Melting Pot: Melt-in-the-mouth cheesy ideas

Cheese is a staple of our diet and a key ingredient in the nation’s favourite comfort foods, but with so many varieties now available, its versatility demands so much more than cheese sandwiches or cheese on toast. Here, five cheese-loving experts share their “grate” ideas…

Lisa Osman, professional chef, All Hallows Cookery School, Dorset Lisa has recently been collaborating with Billy Kevan, dairy manager at Colston Bassett Dairy to produce a series of recipes using Colston Bassett’s awardwinning Stilton and Shropshire Blue cheese. The key to any successful dish is the quality of the ingredients used. Incorporating the finest handmade cheese into your cooking will ensure your dishes are a triumph. Hard blue cheeses can be enjoyed all of the year and not just saved for Christmas with a large glass of port – delicious as that may be! Most blues work particularly well with beef. Try making a blue cheese butter with equal amounts (approx 75g) of softened unsalted butter and crumbled blue cheese. Blend together and roll into a sausage shape using cling film. Wrap well and chill until needed. • Blue cheese and honey – a surprising combination but try serving some of your favourite local honey with a creamy slice of blue as a cheese course. • Blue cheese dressing – blitz together 125ml of good quality olive oil, 3 teaspoons of lemon juice, 1 teaspoon of honey and 25g crumbled cheese. Taste and adjust seasoning with freshly ground pepper. • Salad platters – Creamy blue cheeses work really well served cubed on a bed of salad leaves with a sliced ripe pear and toasted pine nuts with a homemade honey and lemon salad dressing. • As a side dish – try crumbling blue cheese into your mash potato instead of butter to serve with a slow cooked beef ragout or ring the changes with your cauliflower cheese and add your favourite stilton to a béchamel sauce. Watch points: When cooking with blue cheese reduce the amount of salt that you season your dish with – taste first and then adjust if necessary. You will probably find that you need to only add freshly ground pepper. Storage: Ideally store your cheese in the salad drawer of your fridge and wrap with greaseproof paper. Cling film encourages the growth of mould. To enjoy them at their best and most flavourful, bring your cheeses to room temperature before serving as part of a cheese course.

Hazel Middleton, home economist and Philadelphia brand ambassador I find that invariably, baked and chilled cheesecakes are popular additions to the dessert menu. They never seem to go out of fashion with customers, in part because they are so irresistible but equally because the range of cheesecake flavours is almost limitless. With autumn in mind, I am currently working on a couple of new chilled Philadelphia cheesecake recipes, one of which is an apple and salted caramel cheesecake served on a cinnamon enhanced biscuit crumb crust. The other recipe comprises of a stem ginger crumb base topped with a maple syrup flavoured cheesecake and finished with poached pear slices. With regard to baked cheesecakes, I think it is hard to beat the good old classic New York style baked vanilla cheesecake. It’s rich and decadent eating qualities can be enhanced by serving it accompanied by a fresh fruit compote or coulis. With foraging still such a hot restaurant topic at the moment, blackberries are an obvious choice for serving, in some shape or form with baked cheesecake this autumn. Why not try swirling some sieved blackberry puree through the cheesecake batter before baking, for an eye-catching rippled effect.

Mary Quicke is the 14th generation to run Home Farm at Newton St Cyres in Devon and the second to create multi-award-winning cheese One of the most extraordinary things about cheese is its versatility. The key to making cheese the star ingredient is selecting a variety with a rich complex flavour. Using a top quality cheese can completely transform a dish. One recipe where cheese truly is the crucial ingredient is quiche. A carefully selected cheese can really elevate this simple dish. Oak Smoked Cheddar pairs beautifully with wild mushrooms to make a decadent quiche with a robust flavour. Inspired by a family favourite recipe, Quicke’s Macaroni Cheese incorporates a blend of mature cheddar and goats’ milk cheese. These two cheeses make this humble dish excel. Devonshire Red Cheese and Mature Cheddar, meanwhile, combine beautifully with flour and eggs to create a delicious cheese soufflé. A truly indulgent cheesy dish!

Sean Wilson, ex-Coronation Street actor, cheesemaker and chef (www. saddleworthcheese.co.uk) I do like the combination of fresh crumbly cheese with a sweet partner and these two bedfellows have been well utilised over recent times. A light crumbly makes a light soufflé and the dried cranberry intensifies the sweetness of the fruit as opposed to the sourness of the fresh fruit. All you need here is the right ingredients and four good soufflé dishes (not ramekins) and the soufflés will work every time!! As we have a little secret ingredient…