Whether they’re the star of the show, or cheeseboard leftovers looking for a home, cheeses are indispensable in the kitchen: To inspire you, we asked three of London’s finest chefs to share their ideas for serving suggestions and recipes. First we have Tunworth, a creamy, camembert-style cheese that boasts notes of mushrooms and garlic; then there's a rich, boozy cheddar from the Isle of Mull; and Kirkham’s Lancashire, a tangy, buttery, crumbly cheese that’s been made by the Kirkham family for three generations. Think pizza with smoked ham and cheddar sauce, grilled courgettes with Tunworth cream, salad with shavings of frozen Lancashire. Enjoy.
Pam Yung, formely of Flor & ASAP Pizza
I am thinking of baking a whole wheel of Tunworth into a loaf of bread, so it just oozes cheese when you cut it open. Another possibility is a savoury Danish – they’re quite common in America, where I’m from, and work well with a soft, brie-style cheese. The Tunworth is also a perfect candidate for an ice cream sandwich: pair with ice cream and a sprinkle of salt, sandwich between two sablé biscuits, and you have a cheese course and dessert rolled into one. Drinks-wise, I think you want something gentle and a bit sour as a refreshing counterpoint to the richness of the cheese. A soda or shrub made with gooseberries or fig leaves would work nicely, so you’ve some effervescence from the fermentation of the fruit.
We make a pizza that’s a take on a ham and cheese sandwich: smoked ham on a cheddar sauce with fresh cheddar grated on afterwards, together with a scattering of toasted hazelnuts. Personally, I really like cheddar in a nutty apple crumble – either in the crust itself, so it caramelises in the oven, or grated on afterwards. I’d have that with a warm apple cider, with maybe a few warming spices like nutmeg and cinnamon inside.
I would have this simply with a dark Scandinavian-style rye, perhaps with seeds or sprouting grains in it, and a dark fruit jam, like blackcurrant – or, better still, a green tomato confit. Confit the green tomatoes with garlic, thyme, peppercorns, and a bit of sugar and salt to create a sweet-savoury jammy tomato number, and have that with a nice chilled glass of wine from the Jura.
Chase Lovecky, formerly of Two Lights.
I love a Tunworth. I have it at home loads, often at this time of year with fresh cherries, crackers and maybe a fizzy wine like a pét-nat. I had a little lunch party the other day and we left it in the sun for a bit to get warm and gooey, then served it with pickled onions and slices of grilled bread. Another recipe I like to do is grilled courgettes with Tunworth cream: I make a light but flavourful béchamel and charge it in a siphon, cover the grilled courgettes with mint, basil and toasted rice or a mix of sunflower and pumpkin seeds, then foam a healthy portion of warm cheese sauce on top.
At Two Lights, we serve chilli cheese puffs: I poach, chill, then deep fry a choux dough, then give the resulting puffs a healthy dusting of piment d’Espelette, a Basque chilli powder. Subbing truffle for chilli never hurts either. At home – well you can’t beat a piece of cheddar snuck straight from the fridge, or on an oatcake with a chilled lager or ale.
In this heat, a watermelon salad with crumbled Lancashire would work beautifully. A dish I’ve created recently is a tomato and warm Lancashire panzanella: I make a very light, smooth cheese sauce with just Lancashire and cream, then dress some very ripe tomatoes and large sourdough crispy croutons with lemon and olive oil. I then pour the warm cheese cream in the bottom of the bowl, and finish it with pickled red onions and fresh dill. It’s like a salad version of a tomato and cheese toastie!
Patrick Powell, Allegra
Tunworth is one of my favourite cheeses – it’s one we always have on in the restaurant. During lockdown we’d frequently have a group of friends round on a Sunday (when we were allowed to, that is!) for a Tunworth and a couple of other cheeses, which we’d devour together with some top quality port. As with most cheeses of this quality, the best way to eat Tunworth is just like that, on a board – but you always end up with some leftovers: rind, or bits which are too ‘melty’ to present on the board. That’s where cooking comes into its own. Before lockdown, we had a cheese and onion tart on the menu, made with a Tunworth custard piped into a tart case, topped with pickled onions and leek hearts, with some Berkswell grated on top. Recently, I managed to get hold of a truffled Tunworth, which I served on top of a gratin of Jersey royal potatoes.
There’s a type of cheese bread they serve in Brazil called pão de queijo, made with tapioca flour, milk, eggs, olive oil, and what’s known as farmer’s cheese – usually a simple cottage cheese or curd. My partner was telling my about it the other day, and I thought it might work really well with Isle of Mull Cheddar. It’s a hard cheese of course, but I’m thinking of making them bigger and more rustic, and serving them warm. I’m experimenting at the moment.
One thing we like to do with blue cheeses or quite strong cheeses like Lancashire is freeze them – but not to serve on a cheeseboard, of course, as freezing changes the consistency of the cheese. When shaved with a microplane on top of certain dishes, frozen cheese can work really well. Flavour-wise it works as a seasoning, and texture wise it’s almost like snow. It’s also a good way of preserving cheese you don’t think you’re going to get through in time. If you made a salad with a nice French dressing of mustard and white wine and shaved the Lancashire over with a coarse microplane, I think that would work nicely. I also like grating frozen cheese on beef tartar: it just melts on your tongue.