasion make dessert I’ll inevitably have a cheeseboard too. And of all the cheeses available it is those from sheep and goats that I most enjoy and there will always be at least one of these on the table at the end of a dinner party. I love the sweetness and the tang that comes from the milk of these animals and that is showcased by a good cheesemaker.
Therefore when I was coming up with my little list there had to be new cheese experiences on there and one of them had surely to be goaty? Well goaty adventures didn’t seem to come much better than the cheeses being produced at Brock Hall Farm in beautiful Shropshire by Sarah Hampton. Three stars and a Top 50 place at Best of Britain awards, listings in one top restaurant after another and a huge number of chefs, bloggers and tweeters extolling the virtues of them. However, on top of all of these, what made me put them on the list was the passion, commitment and belief that Sarah has in what she is doing at Brock Hall Farm. I had to taste this cheese that was being lovingly produced throughout very long days from goats which sounded more like family members than ‘simply’ livestock. Just what difference would it make to the cheese?
So how wonderful to open a birthday present from MrsT containing not one, but all, the cheeses from Brock Hall plus a huge tub of curds too. A full wheel of Capra Nouveau the 3 star and Top 50 award winner. Made from the youngest milk and rind washed it has such an interesting complexity with rich nutty rind and soft, sweet, smooth creamy cheese combining quite delightfully with a real lightness. Fresco Angelico is the youngest cheese, with a velvet mouthfeel, tangy freshness and a mouthwatering finish that I think is like fresh cucumber. It’s such a refreshing almost thirst quenching cheese.
Pablo Cabrito, which has just taken a silver medal at the British cheese awards, is an ash rolled cheese with a smooth texture and an almost spicy note of orange citrus. It went deliciously well with chilli, garlic and apple jelly on homemade oatcakes. My favourite of all is a cheese I can honestly say is the best I’ve ever tried, Dutch Mistress. This isn’t waxing lyrical, but a result of a flavour that caused goosebumps up my spine, a huge smile on my face and a little expletive to exit my mouth! I have never tasted such depth in a goats cheese than that found in this aged rind washed cheese. Rich, sweet, nutty and full-bodied, complex with whisky like notes and a creamy mouthfeel. It is spectacular.
But what makes Brock Hall Farm cheese different from so many goats cheeses? Why does it have all the freshness but none of the ‘lanolin flavour’ that can become a little overpowering at times in some? Maybe it’s due to the pedigree of the Pure Saanen goats whose lineage can be traced back to the 1920s in Switzerland and The Netherlands and whose milk is renowned for purity and cleanliness. Maybe it’s because pens and beds are cleared out completely every day so the goats are bedded on clean, fresh straw daily and have the best diet possible with a freedom to wander outdoors and graze to their hearts content. Maybe it’s because they are made by a supremely talented cheesemaker who believes that to get out the best, you have to put in the best. Maybe it’s a combination of these reasons and more, maybe the French would call it simply terroir. All I know is that I sincerely hope that there will soon be a supplier in Glasgow and that the online sales business takes off to make these delightful cheeses available to a wider audience.