Dutch cheeses

There's a lot more to Dutch cheeses than a pre-packaged, red-rinded supermarket Edam, Jenni explores some of the finer choices for the cheese connoisseur...

MarketUnder normal circumstances I'd no sooner go to Borough Market on a Saturday than visit the dentist. I hate crowds, and there always seems to be more people there taking pictures than buying food. But this week I was forced down there for work and happily found a lovely cheese I'd not tried before (while unsuccessfully attempting to skirt the human traffic jam in the Green Market area).

Every Dutch person I've ever met talks longingly of the wonderful farmhouse cheeses made in Holland and how sad it is that most Brits are only aware of dreary factory-produced Edam. In fact for years some of the best 'Dutch' cheeses on sale in the UK have been the artisan-made gouda-style cheeses produced by Dutch expatriates, such as multi-award-winning Teifi from Wales and the fabulously buttery Coolea from Ireland.

But a company called Boerenkaas is importing fine farmhouse varieties from Holland and selling them at Borough and Hackney markets, as well as wholesale. Not only do they offer superb unpasteurised aged gouda, but mature cheeses made with organic ewes' and goats' milk. The manufacturing process for each is very similar, but the small scale of production and the different milks used result in cheeses that taste more dissimilar than they appear.

Dutch cheese

I picked up one sample and without looking at the sign assumed it was flavoured with walnuts - but no, it was flecked with fenugreek, a spice usually associated with Eastern Mediterranean and Indian cooking. Cumin, however, is commonly used to flavour gouda and if you take a look at John and Patrice Savage-Onstwedder's Teifi you'll see they like to add other ingredients too, such as nettles, garlic and laverbread.

I'm not a huge fan of flavoured cheeses but the fenugreek worked beautifully with the nutty taste that's characteristic of aged sheep's milk varieties. The paste of the goats' milk cheese was drier and whiter, but not overly strong as some mature goats' cheeses can be. Add a dark golden slab of Captein Gouda - full flavoured, buttery and tangy - and you have a remarkable cheeseboard, rather like the cheesy equivalent of a wine lovers' horizontal tasting. 

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