Homage to Fromage

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Let’s talk about cheese, baby. 

Although I am an ardent fan of cheese (who isn’t?), I’ll admit that I don’t actually know all that much about it. Enter Homage to Fromage, a Leeds-based cheese club who run monthly events dedicated to this glorious activity – a place where fellow addicts can get together, gorge themselves on cheese and have a thoroughly spiffing time. I’m surprised it’s take me all of three years to attend, if I’m honest – because what better way to spend an evening?

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So whilst the rest of Leeds lined the streets to watch the Tour de France teams make their entrance into our fair city, Katie and I crowded upstairs at the Adelphi for some cheese-eating fun. As a special treat to celebrate Le Grand Départ, there were 11 different cheeses on offer from different nations. It was a ‘blind’ taste test – the only identifying feature for each cheese was a flag from its country of origin, and we were to rate them ‘Eurovision Pong Contest’ style. 

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We worked our way around the room, piling up our plates with the various treats – big hunks of cheese, of course, but also crackers and a myriad of chutneys as well. It was a little overwhelming to be honest – although that may have been the strong cheesy smell that permeated the room (not one for the faint-hearted!). There were some obvious choices – a French brie and an English cheddar (Brie de Meaux and Montgomery Cheddar, to be precise), but a few which were new to my palate if not to

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So after much discussion on the merits of various cheeses, it came time to cast the vote. It was controversial, and like the original contest for which it was named, there was definitely some political voting going on. My personal favourites were the Italian Tallegio – a mild, tangy, creamy cheese that I highly recommend if you’re a fan of brie and the like – and the Swiss Tete de Moine, a hard(ish) cheese which is cut into shavings with a mechanical rotary shaving system. The Tallegio was apparently a favourite amongst Pliny the Elder, Cicero and Cato the Elder, so I’m in good company, it seems.

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I was actually also weirdly partial to the Norwegian ‘brown cheese’ (Gjetost) which was unlike anything I’d come across before – it was, as the name suggests, brown in colour, fudgey in texture and almost sweet to the taste and was widely panned in the group but there was something about it that definitely appealed to me!

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The resounding winners, however, were the Harrogate Blue (Yorkshire, of course, had it’s own entry) and the German Montagnolo Affine, both of which have won awards. They were also both incredible creamy and the Harrogate Blue in particular had a beautiful depth of flavour. Definitely worthy winners.

fromage 7 It was a thoroughly pleasant evening and definitely taught me a little something about cheese – I’ll definitely be requesting a Taleggio from my cheesemonger in the future. If you want to learn about cheese and share your passion for this pongy past-time, then Homage to Fromage is the place for you!

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Chilli Cheese Fries (and a Giveaway!)

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Is there any greater comfort food than chilli cheese fries? When you’re feeling a bit bummed out about life, then a big pile of carbs and cheese is definitely the answer. I am an emotional eater and whilst usually it’s my sweet tooth that’s crying out for attention, when it’s really an emergency then salty, cheesy, carby goodness is what I crave. Add a little bit of spice to the equation and I’m so there. Don’t get me wrong, I know this isn’t the healthiest of habits, but sometimes you just need a little bit of something bad for you. Or a lot of something bad for you. There’s no judgement here, trust me.

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These bad boys were inspired by a casual flick through the Joy the Baker cookbook. That first time I chose to make a cake instead – a beautiful brown butter banana and rum cake, which sadly did not net me first place at the Blognix bake off – but the seed was planted. The next time emotional turmoil came a-knocking, chilli cheese fries was all I wanted. The ones I made certainly don’t look as fancy as the one in Joy’s picture, but they tasted darned good – scoffed with no regard to etiquette (although I did use a fork) whilst sat in front of the final episode of Orange is the New Black Season 2. I’m going to need another batch to get over the fact that it’s another year until Season 3. So dramatic.

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I love Joy the Baker. I love her blog. I love her podcast. I love her commitment to butter and sugar. She’s my kind of lady. Her cookbook is full of comfort food – for times when you are alone and times when you want to share that comfort with others. So I want to share a little of that with you, my lovely readers – I’m giving away a Joy the Baker cookbook! All you have to do is use this fancy little widget to let me know that you follow my blog – easy peasy. Good luck!

joy the baker
 

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Macaroni and Cheese

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Everyone has their own idea of comfort food – the one dish they reach for when times are hard and all that will help is a hug from the inside. However, there is no denying that macaroni and cheese is truly the king of comfort food. It’s like a blanket in a bowl. Carbs, cheese and crispy breadcrumbs all come together in defence of your soul and nurse you back to health. So when I was sent a packet of Old Amsterdam gouda to try out, there was nothing for it but to melt it and turn it into some good old-fashioned mac ‘n’ cheese.

The key to a good macaroni and cheese is in the mix of cheeses. You can go as wild as you want – there are really no rules and pretty much any cheese will do, as long as you mix it up. A hard cheese like gouda mixed with a mature cheddar is just perfect; a sprinkling of parmesan just before it goes into the oven is just the icing on the cake.

I have long proclaimed gruyere to be my favourite cheese – and I don’t see that changing any time soon – but this gouda certainly packs a punch when it comes to delivering the cheesy goodness needed for the perfect macaroni and cheese. I’m told it’s also pretty good on a cheese board but since my other half abhors cheese in all its formats, I am bereft of cheese boards; making one up for oneself just seems a little sad, for what is a cheese board if not a communal celebration of cheese? Macaroni and cheese, on the other hand, is a dish which loses nothing in solitude – in fact, I rather think it prefers a quiet night in alone, snuggled up in pyjamas, watching a trashy movie.

A lot of people are put off making their own cheese sauce, retreating in fear to the ready-made – or worse, the packet – plagued by visions of lumpy sauce, burnt saucepans and a wasted evening. It really is worth it, though – not least for the satisfaction when it all comes together at the end and you can survey your bubbly, gooey handiwork as you lift it from the oven and straight into a bowl. It also allows you to choose your cheeses. It really isn’t as difficult as it first appears, and I promise to hold your hand all the way through. It’ll be ace, I promise.

cheese and milk

For 2 servings (with cheese sauce left over), you’ll need:

  • 20g unsalted butter
  • 20g plain flour
  • 500ml semi-skimmed milk
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 100g mature cheddar (or another cheese of your choice)
  • 100g Old Amsterdam gouda (or another cheese of your choice)
  • 150g macaroni
  • 5 spring onions, chopped
  • 6-8 cherry tomatoes, chopped
  • A scattering of Panko breadcrumbs (although any kind of breadcrumbs will do)
  • A sprinkling of parmesan cheese (or another cheese of your choice)

1. Melt the butter in a saucepan over a low heat. Mix in the flour to make a paste.

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2. Slowly pour the milk over the paste, whisking to avoid lumps.

3. Once all the milk has been added, season with salt and pepper.

4. Simmer over a low-to-medium heat until the mixture begins to thicken. It may take a while, so don’t worry!

5. Meanwhile, pop your macaroni into some salted, boiling water and cook for around 8-10 minutes, or until al dente.

6. Once your sauce has thickened up, add in your grated cheeses and stir until smooth.

cheese sauce

7. Drain the pasta and mix together with half of the sauce, the spring onions and cherry tomatoes.

mixing bowl

8. Pour into an oven proof dish and top with breadcrumbs and parmesan.

breadcrumbs

9. Bake at 180°C for 20-25 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbling and the breadcrumbs have started to brown.

10. Freeze the rest of the cheese sauce ready for another day!

mac n cheese

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