The British Cheese Board states there are over 700 named British cheeses produced in this country at the moment by both established big name producers and smaller artisans. I've been on a mission to find the best of British ewe's milk cheeses to use in our day to day cooking (such as replacements for Pecorino or Parmesan or good melting cheeses for toasties) and also for special dishes and cheeseboards. I'm probably only scraping the surface at the moment, but I've had the pleasure of trying out some great options from cheesemakers across the UK, here are a few of my favourites:
White Lake Dairy (Somerset)
They produce a range of ewe's milk cheeses and 2 of those recently won the Supreme Champion (the Pave Cobble - middle picture above) and best modern British cheese (the Sheep Rustler - right hand picture) at the British Cheese Awards 2017. I'm also a big fan of their Pecorino Brittanico (left hand picture) which is a good home grown substitute for Parmesan or Pecorino. The Pave Cobble is great on a cheese board or in a salad (I've served with pears, parsnip crisps and walnuts at one of my supper clubs) and the 800g Sheep Rustler I bought didn't last long - mainly just eaten on it's own but equally good in a luxurious toastie (come visit our takeover at Stepney City Farm cafe to give it a try). Unfortunately you can't buy direct from the dairy, but if you search online you'll find a few retailers that stock it (Farmdrop often have the Pave Cobble)
Shepherds Purse Cheeses (Yorkshire)
Shepherds Purse have been making cheese in Yorkshire since the 80s and were pioneers for British ewe's milk cheeses. They've got a good mixture of styles, including Mrs Bell's blue which is a salty, creamy delight in the style of a Roquefort, if a little less intense but full of flavour. Amongst their range of soft cheeses is the unique Katy's White Lavender. A delicate white cheese, matured in Yorkshire lavender to create something interesting - it's proved to be a marmite kind of cheese in our household with people either loving it as something different or not getting on with the floral notes. Either way it's definitely worth a try! They also stock a range of other cheeses that are all available from their website (www.shepherdspurse.co.uk). Thanks again to the team there for supplying the delicious samples!
High Weald Dairy (Sussex)
Originally established as a sheep dairy farm in the 1980's supplying other cheesemakers, the farm has expanded (and switched sites) to make their own cheeses from both ewe's milk and cow and goat milk. As we're based in London, this is the most local ewe's cheese producer I've managed to find so far and they have a great selection of cheeses (which they very kindly provided samples of) to try, ranging from harder cheddar style through to an organic ewe's milk ricotta. My personal favourites are their European style cheeses, working from left to right (images above) starting with the 100% ewe's milk halloumi. This is a lovely halloumi, salty and suitably squeaky and then melts just enough when you fry it - it'll be featuring in our vegetarian brunch dish at Stepney City Farm over Easter. The medita (their version of a feta) is also great, and I loved the Sussex Slipcote with Garlic & Herbs, a local and far superior alternative to Boursin - fragrant with garlic and herbs, perfect for spreading on a piece of sourdough.
More to follow
Unfortunately the snow a few weeks ago stopped a sourcing trip I was due to make to the South West where I would have visited both Mere Park Creamery (a modern sheep dairy, producing ewe's milk, cheeses, yoghurt and butter) and Ticklemore Dairy in Devon who produce a delicious looking blue cheese. I'll be sure to add the updates in here once I make it down there.