Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Two Kitchens

Peaches poached with rosé and honey
Two Kitchens - Family recipes from Sicily and Rome
by Rachel Roddy

First things first; I know the author of Two Kitchens - Family Recipes from Sicily and Rome.  I also tested some of the recipes in the book before publication.  This review is, naturally, informed by both.  I hesitated to write it but how could I not when Simon Hopkinson, no less, says "Rachel Roddy describing how to boil potatoes would inspire me.  I want to live under Rachel's kitchen table.  There are very few who possess such a supremely uncluttered culinary voice as hers, just now".  I agree completely, so, here is my review.

Born and raised in England, Rachel Roddy took flight to Sicily 12 years ago with a vague idea of finding a Caravaggio, a volcano and a degree of equilibrium.  Needing to learn the language, she went to Rome.  Here she found her balance in an area of the city called Testaccio - in the day to day life of its people; in learning more than just the language but the habits and traditions; in finding love with Vincenzo, a Sicilian no less; and in becoming a mother to Luca.

Panelle di Fabrizia made to the recipe in
Two Kitchens - Family recipes from Sicily and Rome
by Rachel Roddy

Rachel Roddy's second book, Two Kitchens - Family Recipes from Sicily and Rome is a closely linked follow-up to her award winning Five Quarters - Recipes and notes from a kitchen in Rome and, again, you get so much more than just recipes.  This time we join her in both Rome and Gela, the little town which guide books advise you to drive straight past.  To Rachel it is "... full of disrepair and despair but quietly beautiful and intriguing if you give it time ...".  It is Gela that blew away any romantic ideas about Sicily for the author - the utopian Mediterranean holiday island is a far cry from real life in the south east corner of the island.  Poverty, dilapidation and bad agricultural practices are a fact of life that are not glossed over in the book.  Yet the way of life in Gela has captivated her.

Pesce alla Ghiotta made to the recipe in
Two Kitchens - Family recipes from Sicily and Rome
by Rachel Roddy

"Ask someone to show you how to cook something and there's a good chance you will get more than just a recipe.  Recipes live in stories .....".  It's this approach to everyday life that enables Rachel Roddy to bring her Italian and English food worlds together.  In Five Quarters it was the lives of her friends and neighbours in Rome that inspired her writing as she got to grips with cooking Roman food.  In Two Kitchens she immerses the reader once again in her Roman life interweaved with the kitchen in Gela which for so many years was the domain of Sara, Vincenzo's Nonna.  Each year now the family returns for sojourns in Sicily to unlock the house, pull up the blinds, and stand at the faded, slightly sunken marks in the kitchen, testimony to Sara's long hours at the stove preserving the harvests of Sicily.  In this tiny space she made bread, preserved the tomatoes, reduced wine dregs to must, and salted ricotta into a hard grating cheese that would keep.

Much of the book is devoted to life on Gela, even though the town's central market is long gone. These days the produce borne out of hard work on the land is sold on street corners and pavements, at front doors and from garages.  It is available for what seems like a pittance to a non-Sicilian.  Here, the food they eat is the food they grow - intensely flavoured tomatoes, dense and creamy aubergines, cucuzze squash greens,  onions "the size of frisbees", honeyed figs, peaches that go from perfectly ripe to mush in hours, and grapes "that burst in your mouth and taste almost drunken".

La torta salata di Carla made to the recipe in
Two Kitchens - Family recipes from Sicily and Rome
by Rachel 

So, what of the recipes?  This is straightforward, family cooking that follows the seasons and the author is generous in crediting sources and influences.  They are rich in vegetables, pulses and fruits, are adaptable and need little in the way of equipment to prepare.  This is reflective of the way the author lives and cooks in a small flat in Rome and a little ramshackle house with a tiny kitchen in Gela.  Whilst respecting the traditional ways of both, the recipes are her own interpretations of what she has learned - "anarchic, resourceful and personal".

The book is structured as: Vegetables & Herbs; Fruit & Nuts; Meat, Fish & Dairy; and Storecupboard.  Within these chapters lies the essence of the food of Rome and Gela.  A Sicilian dish of Pasta chi vrocculi arriminati (Pasta with cauliflower, anchovies, saffron, pine nuts and raisins) is high on my list of 'must cook'.  Peaches poached with rosé and honey is the dish I prepared just before sitting down to write this review.  With skins removed, in the Sicilian way, they were as soft and pink as a baby's bottom, luscious and lightly perfumed with bay leaf.  It's a recipe I know I'll reach for every time those first irresistible, though not quite ripe, peaches of the season arrive.  I'm already hooked on Pesce alla Ghiotta (Fish in spicy tomato sauce with capers and olives), a dish from Messina which was traditionally made with swordfish but which is adaptable and, in my experience, particularly good made with salt cod.  Oh, a and I badly want to make Salsiccia alluvia e cipolla (Sausages with grapes and red onions) straight out of Middle-Eastern influenced Sicilian cuisine.

Pesce al forno con le patate made to the recipe in
Two Kitchens - Family recipes from Sicily and Rome
by Rachel Roddy

In the Meat, Fish & Dairy chapter you'll find Pesce al forno con le patate (Baked fish with potatoes) with a method straight out of the kitchen of the wonderful Carla Tomasi; and a recipe for Brutta ma buoni (Ugly-but-good) biscuits which are great for using up leftover egg whites and feed my love of hazelnuts.  From the Storecupboard chapter I would bring to your attention Zuppa di lenticchie e castagne (Lentil and chestnut soup) - sweet, nutty earthiness in a bowl which I will be eating through the coming winter; and Pasta, alici e cipolle (Pasta with anchovies and onions) because it's an irresistible combination.  

I urge you to start cooking from this book with the first recipe I tried: Panelle di Fabrizia (Fabrizia's chickpea fritters) - "Ideally the first one should be so hot that it sizzles in your mouth".  Just the best thing to get you into the rhythm of this book.   The very last recipe comes as a surprise as it's the very English Queen of Puddings.  It's there not just as a gratuitous link to the author's Englishness but an example of how she sees the connections that are constantly bringing her Italian and English Food worlds together.  In this case, a Sicilian ricotta, lemon and breadcrumb cake brought this classic English pudding to mind and provides a sweet ending to the book.

Brutta ma buoni made to the recipe in
Two Kitchens - Family recipes from Sicily and Rome
by Rachel Roddy

The introductions to each chapter, and to each of the sections within, are evocative and full of warmth, wit and understanding.  Every chapter makes you feel you are there; chatting with Filippo at his stall on Testaccio market and sampling the peas he has grown on his farm near Scauri; reassuring Rosa that whatever her husband Giuseppe is growing and hauling back to her garage shop is exactly what you want to buy; glimpsing private lives through the ubiquitous 'curtain doors' in Gela; or teaching English to enthusiastic five year old Romans using the language of food.  If I use this book half as much as I use Rachel's first, Five Quarters, it will have earned its place in my little kitchen.

Peaches poached with rosé and honey made to the recipe in
Two Kitchens - Family recipes from Sicily and Rome
by Rachel Roddy

Read Two Kitchens and you too will "want to live under Rachel's kitchen table".  As I said, I have a little partiality about this book but can such respected food voices as Simon Hopkinson, Anna del Conte and Jill Norman be wrong?

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Gooseberry and hazelnut frangipane tart

Gooseberry and hazelnut frangipane tart

I'd like to say this 'rustic' look was deliberate but, in truth, I overfilled the tart case and just got away without a Vesuvius-like eruption all over the oven floor.  As it turned out, it was definitely worth the risk.

For the first year I can remember the start of the gooseberry harvest didn't coincide with the blossoming of the Elder trees, at least not on my allotment.  Gooseberries and Elderflowers are linked so intrinsically in my mind that when one appears I look, and expect to find, the other. There is no arguing with some seasonal pairings.  The pulling of the first garden rhubarb calls for the leaves of Sweet Cicely which I grow alongside the rhubarb; the arrival of the first peaches makes me look for sherbetty Lemon Verbena which each year sprout from the most unpromising looking stems, and the best high-summer tomatoes co-incide with the short time, in our climate, when we can grow basil outside.

The elderflower being over before the gooseberries were ready meant reaching for the Elderflower cordial for a flavour of flowery muscat in syrup form this year - arguably even better!  Right now we can't pick gooseberries quickly enough.  Containers of green to honey-coloured globes are being passed to friends to feed a need for the unique, grassy, tartness.

I've posted a few recipes for gooseberries before but here's a new one inspired by some particularly delicious frangipane tarts recently eaten, but cooked by others.  I often pair hazelnuts with gooseberries - sprinkled on a compote topped with a creamy syllabub, or with hazelnut meringue and cream so the frangipane here is made with ground hazelnuts rather than the more usual almonds.  Pre-bake the tart case really well and, if the compote is very loose, sieve out excessive juice to prevent  too liquid a bottom layer.  You could, instead, use gooseberry jam if you have it.  Out of Gooseberry season you could dispense with the whole gooseberries and use compote or jam for your base.  You'll get the flavour of gooseberries but without the sharp tang of the unsweetened berries which adds an extra dimension.

Gooseberry and hazelnut frangipane tart slice

Gooseberry and hazelnut frangipane tart
(Serves 6-8)

PASTRY (makes 2 x 20cm x 3.5cm deep tart cases – you’ll need one for this recipe, but raw pastry freezes well):
250g (10oz) plain flour
25g (1oz) ground almonds
Pinch of salt
150g(6oz) cold butter
75g (3oz) icing sugar
Grated rind of half a lemon
1 egg yolk
3 tablespoons milk

150g room temperature unsalted butter 
150g caster sugar
2 medium eggs
150g ground hazelnuts 

150g gooseberries, topped and tailed
20g butter 
30g caster sugar
1tbsp elderflower cordial (optional)

150g whole gooseberries, topped and tailed

Make the compote by melting the butter and adding the berries.  Place a lid on the pan and cook for about 5 minutes until the berries turn yellow.  Remove from the heat, mash lightly with a fork and add the sugar and elderflower cordial (if using). Put aside to cool.

Sift the flour into a mixing bowl and add the ground almonds and salt. Add the butter and rub in with fingertips. Sift in icing sugar and add grated lemon rind and mix. Lightly beat the egg yolk and milk together and stir it into the dry ingredients. Mix just until the dough just comes together then turn out and knead gently to smooth the surface.  Wrap half of the pastry and rest in fridge for just 30 minutes (wrap and freeze the other half for another time).  

Pre-heat the oven to 200C (180C fan oven) Lightly butter a 20cm x 3.5cm deep loose-bottomed tart tin.   Roll out the pastry thinly and line the tin, smoothing off the top and pricking the base. Rest in the fridge for a further 15-30 minutes.  Line with greasproof paper and dried beans and bake the tart blind for 12 minutes.  Remove the lining and beans and return the tart to the oven for a further 5 minutes or so to make sure the base is cooked and lightly browned.  Remove from the oven and put to one side. 

Turn the oven temperature down to 180C (160C fan oven).  
Mix the butter then add the caster sugar and mix really well.  Mix the eggs together and add gradually to the mixture beating really well.  Gently fold in the ground hazelnuts.  
Spread the gooseberry compote over the base of the tart.  Spread the frangipane right to the edges of the tart.  Push the whole gooseberries into the frangipane.  
Bake in the centre of the oven for 30 minutes then check to see if it's browning too much - if it is, place a piece of foil over the tart and continue cooking for a further 10-15 minutes.  The filling should be set almost to the centre of the tart.

* If you'd prefer a more refined looking tart with the gooseberries visible, reduce the frangipane ingredients to 100g butter/100g caster sugar/1 large egg/100g hazelnuts.  Or you may have a slightly bigger tart tin you can use to contain any possible lava flow!

Links to other Gooseberry recipes:

Gooseberry Elderflower Syllabub
Gooseberry Polenta Cake
Gooseberry Meringue Pie

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Lisbon Highlights

Jacaranda Tree in Lisbon

When you live in London, as I do, you never take it for granted when you wake up in another city each morning to sunny skies.  Lisbon is one of my cities of choice for banishing the grey and revelling in the blue.  The Jacaranda trees were at their best on our visit, highlighting just how much the few trees I know of in London struggle with our climate.  The scent released from the flowers is so much stronger too.  You don't have to go to the Jardim do Botanico to see these in Lisbon - which is just as well as it's currently undergoing some much needed tlc - Jacaranda trees are everywhere.  I've written about Lisbon before (links below) so I'll keep this brief and mostly about eating and drinking.

Street view from Garrafeira Alfaia, Lisbon

For a glass of good Portuguese wine from an extensive selection of regional wines by the glass (copo)  or bottle in a typical Lisbon-style bar head for the Bairro Alto and the tiny Garrafeira Alfaia at Rua Diário de Notícias, 125.  You can get a few small plates of food here too including expertly carved Pata Negra and Portuguese cheeses.  There's a recently opened small restaurant across the street which has the same owner.  We didn't need it on this trip but just down the street at No 83 is The Old Pharmacy which came recommended for wine and small plates.

For fresh shellfish, everyone goes to Cerverjaria Ramiro but 20 minutes in a hot, crowded holding pen with a token-operated beer tap on the steamiest of nights (no the water misters didn't help) was enough to send us hot-footing it to Sol e Pesca.  This tiny unchanging former fishing tackle shop still hits the spot when all you want is a cold Super Bock beer, or glass of Vinho Verde, a few plates of quality tinned fish and a basket of bread.  Close to the heaving Cais do Sodré riverside in Baixa-Chiado, we found the young, energetic staff as welcoming as ever.

Meeting up with a friend one night we headed to Bairro do Avillez in Chiado for a late dinner. Owned by Chef José Avillez, who has two Michelin stars at his Belcanto restaurant, it sounded promising.  There is more than one style of restaurant in this Avillez complex on Rua Nova da Trinidad.  We ate at the Taberna which was buzzy and, once again, you needed to be patient.  We were, but was it worth the wait?  Small dishes of XL Exploding Olives and Spicy Pork Skin "Popcorn" were less exciting than they sound.  I chose pretty well with a dish of Salt Cod with a Chorizo Crumb and onion cream, and the Douro wine was delicious, but a Tuna Steak looked overcooked, and Pluma Alentejano definitely was.  The bill for three came to around Euros 80. Maybe the Pateo, which specialises in fish and seafood would have suited us better but it wasn't offered.  Neither did we qualify for the walk down the "hidden passageway" to Beco - Gourmet Cabaret.  I notice the dress code is "casual chic" and the atmosphere "exclusive, bohemian and sophisticated"!  If that's what you want, you'll need to book.

We lunched on plump, fresh Sardinhas at old Lisbon-style Marisqueira O Palácio in Largo de Alcântara.  It's very simple and traditional.  You'll be lunching with locals, and it's value for money - less than Euros 30 including service for two for starters and main plus coffee - and you won't leave hungry.

Carapau (Atlantic Horse Mackerel)
at Horacio e Teresa's, Mercado de Alvalade Norte, Lisbon

Our best lunch came thanks to a trip to Mercado de Alvalade Norte, the local food market in the north of the city.  After watching a magnificent Atum (Tuna) being expertly 'butchered', we found Horacio e Teresa's fish stall displaying beautiful Linguado (Sole), large Peixe Galo (John Dory) and Tamboril (Monkfish) proudly offered with their liver intact to show freshness.  Who better to ask where to lunch on fresh, simply cooked fish?  A place they supply, of course.

Linguado at 
Restaurante Grelha Dom Feijao, Lisbon

And so we arrived at Restaurante Grelha Dom Feijão, about 15 minutes walk south on Avenida de Roma.  Don't be put off by the  commercial location.  Walk up to the first floor and you'll find the restaurant with a peaceful outside terrace well populated by locals and business people.  Get there early or book for an outside table.  The menu is not in English but the staff will help you.  The usual house dishes, always brought to table for eating or rejecting, are not to be ignored here - melting Beef Croquettes, crisp pastry Chicken Pies, excellent olives and bread. Whole grilled Sole (that Linguado) served with bitter greens, broccoli and particularly good potatoes, both plain boiled and baked in their skins with olive oil and salt.  A bottle of completely delicious house wine, Monte Velho from Alentejo, and Espresso to finish brought the bill to Euros 54 for two.  Great value for money and a place I'd definitely go back to.

Pasteis de Nata
at Cafe Manteigaria

There was Pasteis de Nata, of course, and no need to go out to Belem specially for them this time. Cafe Manteigaria in Chiado bakes on the premises from 08.00-24.00.  There's a stretch of stand-up bar where you can watch the bakers make the custard tarts while you eat one still warm from the oven.  Now, if they could only get the coffee right it would be perfect.

Sorry, but good coffee is important to me and this time we found it in Lisbon at Copenhagen Coffee Lab Lisbon.  I make no apologies for it not being Portuguese, though our love of this find could partly be explained by our discovery of a former Monmouth Coffee manager serving up the shots expertly.  This is also a great place for breakfast when you just can't take another Pasteis de Nata, however good.  You'll find it on Rua Nova Piedade, mid-way between the Museu Nacional de Historia Natural e de Ciencia/Jardim Botanico and Praça São Bento.  

Street Tiling

Tiling is hard to ignore in Lisbon and if you have the slightest interest then head for the Museu Nacional do Azulejo (tile museum) in the cloister of a 14th century convent to see a collection going back five centuries.  We didn't take the tram to Belem on this visit but if you haven't been, you should go for the spectacular UNESCO listed Mosteiro dos Jeronimos; the Padrão dos Descobrimentos monument, built to honour Portugal's great explorers, and Museo Coleccao Berardo Belem for the collection of modern art.  While there you'd have to try the Pasteis de Nata at Antiga Confeitaria de Belem, though it is much more of a tourist attraction these days than it used to be.

Artwork by Maria José Oliveira
at Sociedade Nacional De Belas-Artes, Lisbon

Interesting temporary exhibitions may be found at the Sociedade Nacional De Belas-Artes on the Rua Barata Salgueiro, just off the Avenida de Liberdade where we saw 40 Anos de Trabalho by Maria José Oliveira and por entre arvores a linked exhibition of ink drawings by Carol Archer and image and text works by Kit Kelen.

Detail of 'Peacock and Hunting Trophies' by J Weenix 1708
at Museu Calouste Gulbenkian
Above all, find time for the Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian close to Praça de Espanha.  A fine way to end a visit to Lisbon - just allow enough time for this one.

Trams on Elevador da Gloria, Lisbon

Places we didn't get to on this visit and wish we had:
A Taberna da Rua das Flores in Chiado/Cais do Sodré.  We went five years ago and such is its popularity now we have never been able to get back in.  Book ahead or be prepared for a long wait.
Tagide Restaurant and Tagide Wine & Tapas in Chiado - because everybody mentions them.
Bairro Alto Hotel Rooftop Bar - for the views.

We did finally go to LX Factory in Alcantara (on the way to Belem) and were disappointed to find it was, to our eyes, less about artisan makers than it was about places to hang out.  Lots of eating and drinking opportunities here.  If you like the atmosphere of Ropewalk in London's Bermondsey ('Maltby Street Market'), this may appeal.

Link to Previous Lisbon Post:
Lisbon - Autumn 2015
Lisbon - Summer 2012

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Cheesemongers of London - Sorting your Cardo from your Coolea

Oak bowl by Robert Thompson
The 'Mouseman" of Kilburn

It's not difficult to buy cheese in London.  It's not difficult to buy good cheese in London.  But it wasn't always so and you still need to sort your Cardo from your Coolea.

Cardo: a washed-rind goat's cheese made by Mary Holbrook in Somerset;
The supple, glossy paste is typically chalkier, curdier at core; 
floral flavours are cut with a vegetal bitterness. The rind is savoury and rich; 
texture is toothsome, sometimes with pleasant crystalline crunch.  
Cardoon stamen infusion.  Source: Neal's Yard Dairy

In the Victorian era, cheesemongers were as common on the London high street as butchers, bakers, and greengrocers.  Two World Wars and the rush for mass production to feed a post-war population brought cheesemaking to a rubbery, tasteless low.  Patrick Rance wrote of the depths most British cheese had sunk to by 1982 in his The Great British Cheese Book.  "Good cheese has been almost killed by lack of understanding and care among politicians, bureaucrats, dairymen and retailers.  It can only be raised back to health by a professional, indeed a vocational, attitude in those who wish to put things right and make their living by doing so."  From his little cheese shop in Streatley, Berkshire, which he set up in 1954 (closed in 1990), his words were a rallying call to those who cared about our cheesemaking history.

Patrick Rance's book appeared 3 years after the formation of Neal's Yard Dairy, where in 1979 a small group of enthusiasts began making yogurt and soft cheeses at their Covent Garden base.  The early results weren't always a success so they bought in the best cheeses they could get from wholesalers to re-sell alongside their experimental cheeses.  Then cheesemaker Hilary Charnley sent them a 'Devon Garland', a Caerphilly-style cheese, to try.  Its flavour and character were so different from what they had been buying that Randolph Hodgson, who by then owned Neal's Yard Dairy, drove down to Devon to see why.  What he found was a small-scale, independent, traditional cheesemaker of a kind that had all but disappeared.  Her introductions to a few other artisan cheesemakers nearby made it feasible for Hodgson to make regular visits to the producers, select the cheeses he wanted, transport them back to London, mature them and sell them to appreciative customers.  Hodgson's subsequent formation of the Specialist Cheesemakers Association proved vital in successfully countering Whitehall and EU misinformation about safety in cheese production, and halting the mass Americanisation of our farmhouse cheese production.

I worked for a short while at Neal's Yard Dairy and I can't recommend enough this champion (saviour, in fact) of British farmhouse cheeses. Thanks to that education, I know a little bit about what it takes to care for the lovingly produced cow's, ewe's and goat's milk cheeses in all their hard, semi-hard, soft, washed and blue glory.  So I think, a few recommendations for my fellow cheese-lovers in London, whether you live here or are just visiting, is long overdue.  This list is not definitive but is based on my own experience.  To buy the best cheeses that have been carefully selected, knowledgeably handled and offered in peak condition, you have to find who truly knows their Cardo from their Coolea.

Neal's Yard Dairy

First up has to be Neal's Yard Dairy.  Their focus continues to be on supporting the makers of farm cheese and produce in the British Isles, with a particular passion for unpasteurised and raw milk cheeses. They still, as they have done since the early 1980's, make regular buying trips to the makers.  These days, maturing is carried out in south London railway arches.  Their tiny Covent Garden shop is only a few paces from the original premises used back at the birth of the business, but there is a larger shop alongside Borough Market.  This is the shop that will open your eyes to how good British dairy produce can be.  They also run a great series of Cheese Tasting Classes. Most good cheese shops and many restaurants in the UK, and beyond, source their British cheeses from Neal's Yard Dairy.
LOCATIONS: 17 Shorts Gardens, Covent Garden WC2 & 6 Park Street, (Borough Market) SE1
They also open Saturday 9-2pm at Spa Terminus, Bermondsey SE16.  On-line ordering too.

Gour Noir Raw Goat's milk cheese
at Mons Cheesemongers

The British arm of the French company Mons Cheesemongers was set up in 2006 by two ex-Neal's Yard Dairy staff.  In France, Hubert Mons had started his business by sourcing artisanal cheeses for his market stall in the Auvergne region of France in the early 1960's.  From maturing rooms in St Haon le Chatel in the Cote Roannaise comes traditionally made French and Swiss cheeses to feed an appreciate London market. A number of good cheese shops and restaurants in the UK buy their French cheeses from Mons Cheesemongers.
LOCATIONS: Borough Market, SE1; Brockley Market on Saturdays; Spa Terminus, Bermondsey SE1 on Saturdays.  New shop soon to open in East Dulwich.

London Cheesemongers
Pavilion Road, Chelsea

If you were in any doubt of the good done by Neal's Yard Dairy to the cheese world, you just have to look at the people who have set up these independent businesses (not to mention those who have gone on to make cheese).  Jared Wybrow of London Cheesemongers is another of the alumni. Late last year he added to his London market stall portfolio with a shop in Chelsea.  Jared's many years spent at Neal's Yard Dairy, where he ran their 'Markets', is clear to see in the attention to detail in this exemplary cheesemonger.  Here the focus is on sourcing a small but perfectly formed selection of British, French and Italian cheeses and other dairy produce for a West London clientele. The upstairs room at Pavilion Road hosts events and offers cheese lunches on Saturdays providing an opportunity to get to know the cheeses and take a break from shopping.
LOCATIONS: Shop at 251 Pavilion Road SW1.  Saturdays at Hildreth Street Market, Balham SW12; Sundays Herne Hill Farmer's Market SE24,

Cheese by Patricia Michelson

Patricia Michelson opened her shop, La Fromagerie, in Highbury Park in 1992 and a second in Marylebone in 2002.  Both feature maturing cellars and walk-in cheese rooms.  Patricia's knowledge and passion for cheese is well known and I remember my own excitement at discovering her little cheese cave in the original Highbury shop at a time when it was not so easy to buy good French cheeses in London.  Both of the shops also offer a range of foods and feature cafes and while the Marylebone premises can feel cramped, the walk-in cheese room can feel like a calm oasis amongst the bustle.  Michelson's book Cheese, published in 2010, covers 450 varieties from around the world, the importance of terroir and information on storing, cutting and serving them. La Fromagerie also has a wide-ranging Events schedule.
LOCATIONS: Shops at Higbury N5 and Marylebone W1

KaseSwiss cheeses

KaseSwiss, although primarily a wholesaler of cheeses, qualifies for my favourites list as it opens for retail each Saturday at Spa Terminus in Bermondsey SE16.  Owner Rachael Sills founded Kaseswiss in 2005 after 10 years with Neal's Yard Dairy and focusses on selecting and showcasing traditional artisan made cheeses from Switzerland.  She also sells a select range of hand-made unpasteurised milk, small-batch Dutch cheeses for sister company Boerenkaas,
LOCATION: Arch 5, Voyager Estate South, Bermondsey SE16 4RP (Saturdays 9am - 2pm)

I must mention a couple of small London Cheesemongers who sell only cheeses they make themselves.  And what cheeses they are:

Bermondsey Hard Pressed

When William Oglethorpe began making cheese in his railway arch in south London in 2008 it seemed an unlikely location for a dairy but it provides a perfect space and maturing conditions for the cheeses he produces at Kappacasein Dairy.  Collecting raw organic cow's milk during the morning's milking from a farm in Kent and starting the cheese-making process within 2 hours of collection is a vital part of the cheesemaking approach here.  Making the curd in a 600L copper vat with minimum interventions adds to Kappacasein's commitment to bringing out the best qualities of the milk used.  What comes out of the arch is Bermondsey Hard Pressed, a traditional Alpage Gruyere type; Bermondsey Frier, made to an Italian Formaggio Cotto recipe; a cow's milk Ricotta; and a traditional Pot Set Yoghurt.
LOCATION: Arch 1, Voyager Estate South, Bermondsey SE16 4RP (Saturdays 9am - 2pm).  You will also find Kappacasein at Borough Market where you can enjoy the best cheese toastie in London.

A matured Edmund Tew cheese from
Blackwoods Cheese Company

Blackwoods Cheese Company was founded in summer 2013 to make raw milk soft cow's cheeses using as little intervention as possible.  Collecting their milk supplies from a trusted Kent farm as milking was taking place then transporting it back to their Brockley cheesemaking base. Last year, helped by Crowdfunding, they relocated their base to nearby Chiddingstone, Kent to be closer to the source of their milk.   Cheeses are currently Graceburn, a Persian Feta style cheese; Blackwood's Cow's Curd, a fresh lactic cheese; Edmund Tew (the first in their convict series - see website!), a small lactic cow's cheese that develops a Geotrichum rind and a savoury malty flavour; and William Heaps, a fresh, lactic cow's cheese.  It's useful to know that Blackwood's is also a supplier of Whey.
LOCATIONS: Brockley Market and Borough Market and various shops in London.

Other Cheesemongers in London of note:
Paxton & Whitfield
LOCATIONS: Shops at 93 Jermyn Street W1; 22 Cale Street, SW3; and a small number of stores outside London

LOCATION: Shop at 10a Lamb Street E1 (Old Spitalfields Market).

Coolea: A pasteurised cow's milk hard cheese made by Dick Willems in County Cork; 
The flavours are sweet and rich with hints of hazelnut, butterscotch and honey.
Smooth and close in texture, reminiscent of Dutch Gouda.    Animal Rennet. 
Source: Neal's Yard Dairy

I wonder what Patrick Rance would make of things now?