My assignment for this year’s Crail Food Festival made me very happy, not only did it involve one of my favourite foods but also one of my favourite Fife producers, the wonderful St Andrews Cheese company – who make their unique selection of Anster Cheeses.
So what makes Jane Stewart’s cheese so special?
- The unpasteurised milk comes straight from her husband’s own herd of Holstein Friesian cows, meaning that they have complete control over the whole process – from cow to cheeseboard.
- They use special cultures developed using bacteria to help give Anster Cheese its complex flavours and aroma.
- Unlike many cheese producers Anster Cheese mill their curd through a traditional peg mill which contributes to the lovely crumbly texture.
- The use of traditional cast iron presses also helps achieve just the right texture for Jane and Robert’s cheeses.
- Finally, Anster Cheese is allowed to mature naturally.
Ordinarily when faced with a lovely block of Anster Cheese I will simply munch away with an oatcake or 10 and perhaps a wee bit of chutney here and there. However this assignment involved me getting my pinny on and doing a bit of actual cooking.
After visiting St Andrews Cheese farm and chatting to their fabulous chef I decided to buy a huge block of Anster Cheese and one of Red Anster which is flavoured with garlic and chives.
My original intention was to cook a trio of cheesy dishes including Cheese and Chive Scones, Cheese Straws and a Cheese Soufflé. But I am ashamed to say that I completely ducked out of attempting the soufflé as after just returning from eating my way round Belgium it seemed a bridge too far!
Red Anster Cheese Straws with Paprika
Cheese Straws are irresistible aren’t they? You always mean to have one or two with a glass of wine before dinner and boom they are gone before you know it. They are great favourites with kids as well, if you don’t mind being surrounded by a carpet of flaked cheese straw at all times.
I briefly considered making my own pastry but to be honest (apologies to all the great bakers out there) life just seems too short when a respectable puff pastry can be bought. The results were very pleasing. Red Anster gave the cheese straws a lovely rich colour and the cheese and chive added to the flavour burst of the paprika.
175g shop bought puff pastry, paprika to flavour, two generous handfuls of
Red Anster, some flour to scatter on your work surface
- Pre heat oven to 200 ˚C
- Roll out the puff pastry and scatter over most of the cheese before folding in half.
- On a lightly floured surface, roll out to the thickness of a £1 coin.
- Cut into 1cm strips, then twist the strips 3-4 times.
- Lay on a baking sheet, scatter over more cheese and paprika to taste and bake for 12 mins, or until golden.
- Leave to cool, then keep in an airtight container for up to 2 days (but let’s be honest they will never last that long!)
Anster Cheese and Chive Scones
This is familiar territory for me, having recently gone through savoury scone frenzy. Cheese and Chive is a classic and traditional combination which seemed just right for the noble Anster Cheese. The result was a lovely light scone with fabulous tangy cheese undertones. This is my standard scone recipe to which I add all sorts. Anster cheese and pancetta would also be a fabulous combo to try out.
350g self-raising flour, 1 tbsp baking powder, ¼ tsp salt, 50g butter cut in pieces, 1 tbsp olive oil, two large handfuls of grated Anster Cheese, one small handful of chopped chives, 300ml full fat milk, 1 egg, beaten, to glaze.
- Pop the flour baking powder and salt in a bowl and combine
- Add the butter and rub into the flour until you get a nice crumbly mixture.
- Add the cheese and chives and combine.
- Make a little well in the relatively dry mix and add the oil and milk.
- Using a knife stir the mix into soft sticky dough. Don’t be tempted to add more flour as this soft stickiness makes the scones nice and light.
- Flour your hands and a work surface and make a round from the dough which is around 3cm thick and cut into 8 pieces.
- Pop onto a tray lined with baking paper and glaze with some beaten egg.
- This goes into a preheated oven (200 ˚C) for around 20 minutes or until the scones have a lovely brown hue.
Anster Cheese represents everything that is great about local producers in the fabulously foodie Kingdom of Fife. They are fiercely passionate about their product and by adhering to traditional processes they make a stunning cheese for us to enjoy.
I like knowing the provenance of the food on my plate and it doesn’t get any better than this, a completely local process from cow to my cheeseboard.
Thank goodness for producers like Jane & Robert who are amongst a very merry band of wonderful people putting Fife firmly on the food map.