CheeseI've been thinking a lot about cheese lately.
Arguably a good Cheddar is a solid all-rounder and the most versatile of the classic British cheeses. Great for pizza, toasties and anything that requires an even melting. The flavour too has something for every palate, varying as it does from subtle to quite powerful (I'm a fan of the medium Cheddar myself for the perfect balance of flavour and smoothness). Yet if I were to focus too strongly on the virtues of this one price of dairy produce I would find myself neglecting the great world of alternatives out there.
If you're looking for good melters then may I recommend to you Mozzarella for its wonderful texture (although it's very very mild) and Emmental as a good all-round Cheddar alternative. Double Gloucester and Red Leicester (the two classic red cheeses) are quite creamy and flavoursome but with a slightly tart citric edge to them. I'm a big fan these days but they definitely took a while to grow on me.
The crumbly cheeses are not good melters but in their natural form they cannot be beaten for a good accompaniment to a ploughmans. Wensleydale is the obvious classic with its sharp overtones balanced perfectly in its creaminess. Lancashire becomes slightly sharper and, in my opinion, is slightly less flavoursome. Cheshire at the end of the scale has quite an edge to it but balances perfectly against a good dollop of chutney. Caerphilly is a new cheese to me (I know, it's been around forever, I just kept passing it over for the Wensleydale) and I have been very impressed with its smoothness and creaminess. I'd recommend it to anyone looking to make the transition into crumbly cheeses from a more classic Cheddar.
As for soft cheeses, no-one can doubt the quality of a good chunk of Brie - as creamy as you can get and it just feels so luxurious. Try it on some crusty bread with bacon for a true taste sensation. Blue cheeses have never held too much appeal for me. I've always found them to be too sharp with not enough roundness of flavour. Camembert does have its place in some more decadent cuisine but with such great alternatives out there I see no great need to go blue.
And finally to the classic table cheeses to accompany a good cracker at the end of a fine meal. To me this is where Port Salut is a winner every time - mild yet well rounded and very very tasty. I also like to find a good chunk of Edam and maybe even a Babybel or two along with the omnipresent Cheddar.