WITH the 2012 Olympics almost here now, I was thinking about British produce that will impress our visitors this summer.
We have some truly wonderful cheeses here, which like others countries, are unique to the country of origin, although there are similarities between certain types.
There is a great deal of plagiarism of popular cheese, notably Cheddar.
This particular variety is produced in many countries, including France, however, I firmly believe that the best comes from its place of origin, in Somerset.
There was a great deal of fuss created by the good people of Champagne, indeed, enough to force the rest of the world to stop calling their sparkling wine Champagne. So why not here with cheese?
Why should the Canadians, Aussies and Kiwis call their hard cheese Cheddar?
Cheese making is largely confined to heavy milk producing areas, and is generally made all year round, whereas once it was a seasonal business. The principal areas are, Cheshire, Derbyshire, Devon, Dorset, Lancashire, Leicestershire, Shropshire, Somerset, Wiltshire and Yorkshire.
This really is an industry with great historical significance, with some interesting little stories entrenched in folklore.
For instance, Blue Stilton was first made by a farmer’s wife about 300 years ago. It is named after the Cambridgeshire village, where the cheese was first sold at the Bell Inn.
Back in the 18th Century, the rind of Double Gloucester was painted red to make it more attractive. The cheese itself was originally coloured by using beetroot, but nowadays, Annatto, a natural vegetable dye, is used.
Some cheeses were produced for special occasions, notably Sage Derby, which was consumed at Harvest Festival time and also at Christmas.
Others take their roots from foreign influences - one such cheese is Wensleydale.
Cistercian monks accompanying William the Conqueror brought the recipe from France in 1066. It has now been produced in the Yorkshire Dales for nearly 1,000 years.
As you see, the importance of maintaining these traditions, both for the preservation of our heritage, and the welfare of those in our farming and related industries, is reliant on the support of the rest of us, especially those of us who enjoy the fruits of their labours.
This is a simple recipe for an Olympic supper, using one of the best:
Lancashire and Aubergine Gratin
2 medium aubergines
2 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
4 sliced tomatoes
250g Lancashire cheese, sliced
1 tbsp coriander, chopped
Salt and freshly milled pepper
1) Cut the aubergines into thin slices and sprinkle with a little salt.
2) Leave for 30 minutes, then pat dry with kitchen paper.
3) Fry in the hot olive oil on both sides, until golden, adding the garlic.
4) Layer the slices of cheese, aubergine and tomatoes in an ovenproof dish and sprinkle with the coriander.
5) Add a few twists of the pepper mill and place in a hot oven, gas mark 7, for 10 minutes until the cheese has melted.