So the Festive period is over. Back to work, back to the gym, broken livers and broken bank accounts. This means only one thing - it's January. The time of year when we all feel the prolonged hangover and chill of the bleak midwinter. A time for contemplation and resolution. The time when I hunch at my desk, occasionally prodding at my turkey-belly, hoping that this will mean I don't have to get up for the gym tomorrow morning.
This won't stop me smiling though. Smiling at the memories of the enjoyment friends and family got out of our festive feasts. The 'Ooooos', the 'Aahhhhs' and the 'I can't eat this' (reference to how I spiced-out my step-dad in the post-Christmas curry). All feedback made was in good taste and good humour, no less was the case with the obligatory cheese board. A key moment in time for all food lovers.
For those of you who have been collared by a dinner party host to hold the responsibilities of attaining the dairy, here's a quick-fire insight into my personal favourites...
Vacherin Mont d'Or
Vacherin is presented in the same manner as baked Camembert - oozing cheesy goodness in a box, begging to be dipped and scooped at, occasionally swallowing the broken crackers of over-zealous dippers. The difference here is that Vacherin holds a lot of flavour so there is no need for additional oils or herbs. It's pure and honest cheese heaven in a box.
After trying a few different methods of serving, I have concluded that serving at just above room temperature is the optimum condition. When you have taken whatever you were cooking out of the oven, turn it off and chuck in the Vacherin with the lid on. You can leave it in there for however long you like. When you are ready pull it out and bang it on the table. You will not be disappointed.
We always need a cheddar on the board, it is essential. But don't settle for sub-standard 'plastic' brands. Go big and go Black Bomber. You need something that's really going to tickle you, create a crunch and pack a punch. Black Bomber has all of these in abundance. That's all I have to say.
A rustic, creamy addition to the board. You literally can't go wrong with this. I was introduced to Comte in London's Borough market a couple of summers ago and it is always the first thing I pick up whenever I go there. If you manage to have a nosey around the market it is impossible to miss the Comte stalls. Huge wheels of the stuff piled high on top of one another, with the vendors offering up free tastes which cannot be refused.
Alex James - musician, songwriter, author, TV personality, columnist and cheesemaker. What's that? Cheesemaker?
Yes. And a damn good one at that.
Like cheddar, there is always room for a blue such as Stilton or Cambozola. But these are regularly the ones which people don't finish due to the sharp taste. Blue Monday defies this. Despite the fact that it is a blue, it is still creamy, soft and unintrusive. This doesn't last long so make sure you get your money's worth early doors.
This cheese is rude. Plain and simple. But if you can break through the initial stench you will be pleasantly surprised by it's kindness. Try it, you'll enjoy it.