“ Brand: Shepherds Purse Cheeses / Type: Cheese „
For those of you who read my review about Gunton's delicatessen in Colchester, you may know that inside this Aladdin's cave of delicious goodies lies what has to be my favourite cheese. Having discovered recently that it is also now available by mail order direct from the producers, this has become an added bonus to me, as Gunton's is 20 miles away from my house, and so does not afford me the opportunity to visit with the frequency that the purchasing of this cheese deserves!
www.shepherdspurse.co.uk is the website owned by this specialist Yorkshire cheese producer, and here you can browse through their range which of course includes my favourite the ewes milk cheese "Katy's White Lavender"
Based in Thirsk in North Yorkshire, the company is situated on Bell's Farm and is also well known for being the only blue cheese maker now remaining in Yorkshire. The idea behind the diversification into ewes milk cheeses came from a growing need in the community for products which were less allergenic than cows milk, which is high in casein, a protein which is hard to digest, and of course many people have lactose intolerance.
Diversification into making sheeps' milk cheese was instigated in 1987, and the first twelve months were a learning process involving much research, and under the Yorkshire Pantry banner the main product launch took place, which was to be followed by the winning of many prizes over the years, as their products became widely sought after and highly thought of.
The firm is a family business managed by Judy Bell, and her son Justin and daughter Katie play major roles within the firm, which has provided 11 much valued jobs for local residents. Their creamery produces 14 types of cheese, a testament to their success and innovation.
As well as being available in delicatessens their cheeses are also available in major supermarkets, though I have never seen the lavender version there yet-but I'm hoping!
So it was with great delight that I discovered I could mail order the cheese, and so last week I printed off the order form from the website and sent off a cheque. Online ordering with cards is not available, so it was a little bit of extra work but the price was brilliant. I paid £3.65 for 120g including postage.
The cheese arrived in a box with ice packs to ensure it was kept chilled and it was expertly wrapped. A lovely summer blue packet was inside and on the front the descriptive words, "A light fresh creamy ewes milk cheese matured in lavender flowers, a surprising partnership of flavours!" I only waited 5 days from posting to receipt of my package which was brilliant.
Lavender as a flavour in food is not a new food fad, but has been around for many centuries. It is actually an herb from the same family as mint and is close in type to rosemary, sage and thyme. I use it myself a lot in cooking, and have some favourite recipes which I have designed around it including a quark cheesecake, and several cakes and shortbreads. You can also buy lavender sugar which is brilliant for cake making as it avoids the need for growing the plants yourself. You musn't overdo the flavour though, as it can be overpowering, what you are looking for is a delicate perfumed taste and this is what Katy's Lavender is all about.
On the back of my packet of cheese they have been kind enough to supply a recipe which might interest meat eaters as it is for a dish called Katy's Lavender and Pork, which is not for me as I am vegetarian, but it could well be a great meal for many to sample! I must add, however that the cheese is made with vegetable rennet and is suitable for vegetarians. The ingredients are milk, salt, vegetarian rennet and culinary lavender. The latter ingredient is important as it highlights the point that you mustn't eat the lavender plants from nurseries or garden centres, as they may well have been sprayed with pesticides, so if you decide to grow your own buy the seeds especially for culinary lavender plant production.
100g of this cheese is 341 calories and 28.7g fat -bad news for those on post Christmas diet plans, but you only need a little to enjoy the full flavour.
The cheese is enclosed in a tray with a plastic pull back seal, which isn't resealable, so you will have to foil wrap any left overs afterwards. I have seen little round cheeses in the deli, so buying this in shops it might be presented in a different way, but mine was a good size wedge
Just lifting the wrap and having a little smell was lovely. The cheese has a delicate aroma similar to Wensleydale or a white Cheshire cheese. There are Lavender flowers around the cheese sprinkled at random, and the edge is coated in a layer of flowers. The most intense lavender flavour is to be enjoyed by nibbling a piece from the edge but the flavour is all through the cheese.
With those Hovis digestives that look like little loaves this is divine. I tend not to want pickles or chutneys with it because it ruins the flavour to swamp it with condiments -just plain and simple crackers are perfect.
It is slightly salty, tangy, with a creamy texture but you can cut a proper piece, it isn't spreadable. It really looks a picture with the lavender flowers against the snowy white background of the ewes milk cheese.
This is my favourite cheese in the world and now I have discovered it can be mail ordered it is going to be on a regular basis! I am also going to sample some of the other cheeses they sell so hopefully I can review some of these for Dooyoo in due course, when I have had the pleasure of being fully acquainted with them.
Apart from the pure joy of this cheese, I also really admire the way the company came into being from its farmhouse roots and family traditions. It's a real example of British business flourishing and surviving through economic recession.
Shepherds Purse Cheeses Limited
North Yorkshire YO7 4DJ
Tel: 01845 587220
This review is also published on Ciao under my user name Violet1278.