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28 October 2014

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Robert Rees gets a little cheesy!
Supermarket cheeses
Robert Rees says buy local cheese from local suppliers

BBC Gloucestershire chef Robert Rees shares his favourite cheeses with us and tells us who he thinks is the Big Cheese in the county!
See also

Buy Local campaign

Buy Local - map and list of county food suppliers

Organic food producers

Gloucestershire's local food pioneers

Robert Rees answers your food questions

Cook a local menu fit for a Queen

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British Cheese Awards

Taste of the West

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Fact File

+ Robert Rees is a self-employed chef and restaurateur from Bisley, Gloucestershire.

+ He is currently resident chef for Stroud Farmers' Markets, cooking seasonal and local fresh produce.

+ From 1993 until 2000 he ran a restaurant called The Country Elephant in Painswick.

+ Robert is a regular contributor to BBC Radio Gloucestershire.

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Resident chef Robert Rees gives us the low down on his favourite cheese suppliers in the county.

One of the first things many people think of when they arrive in Gloucestershire is Double Gloucester Cheese.

Double Gloucester
Robert Rees tell us his favourite cheeses

Let me inform you now, that when you go around your local supermarket attempting to buy an 'artisan' cheese check out the labelling before you buy.

I have seen Double Gloucesters from Aberdeen and Cheddars from Isle of Man before now.

Remember though if you live here in Gloucestershire you have many of these great flavours on your doorstep oozing and maturing nicely, getting ripe for the eating, cooking and indulging with cider, perry and wines - local, of course!

They are too good to chuck down a hill for Jack to go tumbling after.

There are so many cheeses I am sure to leave some out for which I apologise but Taste of the West will have a good list of many of them.

Tasty cheeses

So lets start my tasty tour with the delicious Melissa Ravenhill and her wares from Birdwood House Farm (01452 750248).

She has number of different items produced solely by her own fair hands, and Dunlop and Birdwood Blue are just two.

All items are organic from a healthy herd of Friesian Cows. Her husband does the cow thing most of the time, tending to the fields and stock and Melissa churns and mixes.

She invents the right type of starter to get the cheese of on its journey and importantly she then has the customer contact with the sales at the end. Real farm to fork approach.

All sounds so easy when jotted down on paper but having observed a few times believe me it isn't.

In reality for Melissa and many other producers here in the county it's a way of life. A way to add value to a depressing milk market.

Many makers still do everything by hand and all battle against financial bureaucracy and record keeping from every organisation imaginable.

Next stop - Marion Conisbee Smith and Cerney Cheese (01285 831312) which is a real eye opener. Again Marion has a number of cheeses based on a theme of unpasturised goat's milk.*

At the British Cheese Awards in 2001 the Cerney Pyramid won top cheese. It really is a stunner along with the Banon. Marion produces these wonderful shavings that melt on top of a warm crouton or savoury scone with a flavour similar to Parmesan.

Marion has also added value and diversified with cheesecakes, tartlets and pastry items.

Double Gloucester
Double Gloucester - a regional cheese

"Goat's cheese, too strong for me," I hear you cry.

I know, I thought the same until I tried Cerney. Trust me and give it a go. It really is worth it.

Next up is Diana Smart of Smart's Traditional Gloucester Cheese (01452 750225) - a lady committed to her cheeses. Stunning textures, mature flavours and stories etched into the face of a lady passionate about her work.

Farmers' markets have become a real breadwinner in Gloucestershire and between them every market in the county is covered.

Jonathan Crump of Wick Court Farm, Arlingham (01452 740117) is the last in the UK to use milk from a Gloucester herd in a traditional Double Gloucester cheese.

He is another hard-working lover of quality, simple flavours and honesty in his food production systems.

A name on most peoples lips when talking of cheese is Charles Martell of Laurel Farm in Dymock (01531 890637), in my opinion the Guru, the Godfather, the Boss!!

His Single Gloucester is mellow and aromatic beyond belief. His May Hill Green transports you down to the farmyard itself.

Every smell and romantic image of a farm comes alive at the first swallow. To crack through the mustiness of the rind into that cheese is one of life's greatest pleasures.

This is man that has inspired many of the producers listed above and many new ones such as Godsells of Leonard Stanley (01453 827802) who are diversifying into cheese production.

The best of the west

So who in my mind in Gloucestershire is the best for flavour?

It can only be one and that is Melissa Ravenhill's Birdwood Blue Heaven.

She tampers with the recipe getting up to consumer quality and I am lucky enough to taste many of the varieties.

In my mind they are all heaven - this is the best blue cheese in the world and it isn't even finished yet. Go buy it and judge for yourself.

So you see we can do our own Gloucestershire Cheese Board. We can certainly do a fine British Cheese Board that competes with the world's finest.

So next time you eat out or go shopping in a supermarket in Gloucestershire, ask for our local cheeses and let people power bring about the cheese revolution.

Cheese quite rightly should be served in its natural format but if you do wish to experiment I have provided my favourite cheese recipe for you.

*Remember that those who are elderly, very young or pregnant are best advised to avoid unpasturised milk and dairy products as they are more vulnerable to bacteria, but this is still quite rightly your own personal choice as a consumer, but check the labelling and ask your supplier.

For more Gloucestershire food and drink suppliers see our Buy Local guide and map.

And if you have a food or cookery question email Robert Rees at BBC Gloucestershire.



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