It was a lovely balmy summers evening when I was driving up Wrotham Hill with the car loaded up with goodies for a return dinner at Winterdale Shaw.
Robin & Carla Betts the hard working and passionate artisan cheese makers were to host a couple of days of a cheese workshop for the “West Country Cheese makers”. This was a milestone for this little select group as I am led to believe this is the first time they will have ever held such a workshop away from the West Country.
Following on from our September 2011 event Robin was keen to provide something a bit different for these cheese gurus so he asked me to cook and serve a similar dinner to what we did back then. It was to be a relaxed affair and I am glad to say it was to be held above ground in a marquee to the side of the barn (erected for a public event a few days later) so the steep cellar steps were not an issue this time and the little kitchen we were to work from had a bit more kit as well.
So the menu we served was pretty similar to the previous one so we could showcase their cheeses. Firstly some nibbles of chilled gazpacho soup shots and deep fried cauliflower cheese beignets were the nibbles and then they all sat down to the first course of double cooked cheese soufflé topped with smoked haddock and some salad leaves. They also rather enthusiastically devoured a loaf of Moodleys Beer Bread which I have to say unsurprisingly garners rave comments every time I serve it!
Robin & Carla were also keen to showcase their nearby neighbours Free Range Pork (Roundwood Orchard Pigs) so a gorgeous four plus kilo joint of rolled Pork Shoulder was slowly roasted for some 5-6 hours and the skin crisped to perfection. Served with a gravy laced with dried apricots it provided a nice citrus kick to the richness of the tender meat and well between 7 hungry souls got just about completely devoured in one fell swoop! A gratin dauphinoise and medley of vegetables accompanied this.
Finally I served up the dessert that on Carla’s request was not the junket we served originally as she felt it was an acquired taste! So some soft squidgy home-made meringues were sandwiched with whipped cream with added lemon curd and then some “Mill Farm” strawberries. This again was polished off with gusto, these cheese gurus can certainly eat!
By this time gone eleven pm I was pooped and needed my beauty sleep as I had an early start the next morning with a breakfast meeting I left them to their final course of cheeses with my porridge oat biscuits. I was mortified I could not stay and sample some of the goodies on offer. There was one rogue but magnificent cheese on offer a rather runny Brie de Meaux that a rogue Frenchman had bought along ( I did not quite establish how he was part of this select group)
It was a fascinating evening as I listened into their conversations on the tribulations and trials of cheese making. The story of West Country floods and how one of them managed to write off his Land Rover Discovery by thinking they could cross a flooded road was hilarious and I believe made BBC news headlines much to his disgust.
The passion they all have for their chosen craft was evident in bucket loads and you should just click the links below for their assorted web sites to get a flavour of how serious they all are to produce a product we can all enjoy and savour. Robin & Carla can also be proud of their achievements of being part of this select group with some incredible history and I know it was also a bit of a double celebration as they had just managed to secure the long awaited planning permission to convert the upper portion of their barn to be living accommodation for them and their young children.
The Cheese Makers Workshop at Winterdal Shaw July 2013
Winterdale Shaw (the hosts|)