The wide variety of farmhouse cheese available means that there is one to suit every palate, each capturing the true flavour of the countryside. Here are a couple of points to consider when making the selection for your cheese board:
Avoid too much choice, better to have two or three good size pieces of cheese than a lot of smaller bits. It looks better and the cheese will keep better. A semi-soft, a hard and a blue are guides to use. Leave the cheese at room temperature for approximately two to three hours before serving.
Farmhouse cheese and oat soda bread
Serves one loaf
275g plain flour, plus extra for kneading; one teaspoon of salt; one rounded teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda; 250g stoneground wholemeal flour; 25g porridge oats, plus extra for sprinkling; 125g farmhouse cheese, coarsely grated and approximately 500ml buttermilk.
Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 8, 230ºC (450ºF ). Sift the plain flour, salt and bicarbonate of soda into a large mixing bowl and stir in the wholemeal flour, 25g of the oats and 75g of the grated cheese. Make a well in the centre, add 450ml of the buttermilk and mix together to make a soft but not too sticky dough. Add a little more buttermilk or milk if the mixture seems a little dry. Turn the mixture out onto a lightly floured surface and knead very lightly and briefly into a round. Flip the dough over and gently flatten it into a disc about 4cm thick. Lightly dust a baking sheet with flour and place the dough on it and sprinkle over the remaining cheese and a few more oats. Then using a large, sharp knife, cut a large cross into the top of the loaf, almost all the way through the dough. Bake the loaf on the middle shelf of the oven for 15 minutes. Then lower the oven temperature to Gas Mark 6, 200ºC (400ºF ) and bake for a further 20 to 25 minutes, until it sounds hollow when you tap the base. Leave to cool before serving.
Chocolate pots with nutty biscuits
Silky smooth chocolate with a crunchy biscuit
Chocolate pots: 125g plain chocolate; 250ml of cream; one egg and half a teaspoon of vanilla essence.
Nutty biscuits: 225g of butter, softened; 325g of caster sugar; one egg; one teaspoon of vanilla essence; 250g of plain flour; one teaspoon of bread soda; one teaspoon of baking powder and 100g of nuts, chopped.
Break up the chocolate and place in the food processor. Heat the cream to almost boiling. Add to the chocolate. Buzz until chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth. Add the egg and vanilla and buzz again until smooth. Pour into individual dishes and chill for at least 24 hours.
Set oven at Gas Mark 4, 180°C (350°F ). Cream the butter and sugar. Add the egg and vanilla. Stir in the flour, bread soda, baking powder and nuts.
Line a baking sheet with non-stick paper. Place spoonfuls onto the sheet, leaving space between them. Bake for 7-8 minutes until golden brown. Remove from the baking sheet and leave to cool.