PETER SWAN: Now you may or may not be aware that British Cheese Week gets under way over this coming weekend. There are apparently more than 700 named cheeses produced across the country. Of course Stilton here in Cambridgeshire is closely linked with the cheese from which it takes its name. Earlier I caught up with Nigel White of the British Cheese Board. Of course he knows everything there is to know about cheese. (TAPE)
NIGEL WHITE: I think something like 98% or 99% of all households buy cheese on a regular basis. Our favourite, across the whole country, is still Cheddar. Something like 55% of all retail sales of cheese are Cheddar, of one form or another. So yes, it is a firm favourite. We’re still not huge eaters of cheese, you know, compared to the rest of the world. We get through about 30 grams of cheese per person per day. That’s in what we buy from shops, and what we have on pizza and we have in pubs or restaurants. In other parts of Europe, like France, Germany, Italy, Greece, they get through about 65 grams, more than double in other words.
PETER SWAN: Yes because sterotypically you think obviously that the French as being big cheese fans. Are they top of the pile? Do they eat the most?
NIGEL WHITE: Yes, they and the Greeks, depending on who’s figures you look at. They’re both extraordinarily high consumers. Partly I think every Greek meal will include feta or haloumi somewhere. And the French are great soft cheese eaters, and when you go to countries like Germany and the Netherlands and Scandinavia, cheese features very heavily at breakfast, lots of sliced meat and sliced cheeses with a bread.
PETER SWAN: Tell us about British Cheese Week then Nigel. What sort of events are going to be taking place?
NIGEL WHITE: Well I think it’s just a celebration, to try to raise the profile of these incredible cheeses that are being made. The British Cheese Awards were made on Friday, and we know who are the medal winners. Hopefully those cheeses will have little stickers put on them when they get into the shops, to show people this was a winner at those awards. But hopefully kids will have an opportunity to hear about cheese making, maybe to go and see cheese making facilities in their area. And we’re encouraging all of the media to actually write about cheese during this week, whether it’s just giving them new recipes, or talking about cheeses made in their local area. And just generally enthusing the population to become more adventurous. And what we are doing is we’ve just launched on our website, and through our Facebook page, an app.map, if I can call it that ..
PETER SWAN: (LAUGHS) Very slick.
NIGEL WHITE: .. of cheese flavours, trying to help consumers understand the complexity of cheese. It’s not an easy subject to understand. But we’ve tried to differentiate cheeses according to their key flavour, whether it’s savoury or sweet or tangy or earthy, earthy or farmy, and plotting cheeses on that map, so you can find a cheese that you like. And then you’ll probably find other cheeses in the same area of that map that you might think are worth trying, because you know that you veer towards that type of flavour-profile.
PETER SWAN: We’ve mentioned that Cheddar is the nations favourite cheese. Nigel, what’s your favourite cheese? As a cheese expert, do you have to have something on your plate?
NIGEL WHITE: No, not at all. And in fact I’m not allowed to have one favourite cheese, I’m afraid. (THEY LAUGH) I always say to people, if you’re putting a cheese board together, a: get it out of the fridge an hour before you’re going to serve it, and try and get a mixture of different textures flavours and colours. So a very basic one I would say is you have a really nice mature farmhouse Cheddar, as a hard cheese. Have a nice creamy blue Stilton as your blue cheese, and a nice ripe runny Brie or Camembert. And then add to that perhaps a local cheese, that you can only find in your part of the world. And I think those four, three or four, cheese will keep most people happy most of the time.(LIVE)
PETER SWAN: I can only imagine what Nigel is like at the dinner party. I don’t know whether he has any other favourite topics of conversation, other than cheese, but I’m sure if cheese came up he’d be more than happy to talk about it.