Tag Archives: cheese




Guest blog by Dan Simpson


A cheeseboard at Christmas is de rigueur these days, and the supermarkets want to make it easy for you by offering a convenient cheese selection pack. Why spend two minutes choosing your own cheeses from the same shelves for a lovingly custom-made cheeseboard when you can just buy this and be done with it? I’ve eaten three of these atrocities over the holidays, and I’ll tell you why.

I have attempted to write individual reviews of the seven cheeses on offer in this selection: a difficult task, given that were you to spear a bit of any of these cheeses at random, you would not be able to distinguish one from another. The box says to “Remove from refrigerator 1 hour before serving to allow flavours to develop” – though you needn’t bother, since the flavours develop like a poorly-taken low-light night-time photograph: you wonder why you even bothered in the first place.


Brie is a bad karaoke version of cheese: the coward’s Camembert. And Camembert is itself a spineless cop out in the face of Vacherin. To choose Brie is to say: I don’t know what I’m doing, and I despise taste. But we have not chosen Brie: it has been chosen for us in this box of cheese-approximations. Which is appropriate, given your decision to buy this selection in the first place.


Some will say that cheddar – the most popular and, yes, often blandest of British cheeses – deserves no place on a civilised cheeseboard. Those people are snobs, and wrong: an aged cheddar, full of flavoursome bite and crunchy tyrosine crystals, is a strong part of the line-up, holding its own against the blues and soft Frenches. This cheddar is not that. This is a disgrace: not just to cheddar, but to all cheese.

Red Leicester

Indistinguishable from the cheddar, aside from the highlighter-pen-neon orange.


When chewing on this theoretically hard cheese, all rubber texture and polybutadiene taste, you may be forgiven for thinking that you forgot to remove the plastic that each of these cheeses comes vacuum-sealed in. Looking down to check and realising that no, this is it, this is the experience of this cheese, it may cross your mind to fish the packaging out of the bin and eat that instead.


This is acceptable, in the way that Stilton often is. It tastes like a blue cheese: no more, no less. Your cheese selection is in trouble if this is the best thing on offer.

Austrian smoke flavoured processed cheese

This cheese doesn’t even have a proper name, merely a description of what it is. It’s an obvious joke told by an observational comic – with a bad Austrian accent designed to cover the deficiency of thought behind it. Adding ‘Austrian’ to the name to give it some continental gravitas is a superficial marketing trick no one is fooled by. And, given what Tesco have already done to Edam and Brie here, I can’t blame the EU for wanting nothing more to do with us.

Wensleydale with Cranberries

Grow up and buy some chutneys, and allow people to decide what fruit-flavours they want with their cheese – instead of foisting dried-up bits of cranberries into our mouths, which have the consistency and appeal of dead flies.


The word ‘selection’ in this product is a lie – it implies that thought and care has gone into the choosing of these cheeses. This is a magnificent smorgasbord of sub-mediocrity, adding up to much less than the sum of their parts. A cheeseboard can be a glorious showstopper: a bountiful overflowing of colours and shapes, textures and taste. Thoughtlessly bunging out this greyed-out selection box wastes that potential, and makes a mockery of indulgence at Christmas. Am I saying that this cheese selection has the power to singlehandedly ruin Christmas? Bitter experience says: yes.


*It’s still cheese, and cheese is always welcome




Solidity. Let’s talk about solidity in food. Not the liquid content, but the solidity. Come on now, you know what I mean.

Walkers Cheese & Onion crisps* are so damn solid. Never has a food so ostensibly mediocre so over-performed on so many occasions.

It might well be pointed out that they make the perfect metaphor for the football club Leicester City in the 2015/16 season.

Entirely coincidentally, Walkers Crisps, inclusive of Cheese and Onion, are made in Leicester, city. Walkers Cheese and Onion also wear blue. Like Leicester City.

This parallel is pretty much going nowhere at this point, but having already successfully joined the bandwagon, let’s talk a little more about the crisp in question, and see if we can bring the laboured metaphor back later.

The crisp tastes little to nothing like if you were to grab a piece of cheese, cheddar for example, a bit of onion (either cooked or raw) and simultaneously bite into the pair. Cheese & Onion flavouring is an entity unto itself, unhinged from conventional reflections of ‘reality’. Like Leicester City’s 2015/16 season. It didn’t take too long there, did it? 

Office environments are one application where the metaphor crucially fails. Being a Leicester City fan will have no doubt brought unwanted office interaction upon the worker who just wants to keep their head down and fundamentally hates all their colleagues. On the other hand, eating Walkers Cheese & Onion on a lunch break repels all potential banterers for an entire afternoon.

I hope you enjoyed the above gradually-increasing-in-size seven paragraphs to nowhere.


*Let it be noted that we are not discussing WALKERS DEEP RIDGED CRISPS (CHEESE AND ONION) in this blog.




By Mansour Chow

Allow me, if I may, to review a concoction of my own creation. Please allow me this self indulgence; it’s important for my self-worth.

Recently I had “crab flavoured surimi sticks” with cheddar cheese in a wholemeal toasted sandwich. And it was bloody delicious.

Okay, okay, so it wasn’t fucking gourmet! What is this obsession with gourmet? Not everything has to be Michelin-starred to be enjoyable, you know. Sorry, it doesn’t contain rabbit meat or quinoa. Yes, obviously I’d rather eat a meal at Hawksmoor but I don’t know who you think you are turning your nose up at my creation.

What? You’re okay with salmon and cream cheese sandwiches yet you have the audacity to shake your head at my crab stick and cheddar cheese toasted sandwich? Well, go on. Keep it up. Keep that snide look on your face and I’ll fucking deck you. I’ll punch your bloody lights out, if that’s what you want. You want a fight with me? If you want a fight, I’ll give you a fight. I’ll fight you right fucking here if I have to. What have you ever created that you have the ilk to insult me like that? I’ll punch you in the groin and the face at the same time. I don’t care if it’s a low-blow. If you’ve got a problem with my sandwich then say it to my goddamn face. So what were you saying? Yeah, I thought so.

What makes this such a good meal is that it’s cheap, nutritious and very easy to make. All you need is a toaster (or a grill), some cheddar cheese, maybe some flora or mayonnaise (I used my housemate’s Flora in my sandwich – remember: stealing is cheaper than buying) and some crab flavoured bites (I used about six but you do what you fucking like, I’m not your mother).



What really pushes this meal up an echelon is its accessibility. It’s a meal for the Everyman. You want an unnecessary analogy about it? Okay, here you go. It’s the school-lunchtime equivalent of playing football with your mates using a tennis ball. Yeah, it’s not as good as a football, but it will do, especially if you’ve forgotten to bring a ball or you don’t have the money for a football (or you’re too lazy to go and get one).

If you don’t have the money and you’re that desperate for a proper football, I suppose you can always sell some of your stupid pogs or tazos (or whatever you kids do these days), or you can complain to your mum that everyone has a football, and, later, cry your bloody eyes out because she got you a Sondico instead of a Mitre Delta.

“I’m not bringing a fucking Sondico in to school with me, mum. Do you think I’m some sort of cunt? They’ll all bully me,” you might say. “It’s bad enough that I’m walking around in fucking Clarks when all my mates are wearing Kickers, but now you want me to bring a fucking Sondico in. Do I have cunt written on my forehead? I’m calling social services. This is fucking abuse if you expect me to come to school with a fucking Sondico,” you’d be pertinent to add.

Your mum would then probably say something about being ungrateful and unreasonable and about how much she works and how hard she tries to support you and how she wishes you’d appreciate how difficult it is for her. “Money doesn’t grow on trees,” she’d finish with, which would really set you off.

“I know money doesn’t grow on trees,” you’d say. “I’m not a fucking idiot, mum. Do you think I’m an idiot? Do you think you have to tell me that money doesn’t grow on trees for me to realise that money doesn’t grow on trees? Don’t you dare think you can fool me into pitying you, you shithead. You’ve already ruined my life by making me wear Gola’s in PE class. Now you’re literally trying to kill me. I hate you. I fucking hate you and I hope you fucking die.”

In conclusion, teenagers are awful.




Hot on the heels of the zeitgeist as ever, I found myself in Greece the other week. With a great sense of duty weighing upon me, I will review its national cuisine flippantly in a few paragraphs.

It does not really require mentioning that all the things they do with olives are solid performers. They are. Perhaps the only criticism is that they can go a bit OTT on things with olives in them, but this is a minor quibble. That’s too much mentioning already.

By and by, I witnessed many North Europeans, possibly finance workers, enjoying these things with olives in them, quaffing Raki and generally enjoying the chance to sample a different, more joyous, pace of life. I digress.

White cheese-filled pies were the main average food focus, as a man of my Yorkshireness and income. They are incredible, and incredibly greasy. My physical fitness has jumped off the delicious, crumbly, crispy, oily crust of a cheese-filled pie.

Physical degradation leads me neatly to the main foodstuff discovered in the course of this national cuisine exploration – what I’m going to term ‘The Anti-Austerity Burger’.

10 rashers bacon

1 block hard cheese

Flat bread

1 regular tub Philadelphia cream cheese



Wrap all 10 rashers of bacon carefully round block of cheese. Smother bread in entire tub of Philadelphia. Wrap cheesed bread around baconed cheese. Deep fry.
I must at this point clarify that this health-crippling monster was not something I personally experienced, but rather a recipe invented that very morning and spoken of by its creator while we both stood outside a derelict theatre, next to a derelict park, drinking wine out of a plastic cup. The story was corroborated by her shocked-looking partner. Presumably shocked at the fact that not only was this innovator in Greek Cuisine still alive, but undoubtedly gloating in her trailblazing culinary achievement.

This protein-packed punch in the aorta flies in the face of north European creditors. This is so emblematic of deep-fried defiance that I’m of the opinion that the anarchist movement should immediately replace their logo with this sandwich. Nothing would send out a stronger message of ‘We Will Not Be Moved (And Neither Will Our Digestive Systems)’.






Pizza Express

I only found myself here by a series of eating misfortunes that left Walthamstow’s incarnation of the dough and cheese-based consumable chain as the final stop following two aborted attempts to eat food in other establishments. Things had sunk pretty low.

When eating was done, however, I severely scolded myself for overlooking up to this point a review of this, the most mightily mediocre of all eateries. Pizza Express is the Jason and the Argonauts, Clash of the Titans, lo! The fucking Ben Hur of mediocrity.

There is absolutely no distinct taste to a Pizza Express pizza, and no way to differentiate between each of its heinously overpriced models. It’s incredibly oily, and they offer you chilli and garlic oil to put on top the oil. I accepted. There was no discernable flavour in either, just oil. This is tasty food for only people whose regular diet is discarded cardboard packaging from a skip behind Argos.

At least if someone used your gaping, open mouth as a toilet, it would be an experience of sorts. This is nothing in that vein. No, Sir/Madam.

I might as well take on the ambience of the establishment while I’m here, for what it’s worth. The lighting is too light, the seating is too wipe-down and they’ve got faux-localised ‘art’ prints pinned to the wall of cultural landmarks that have since been bulldozered and sequestered to the usual brand of bland property criminals that have London in the back pocket of their fucking shit suit. They look heavily Photoshopped.

Again, it’s not a scene affecting enough to be truly shit – it’s simply an aching chasm of nothingness hungrily gobbling up human existence to a degree that would make the Great Cthulhu proud.

Honestly, you might as well eat Kraft cheese slices on stale bits of Kingsmill while sitting in the reception of a mid-level accountancy firm and calling yourself a pop-up pizzeria before even considering voluntarily bringing this into your life. We will all be dead soon. There is not the time for this.




So you’re in a restaurant, and on the menu there are various items. (Obviously. It’s a restaurant.*) Among these items is one simply labelled ‘meat’. Nothing else, just ‘meat’. Do you plump for this item? Or do you recoil in abject horror at the sheer, breathtaking, heart-stopping, face-melting, complete and UTTER disregard for specificity?

Or consider this. You’re flicking through the Radio Times (is that even still a thing now?), and among the items on offer is one simply labelled ‘film’. Nothing else, just ‘film’. Do you grab some popcorn, curl up next to your loved one, and tune in? Or do you put your foot through the telly and send Radio Times the bill?

Or consider this… Actually, don’t. You get the idea. Specificity is good. It helps us in our day-to-day lives. Without it, life would be one big giant, hideous game of Pin the Tail on the Donkey.

It is not as though the muppets at Sainbury’s failed to recognise this. After all, their cheese is not only ‘sliced’, but ‘lighter’ and ‘mature’ and ‘British’ as well. It is not often that four adjectives are appended to an item of food. Indeed, one might even consider this to be too much specificity. But hey, specificity is generally a good thing, right?

So why in the name of Alex James did they not carry this premise through and SPECIFY WHAT TYPE OF CHEESE THIS IS??? Is it cheddar? Is it Gouda? Is it Cornish Yarg? What the fuck is it? It is as though someone had offered up ‘farm-reared, two-year-old, smoked, born-in-a-barn-in-Dorset, at 3pm on a Wednesday, MEAT. No one gives a shit about any of that other stuff. Just tell us what type of meat it is!

Needless to say, AFB have not actually tried the cheese in question. we’re a bit scared. Just like you would be at the prospect of, say, drinking from a can labelled simply ‘liquid’.


*ignoring the fact that there’s currently a hipster craze for single-item restaurants – lobster, breakfast cereal, what have you. These restaurants are anything but average, and consequently AFB shall not be gracing them with its presence.


Land of my fathers

Land of my fathers

My parents met at Cardiff University. My dad was a law student and my mum a local lass. Up until I was about twelve my maternal grandparents still lived in Cardiff, and I’ve many happy memories of being taken there as a child – feeding the ducks on Roath Park lake, getting a famous (although, I suspect, slightly overrated) ice-cream from a now defunct place called Thayer’s, going to a well cool sciencey place called Techniquest, and having to lock our car doors so my dad’s head didn’t get kicked in by an angry motorist. Good times (as everyone seems to say nowadays).

I remember that, occasionally, we used to drive up from London en famille in the middle of the night. My parents used to dress my brother, my sister and me up in our pyjamas for the journey, and I frequently became vexed when my younger brother’s head lolled onto my shoulders as he slipped into sleep, indignant at the notion that I was being exploited as some kind of makeshift pillow.  Yet I have myself a vague memory of falling asleep at the beginning of the journey and waking up as we approached my grandparents’ house. At the time I thought this was the middle of the night. In retrospect it was probably about 8pm.

Crossing the Severn Bridge was my favourite part of the journey from London to Cardiff. For several years I thought that the struts of the suspension bridge were moving as the car whizzed over it; only later did it dawn on me that actually the struts were not moving at all – it was simply an illusion created by the speed at which our car traversed the bridge. This illusion could perhaps stand as a metaphor for childhood generally. (I leave it to the reader to work out the details.)

Although we no longer have any family left in Cardiff – barring a few incredibly distant cousins and other familial detritus that nobody gives a toss about – we sometimes make family pilgrimages back to this hallowed Welsh soil. Sometimes, to commemorate an important anniversary or for the sake of a joyous visit to the someone’s grave, we will go back to Cardiff, and relive the old times. The good times. We’ll frolic on the beach at Ogmore, lament the loss of Thayer’s and marvel at the modernisation of the roads. We’ll go for a nostalgic curry at the Jubaraj and debate the moral and social propriety of knocking on the door of my grandparents’ old domicile, demanding of its new inhabitants that they let us in and sate our desire for further nostalgia.

My father, whom I mentioned is an alumnus of Cardiff University Law Department, recently had another excuse to go back to his old stamping ground: he was invited to give an address to undergraduates there. (Or he asked if he could; I forget which.) He returned with tales about how the University has changed almost beyond recognition, yet retains, somehow, a faint, ineffable yet entirely recognisable hint of what he once knew – Cardiff.

And he also brought back some cheese, which was pretty good.