A little bit cheesy

image

Cheese. Who doesn’t love it? (Well, of course there are those who don’t … including my younger son who can smell it at a hundred yards. As a child he’d enter a room and stop as if hitting an invisible screen. Making one of those noises of disgust that only a small boy can, he’d boom: “somebody’s been eating cheese!”. He’d cover his face dramatically and run from the room). But by and large, people do like cheese and I know from the discussions we have at Slimming World that, for many people, it can cause a rather weighty problem. Can you believe that in the UK we eat something in the region of 600,000 tons each year plus an additional 100,000 of cottage cheese and fromage frais? So from whence did cheese originate? According to the American National Historic Cheese Centre we can’t be certain but it’s certainly been around for a long time. Evidence of cheese making has been found in the drawings of ancient Egyptian tombs and is mentioned in Greek mythology. But how was it discovered that milk could become cheese?

“According to an ancient legend, [cheese] was made accidentally by an Arabian merchant who put his supply of milk into a pouch made from a sheep’s stomach, as he set out on a day’s journey across the desert. The rennet in the lining of the pouch, combined with the heat of the sun, caused the milk to separate into curd and whey. That night he found that the whey satisfied his thirst, and the cheese (curd) had a delightful flavor which satisfied his hunger.” (International Dairy Foods Association)

I buy (and unfortunately consume – though not as much as I’d like to) a fair proportion of that 100,000 tons! With more than 700 British made cheeses*  to choose from including our own British versions of Mozzarella, Brie and Camembert, there’s always a difficult choice to be made.

Quiches and flans including Slimming World crustless quiche which is made with cottage cheese or quark are always popular in my house. I prefer quark as the cottage cheese version can sometimes be a touch watery. I first came across quark many years ago when my mother-in-law made cheesecakes with it. In those days it had to be bought from the health food shop as no supermarket, it seemed, had heard of it. Essentially a cooking cheese (it can be eaten as it is but it’s pretty revolting) it’s a useful, very low calorie/low fat substitute for cream cheese in almost any recipe. Talking of cooking cheeses, I love a salty halloumi. My local pub offers battered halloumi and it’s delicious.

02

Cheese with crackers and a tasty chutney makes a great supper – I do like a good strong cheddar. Tesco Finest Vintage is great, though on a visit to a specialist cheese shop (we don’t have one locally) I’ll come away with several interesting local varieties. Pilgrim’s choice extra mature is a good choice for making a sauce or using in a cheese & potato pie. Babybel lights are great for a low calorie snack (40 calories or 3 for a HE-A choice if you’re a Slimming World member).A mature Stilton or Shropshire Blue with a few walnuts and sticks of celery – oh YUM! And although I’ve only eaten a few times, I love the slight sweetness of an Italian Provelone, and also enjoy Jarlsberg (Norwegian) which is milder, but has a similar sweetness. Gruyere is a must for French Onion Soup.

My favourite cheese is Parmesan, a mere infant in the cheese family having been around for only(!) 500 years. Used to top roasted garlic & chilli cherry tomatoes on crusty bread (a Mediterranean one with olives or a jalapeno pepper one compliments the other flavours well) it tastes wonderful.  I should own up here – I never make this – it’s Husband’s speciality and one of my favourite (if not the favourite) things to eat. It’s an expensive product so if I’m following a recipe that calls for it as an ingredient rather than an accompaniment I’ll use the Tesco version of Italian hard cheese. Nothing beats the original though if you want to eat it as it comes.

image

Today it’s possible to buy ‘cheese’ in vegetarian and vegan versions and I recently ventured out to buy a vegan version for a guest but the plastic-looking, bright yellow lump did not entice me so I left it on the shelf. I’m assured by said guest that it’s actually ok. Maybe next time.

Cheese is not, of course, only for eating but also for rolling down hills. I’ve no doubt that some of my non-English readers think they’ve misread that. But it’s true – at an annual event which takes place on Cooper’s Hill in Gloucestershire, a Double Gloucester cheese weighing around 9lbs, is given a one second start and is rolled from the top and locals chase after it!  The cheese has reached speeds of up to 70 miles an hour, and people have been injured trying to keep up with it. The winner wins the cheese which has fortunately been protected in a wooden casing.

Quite why anyone ever thought this a good idea isn’t completely clear. Two theories exist; the first that it evolved from a requirement regarding grazing rights on common land, and the second that it reflects the pagan fertility custom of hill rolling food items to encourage the fruits of the harvest. The first recorded reference dates from 1826, though  the document makes clear that it was already an ancient tradition.

 

* British Cheese Board

22 comments

  1. Eloise, when you make crustless quiche with a tub of quark, how many eggs do you use. I’m on SW too and I’ve never heard of it made like this, I’d love to give it a go!

    Like

    • I use 5 eggs, though many of my fellow SW members use 6. I like it to be a little bit firmer. I whisk the eggs into the quark and then add, for example, ham, chopped onions, peppers, mushrooms and seasoning – whatever is to hand really. I’ve sliced up leftover cold potato too and that’s really nice. I think SW is brilliant but unfortunately I’m less brilliant and I lose a bit, gain a bit and so on. Overall though, I’m 2 stone down on what I was three years ago. Good luck

      Like

  2. Sorry, not much of a fan of cheese! I will eat some, but it is not a regular part of my diet. My daughter doesn’t like cheese, either! I had heard about the cheese rolling and it was shown on the TV news, once or twice! I don’t know of a similar custom, on this side of the pond, though.

    Like

  3. Oh, Eloise, what a wonderful cheesy post! I love cheese, too, but I can understand your son … my father hated even the smell of onions, and in a dish they would make him physically sick. So my mother’s cooking was rather bland as she couldn’t use onions in it, unless specially for me she would make what she called “cheese and onion cake” although it wasn’t cake as we know it, but a pie, with pastry top and bottom and inside cheese and onions (of course!) She didn’t fry the onions, but sliced and boiled them for a few moments until tender, then she would strain off the water and use the slightly-cooked onions in the pie, so no extra fat. She didn’t do it to reduce the fat, that wasn’t considered necessary in those days just after the war when people were glad to eat anything, but it’s just how she made it, and it was lovely! But my poor father’s face when he could smell the onions boiling was a sight to behold, a bit like your son’s!
    Margaret P

    Like

    • What a shame to dislike onions so much – they are a staple in so many recipes. How frustrating for your mother. I can’t imagine not eating either onions or cheese! The pie sounds right up my street. I hated school dinners apart from one regular which was a wonderful cheese and onion mixture with a pastry base. It was the only day I ever went for ‘seconds’!

      Like

  4. I’m another person with high cholesterol and the doctor said try and get it down yourself first before it gets bad enough to need tablets. So I cut down on cheese and fats and added in a cholesterol lowering drink and got it down enough not to need statins – which I didn’t want to take. Miss cheese, but it’s worth it.

    Like

    • If it’s a matter of good health then it’s definitely worth it, sue. But what a shame that something which is so loved by so many can be bad for us. Well done on managing your cholesterol via your diet.

      Like

  5. I love cheese. It was a craving during my pregnancies and it turns out both my sons love it too.

    Blue cheeses are a weakness.

    I had Quark years ago when we lived in Germany. I remember it being sold in individual portions much like Yogurt. I had a thing for the strawberry flavoured tub.

    Like

    • My mother-in-law used to make a cheesecake using quark long before it was generally on sale. She’d buy it in the health food shop. Anyone who goes to Slimming World has heard about it nowadays.

      Like

  6. I love cheese and probably manage to eat some every day. This evening it has been a small amount of hard cheese in a risotto. But my favourite would be some cheddar grated over a baked potato and beans. X

    Like

  7. Wonderful cheese. One of the hardest things when having my gallbladder problems was having to give up cheese. it was too fatty. I missed it so much!
    Thank you for a really interesting post.
    xx

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s