Cheese up your life!
Notes on Cheese Creative
I’m delighted to be one of the judges for NI Dairy Council’s Cheese up Your Life competition. It’s such an exciting time for food and drink in Northern Ireland and I feel that everyone has been inspired by The Year of Food and Drink and its continuing legacy.
We have fantastic cheese in Northern Ireland of course, but I hope the competition will encourage cooks and chefs alike to perhaps look at that old cheese on toast or last minute sprinkling of cheddar differently!
As judge, I’m looking for slightly different things from the professional chefs in one category and the home cooks in the other. Both must show creativity and innovation, of course, but from the chefs I’m keen to see more sophisticated plating and more work put into each element. This does not mean fancy foams and dots! Four elements on one plate are quite sufficient, especially when I’m looking to see how the chefs might ‘turn the tables’ on the usual proteins and put cheese centre stage.
I’d like to see, as in any restaurant dish, vivacity and freshness of flavour, and a good use of acidity, temperature and texture. Cheese allows so many variations on those last two aspects it would be a shame not to play with them.
As for our home cooks, I’m not expecting the same level of technique as the pros but the same search for clever use of flavour combinations, texture and temperature applies. I’ll be especially pleased to see recipes which are super accessible and enticing to other cooks. The ‘pass it on’ power of any home cook’s recipe is always vital!
Finally, I guess to me the most important notion is balance. And this is something any level of cook can achieve. A balanced recipe is always a joy to eat and with the superb Northern Ireland spring produce now available, I can’t wait to taste the season and have my life ‘cheesed up’ a little more!
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