Nice cheese, shame about the cough linctus!


Cheesemaker Sophie Summerlin explains the finer points of her Stanage Millstone

So it was Hip, Hip, Ole for wine expert Barry Starmore, taking part in Sharrowvale’s last cheese and wine evening before his double hip operation. He’s not that ancient, he’s the victim of too much sport in his youth and too many cellar steps in his working life.

Eat more cheese, Barry. Cheese contains calcium which is good for the bones. And wine is good for the soul. So, because he is particularly fond of Spanish wines the theme was Iberian, except for a short detour to Hathersage.

This is a monthly event jointly arranged by Barry and his colleague Jefferson Boss with grand fromages Nick and Nicky Peck of the Porter Brook Deli in the premises of Seven Hills Bakery, which provides the benches and the bread. So that’s three local businesses acting as partners in the same street.

For most of the 30 or so present the star of the show was a Calle Real cremoso, a sort of instant fondue. Warm it up slightly, whip the top off and spoon out the creamy, runny interior or dip your bread – in this case a Seven Hills Spanish torta. There’s a slight tang from the thistle rennet. I’ve had a similar cheese in Portugal and it’s a show stopper of a first course in restaurants.


Comoso – instant fondue


Barry partnered this with a lemony Vina Costeira Ribeiro 2014, a blend of five local varietals. They all worked well together.

The night had opened with, what else? Manchego 1640 cheese, hard and crystalline, a little reminiscent of grana padana. It was offered with two glasses, an admirable fino sherry, Fernando de Castilla en Rama, and a fruity red, Altamente Monastrell, which my wife rather liked. Louise from Seven Hills handed round slices of very good Spanish baguette.

Save a little of the red, said Barry and the reason soon became clear. We had suddenly switched countries and were in Hathersage. The evening was the debut of Sheffield’s nearest (and only) local cheese, Stanage Millstone, the cheese version of a minty Polo: It’s got a hole in it.

“There are a lot of old millstones lying around around our fields,” said artisan cheesemaker Sophie Summerlin, explaining the shape and the name. She and her husband James make and mould it by hand with milk from their neighbour’s farm, as they keep sheep and pigs themselves (and the latter enjoy the whey).

We had two versions, a very runny Brie-like cheese and the same cheese which had matured for another two weeks into a firm, creamy texture, and my own personal favourite.


Stanage Millstone, Sheffield’s ‘local’ cheese

Sophie and James have been selling it at farmers’ markets and I would imagine have already built up a following. The hole serves a purpose. It helps the cheese mature quicker.

There was enough cheese on offer to induce nightmares but let’s end with one on the night. First there came the cheese, a gutsy blue, La Paral, made by another husband and wife team, this time in Asturias, Northern Spain. It came with a clever strawberry studded and star anise flavoured bread specially baked by Seven Hills.

“Don’t sniff,” ordered Barry as he handed around glasses of a brilliant red liqueur, Pacharan Ordesano, but I did. It smelled of aniseed.

There is a lovely story to this drink. The makers go out into the fields and pick sloes to infuse with gin, along with vanilla, coffee beans and whatever, then they wait for the flavours to meld before bottling it. Then they drink it. That’s the difficult bit. You’ll love it if you like Benylin cough syrup, hate it if you don’t.

Let’s just say I reckon this won’t be the first bottle Barry will be reaching for when he comes around from his op.

Porter Brook Deli:
Starmore Boss:
Seven Hills Bakery:
Stanage Millstone:

Blue cheese, strawberry bread and cough linctus!

Blue cheese, strawberry bread and cough linctus!

Say cheese, it’s a wedding …cake!

No pink sugar mice on this cheese wedding cake!

No pink sugar mice on this cheese wedding cake!

Tradition has it that the bottom tier of a wedding cake is saved for the christening of the first child. That might be too much to ask of a round of Cheddar a year or two down the line.

But it hasn’t stopped a growing trend for bride and groom to order a wedding cake made of cheese instead of the traditional fruit cake for weddings, a fashion that seems to have come from nowhere since the early 2000s.

When my stepdaughter Joanne and her partner Andy held their wedding reception at St Paul’s Hotel in Sheffield recently pride of place went to a four-tier cake made entirely of cheese. The bottom layer was a beautiful blue-grey round of Cornish Yarg, wrapped in nettles, topped by a golden yellow round of Appleby’s Cheshire, then one of the French Fourme d’Ambert, a blue, and, finally, a cylinder of Chaourch, a French cheese made in Champagne-Ardennes since the Middle Ages.

It was tastefully decorated with pomegranates, dates, grapes and figs. “I like to have flowers and seasonal fruit. Cakes look gorgeous draped with redcurrants although people can have what they want. Some have wanted pink sugar mice,” says Nicky Peck, who runs the Porter Brook Deli on Sharrow Vale Road, Sheffield, who organised Joanne and Andy’s cake. She tries to discourage pink mice.

She and husband Nick only started the business last summer, after moving from Shrewsbury, but did six cheese wedding cakes last year and will be doing around one a week this year. Of course you can order cakes online or buy them from big stores but Nicky offers a bespoke service.

“We invite couples in when the shop is closed and have a cheese tasting session and give them samples. We talk to them about how they are going to use the cheese, how many guests, whether it’s part of the wedding meal or if they are going to leave it until 10pm when everyone has had a drink. You don’t want incredibly expensive cheese for that!”

Joanne is no great lover of fruit cake, which is what wedding cake is, and had planned fancy pastries with their ‘pie and peas’ supper “so we didn’t want cake followed by cake. This was a perfect cheese course,” she says. And they were still able to pose for cutting the cake pictures together.

A cheese wedding cake gives the couple something to decide on together for a groom is often left out of most of the arrangements. “We find the men are very interested in the cheeses,” laughs Nicky.

As at Joanne and Andy’s wedding, the cake becomes a talking point. People queued up to inspect it and then queued up again with relish to cut themselves portions. “The cheese wedding cake was a great success. It kept us going until past midnight and the leftovers made lovely gift bags for our guests. There was nothing left,” says Joanne.

Nicky will take the ‘cake’ to the venue, decorate it and supply the tracklements to go with the cheese but is happy to let families bring their own home made chutneys, which is what I did.

Of course, if you can’t make up your mind between traditional and cheese, you can always have both!

The Porter Brook Deli is at 354 Sharrow Vale Road, Sheffield S11 8ZP. Tel: 07528 253 978. Web: