Melton Mowbray Cheese Fair 2013

melton mowbray, cheese fair

 

Last weekend saw the return of the Melton Mowbray Cheese Fair (I’d link to the website but it still only has a list of last year’s exhibitors), it’s actually billed as the “artisan” cheese fair but many of the exhibitors could hardly be called artisan, Long Clawson for example makes over 6,700 tonnes of cheese a year and I’ve worked in one of the other cheese factories that were there and they are about as far from “artisan” as you can get.

Artisan: (from the Oxford English Dictionary)

noun

  • a worker in a skilled trade, especially one that involves making things by hand.
  • [as modifier] (of food or drink) made in a traditional or non-mechanized way using high-quality ingredients: Britain’s artisan cheeses

There were much fewer cheese exhibitors this year, many of the artisan producers that were there last year were absent this time round bar a handful, but with the term “artisan” being used so loosely to include huge cheese manufacturers I don’t really blame them for wanting to distance themselves from something that devalues the true meaning of the word so carelessly.

I went along on the Sunday and was pretty shocked, not by the lack of small producers which I’d kinda expected but by the sheer rudeness of so many of the show’s visitors. It seemed entirely appropriate that it was held in a cattle market as people paid their £1 entrance fee many pushed and shoved and grabbed greedily at samples before just walking off. Everyone I spoke to in the days following the event said the same thing: “we saw people literally grabbing the knives off the tables and hacking lumps of cheese off from the producer’s tables and then just walking away.” It was depressing. Full credit to the traders though who I think must have all taken some super smiley pills because they were all incredible gracious and friendly in the face of such rudeness. I would have had people leaving my stall with toothpicks protruding from their eyes and hands after several hours of this so huge respect to all of them.

I gave up on moving around the stalls after my desire to whip out a cattle prod grew too intense and opted for a pint of Natterjack cider to calm me down, then an ale and watched the Melton Ukelele Orchestra who were absolutely ace, they played Paint it Black by The Rolling Stones and it totally made my day.

Things had quietened down a bit by then (perhaps the morris dancing had something to do with it) so I headed round the stalls to talk cheese. It was great to see David from Sparkenhoe there again (middle left on the picture above), THIS my friends is what Red Leicester is meant to taste like, its nutty, creamy, unpasturised and made on their farm using their own herd. Unsurprisingly the hands down flavour winners of the day were the unpasturised (raw milk) cheeses, of which I bought about 8 different ones (Keens cheddar, Chorlton smoked and unsmoked CheshireLaverstock buffalo mozzarella, Teifi’s Celtic promise, and 2 from the same producer whom I can’t remember the name of) which were all wonderful but my favourite of the day was Kent’s Winterdale Shaw which is Britain’s first carbon neutral cheese. Next time I’m down in Kent I’m going to head over to see them, they are a lovely family making great cheese using their own cows, just the kind of people and cheese that make this country’s food heritage something to be proud of.

There aren’t many photos to accompany this post as I pretty much just wanted to get out of there. It’s a real shame as it has the potential to be a good food fair, just drop the word Artisan or ONLY have true artisan products, get out of the cattle market and into a field with some marquees, have lots of other micro breweries, cider makers, artisan bakers, pie makers and celebrate food that is made with love and care and not forgetting MUCH more of the ukelele orchestra 🙂

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Thoughtful Bread

 I was born in Bath and whenever I head back for a visit I become so terribly homesick for many reasons, but one of them is the abundance of fantastic bread there.  I don’t know why but great bread is really thin on the ground round my way.  The upside of this though is that I bake quite a bit of my own, which I love doing, but my oven has a mind of its own (and its a bit of a nightmare) so it would be so lovely to have fantastic sourdough bread readily available.

I first heard about The Thoughtful Bread Company last year through BBC 2’s The Big Bread Experiment in which founder Duncan Glendinning and head baker Patrick Ryan help a Yorkshire community set up their own bakery.  I knew that they had a stall in Bath’s Green Park Station so vowed to visit them.  I did just that last year and was not only really impressed by their amazing breads and cakes (oh my god their cakes!) but by the guys that make up the company itself. Ross was running the stall that day and we got chatting about the company and their eco-friendly business. Not only are they absolutely lovely guys but their passion for bread is really inspiring.

Ross at the Thoughtful Bread stand last year

 So when I headed off to Bath last week for my big sister’s birthday I made sure I popped over to see them once more. It was only 12:30pm by the time I got to the Farmer’s Market at Green Park Station and met up with Ross but he was already sold out. Gutted. All was not lost though because Thoughtful Bread had a pop up cafè in The Guildhall for 2 weeks during the Bath Literary Festival – HOORAY!

Ross and Duncan were busy behind their counter and their cafè was a quirky mix of mismatched crockery, hay bale seating and trestle tables all surrounded by their gorgeous breads.

How beautiful do these loaves look? They make so many variations of loaves depending on what’s in season – cider, beetroot, walnut, wild garlic – all beautifully made and most importantly tasting amazing.

Flatbreads for homemade dips

Oh and their cakes really are something special. “Try our gluten free spiced orange cake” said Ross.  For some reason I avoid gluten free cakes but I won’t anymore.  The wheat flour had been replaced by ground almonds and the sweet, sticky orange cake was absolute heaven. Their Guinness cake, although I didn’t try it, completely inspired my Guinness free Guinness cake that I made for my Domestic Sluttery posting on Friday and those chocolate and raspberry tarts are just beyond delicious.

Gluten free spiced Orange and Almond, Guinness cake and Dark chocolate and raspberry tarts....swoon

They even have a book so you can make their breads at home!

I bought one of their sourdough loaves to take back to my sister’s later that day.

I stopped off on my way back that afternoon to pick some wild garlic so I could have my favourite Spring treat…sourdough, wild garlic and cheese sandwiches – hell yeah! Plus my gorgeous niece Nyla tried wild garlic for the first time and loved it!

 Nyla gave their sourdough an almighty thumbs up too!

So if you find yourself in Bath make sure you head to see the fab fellows of The Thoughtful Bread Company, say hello from me, try their goodies and stock up.  Oh, and if you happen to be heading up to Melton Mowbray, bring me a loaf too!

And no, they haven’t paid me to say all these lovely things about them!