Monday, 18 August 2008

Cheese of the Month - Sparkenhoe Red Leicester

My latest discovery and obsession is the Whitecross Street food market, easily walkable from the office on Thursday and Friday lunchtimes, just the other side of Bonhill Fields cemetery in Shoreditch.

I will probably do a separate review of the wonderful burritos, the heavenly roast hog and apple sauce sandwich and the exciting Thai and Indian curries at some point in the near future, but this post is about a cheese I picked up from the Neal's Yard stand on Whitecross Street last week - Sparkenhoe Red Leicester.

Sparkenhoe is, according to their website, the only Red Leicester cheese to still actually be made in Leicester, except this product is a modern revival of an old recipe that was last made in 1875. It uses - hooray - unpasturised cow's milk, which gives it that unmistakeable earthy, farmy note and from the first bite you are already a world away from the bland, chemically coloured Red Leicester of the supermarkets (although you can, apparently, get it in Waitrose). I also should specifically mention the flavour of the rind - an extraordinary woody, complex taste that matched the saltiness of the flesh incredibly well and contributed to the individual character of the cheese.

After finishing a couple of pieces of Sparkenhoe I couldn't help thinking how nice it would be to try it toasted as a cheese sandwich, so I did:

Melted and bubbling on brown bread, the farmy flavours really shone through, and it made a pretty decent cheese toastie, even if at £5 for a small block I was in no danger of making this a regular snack. However, if you ever spot it in your local cheese shop, or if you're lucky enough to have a Waitrose nearby, I strongly suggest you pick up a sample yourself.


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