House-made cheese, already a significant trend among US chefs (arguably not so spoilt for choice with artisanal cheese-makers), is the latest badge of among UK chefs, too, who are increasingly vaunting their developing cheese-making prowess on their menus.
Mozzarella for the pizza is made on a Heath Robinson machine that turns the stretchy curds into balls via a chute and fast-turning blades. The rest is worked by hand for fior di latte (flower of the milk) mozzarella, to be served as a central ingredient in starters, with a little reserved for breaking up into stracciatella-like strips and making into burrata, incorporating double cream from Italy for its decadent centre.
It is not only passionate Italian chefs who are striving to create their own cheeses. At the appropriately named The Dairy in Clapham, Robin Gill is eager to move on from merely making fresh curd cheeses with rennet, experimenting with different milks and aromatics (he’s currently developing his own take on Fleur de Maquis with a juniper and rosemary rub) to more adventurous cheeses requiring affinage (ageing) in his cellar in his pursuit of making as many ingredients as possible in-house.
Similarly, Bluebird Restaurant’s Matt Robinson explains: “If we’re using an ingredient, the team should understand how it is made. It’s all part of engaging my brigade and keeping them excited and passionate.” Currently, Matt makes his take on ricotta using half Jersey milk and half double cream, which he splits out with white vinegar and allows to come up to temperature very slowly so that the curds and whey naturally separate. On the summer menu, it is served with lemon zest folded through with fresh peas, pea shoots, coppa and tempura of courgette flower. Come autumn he envisages accompaniments of blackberries, cobnuts and roast-beetroot salad. Matt also plans to experiment with more demanding cheeses and techniques: “The idea of being able to experiment and control the point of ripeness at which I serve cheeses greatly appeals. The possibilities could be endless.”
Sudi Pigott the independant
Photo by David Sandison