Blog by Christopher Trotter
Why cheese? Well as I said in my July blog we have a strange bunch of bedfellows for this quarter and apples and cheese go so well. But, my main reason for needing to have cheese somewhere in the Year of Innovation Architecture and Design is that I wanted to celebrate this business. Prior to 2008 I always used to say that Fife had everything from beef and lamb to shellfish and mackerel, vegetables and soft fruit, but we did not have a cheese maker until Jane Stewart came along.
Jane is a farmer’s wife but that is like saying that Theresa May is an investment managers’ wife. Robert ( Jane’s husband, keep up now) is a dairy farmer and when the milk price dropped so low as to make it almost non profitable, he and Jane realised that so as not to lose the farm that had been in the family for several generations, they needed to do something. And here is the first element; not for Jane was the ice cream route or the creme Fraiche and yoghurt route, instead she took herself off to Cheshire and worked with a cheese maker. Having perfected her skills she came home and took milk from Robert’s Holstein Fresian cross herd and ended up with what is now called Anster...innovation staring you in the face! Unlike other lesser cheese makers, Jane initially only produced this one cheese, and she wanted it to be perfect every time, working hard to make sure it was.
Now onto the Design and Architecture bit of the story. Unlike many farms in Fife, the Stewarts had no spare space. Every barn and building was in use so, in order to create her dairy, Jane designed a purpose built space which although industrial does many things. She admits that if she had managed to create a dairy from current building she would never have had a coffee shop and cafe which she now does, and her visitors share the view the cows had to themselves up until now, over the fields and across the sea to the isle of May and beyond. There is a kitchen, the dairy, the cafe and of course a store for the cheese all neatly contained in one building. It has no architectural beauty you might say but it certainly fulfils its purpose.
Jane never stands still, if she is not cooking for her all male family she is constantly looking for new ideas and always looking at what she is doing. She takes particular pleasure in going to Cheese shows where she can meet and be geeky with other great cheese makers getting ideas and enjoying being one of a band of remarkable people. When she did finally produce another sort of cheese, a cheddar style simply called “St Andrews farm house”, she applied her meticulous quality and consistency control, and she is experimenting all the time with another one …. watch this space! Currently so popular is the cheese she is increasing production and adding on storage space. A true innovator!
Here's a recipe to try...
A very simple dish which can be an accompaniment to meat or as a dish on its own, served with greens as in this picture. The cheese gives it a good texture. I use St Andrews
Farmhouse cheese. made by the wonderful Jane Stewart.
225g carrots, grated
½ tsp Hebridean sea salt
50ml vegetable stock
Medium onion finely chopped (red gives a nice pink fleck)
200g cheddar cheese, grated
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp vegetable oil
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp chopped fresh coriander
1 Preheat oven to 180C, gas mark 4.
2 Mix the salt and grated carrot together and place in a pan over a low heat, gently sweat to dry out.
3 Pour in the vegetable stock and again cook gently until it dries out, about 5 minutes, then set aside.
4 In a frying pan, sweat the onion in the oil until soft but not coloured.
5 Mix into the carrots and add the coriander, grated cheese and eggs. Season and spread into a baking dish; smooth off and bake for 15 minutes.