I like cheese. It is probably blindingly obvious to anyone who has read more than one post on this blog that I am somewhat obsessed by cheese. So here I am happily writing about cheese again. I could eat good cheese until the proverbial cows come home. Or, at this time of year, make that the goats.
Spring and early summer is the time of year that goats’ cheeses are at their best. I like to think of the goats that offer up their milk for my cheese springing nimbly over mountain pastures, grazing on herb-rich grasses and subtly nuancing their milk with whispers of lavender and thyme. If I buy goats cheese from France, these flavours are common. There are hand-rolled logs of milky fresh goats cheese, a strip of thyme lain ceremonially atop. There are older, crumbly, white-bloomed pyramids with perhaps a fleck of blue in the crust and a fudgy, dense interior.
Some of my French favourites include the cylindrical Chabichou with its aromatic rind, the flowery domed Besace from the Savoie and the thyme-scented Lingot Saint Nicholas, handmade by the monks of the Monastery at La Dalmerie. All these cheeses are available at La Fromagerie at this time of year and whilst we may not think of cheese as an obviously seasonal food the very best goats cheeses are only made during the spring and summer months, which is really as nature intended.
Goats’ cheese fits the bill as far as seasonality is concerned and increasingly it is local too. There are some exceptional cheese-makers in this country now, including the unsurpassed Mary Holbrook from Sleight Farm in Somerset who, as Randolph Hodgson from Neals Yard Dairy puts it, represents ‘the future of British cheesemaking’. Her Sleightlett and Tymsboro goats cheeses are amongst my very favourites and rival if not surpass their French counterparts. I am also a fan of the cheeses made by Elizabeth Harris at Childwickbury (especially her eponymous goats cheese) and this really is local, the estate being only about 25 miles from me.
All the goats’ cheeses I have mentioned are soft, because this time of year that is what feels right; crumbled onto salads of buttery lettuce leaves and a few nasturtium flower heads, in combination with courgettes, fresh peas and mint and, most deliciously of all, roasted beetroot. Today I have combined the freshest, softest goats curds, barely a cheese at all, with roasted baby beetroot and marjoram leaves from the garden. Simple, elegant and most attractive, the sweetness of the beets combined with the delicate milky flavour and exquisite softness of the curds makes this a classic spring and early summer pairing.
Beetroot and Goats Curd salad (serves 4)
2 bunches of fresh baby beetroot.
200g fresh goats curd
Red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper
Marjoram or thyme leaves
Scrub the beetroot and roast in an oven at 160°c for 45mins to an hour or until you can pierce them easily with a knife.
Once they have cooled enough to handle slip the skins off with your thumb and forefinger. They should come off easily if a little messily.
Dress the beets whilst warm in a splash of vinegar and a little salt and pepper. Allow to cool.
Once the beets are cool, halve or slice according to their size.
Arrange some beetroot on the plate with a scoop of goats curd on top.
Drizzle with olive oil and scatter the herbs. Some crunchy sea salt and a few grindings of pepper are delicious on top of goats’ curds.
Serve with good bread and a leafy green salad such as watercress.