The Barber family have been farming and making cheese at Maryland Farm in Somerset since 1833 and their vintage cheese is always matured for a minimum of 24 months to provide cheddar that is extremely intense and complex with a great depth of flavour – and I can wholeheartedly endorse this statement. It’s wonderfully crunchy texture is the result of long and slow aging. Barbers cheese is world renown having won the World Cheese Awards Cheddar Trophy in 2011.
I have often wondered what the country show was like as I used to visit Somerset a lot in the late ’80s and early ’90s but had never attended. I was struck by the fabulous organisation and huge number of stalls, side attractions, main attractions and events within the event that there were.
On the way to the Barbers cheese stand, we came across the wonderful people who run Softub (an innovative and environmentally-friendly hot tub provider) but more of that to follow in another post!
Upon reaching Barbers, I was impressed by the sheer number of people who were keen to purchase their produce. There was also a rather large plastic cow in front of the stand attracting the younger members in attendance to try their hand at ‘milking’ (although with the amount of mess going on, thankfully it was only water!).
We were then escorted to the stand where we would be showcasing our ultimate cheese toastie and where I met six other bloggers who would be taking part together with Mr Barber Senior.
We had a little bit of time to kill so Ross, Grace and I went for a wonder around the show. On our way back to the stand, we were treated to a spectacular show of horsemanship from The Devils Horsemen – one of Europe’s leading teams of Horsemasters, Stuntmen and Stunt Co-ordinators. They have featured in many film and TV productions including The King’s Speech.
When I got back to our cookery podium, I was ushered to the kitchens at the back as Ross and Grace took their seats in the audience. Each blogger was provided with the ingredients to make their ultimate cheese toastie.
Having rather been put on the spot a couple of days before, I chose to make a cheese, mackerel, double cream and coriander toastie. I had already practiced it a number of times so was fairly confident. All you do is mix the ingredients together, sprinkle some worcester sauce on the bread and then grill. I was up last so I prepared the toastie and then, after being fitted with a Madonna style head set looking like I was about to ‘Vogue’ I took to the stage to have my toastie toasted! I was a little disappointed as I knew that my toastie was better when it went under the grill rather than in a sandwich maker but no matter! Whilst this was toasted I was interviewed and it gave me the opportunity to introduce my blog to the rather large audience that had started to accrue.
The judges for the toastie-off had been chosen from members of the audience at the beginning and they held their scores up for each toastie in a ‘Come Dine With Me’ style once they had tasted our recipes.
Then, we were all invited back on stage to hear the results. I was thrilled to come joint second with Fromage Homage winning first place with her recipe which you can find here.
Once the toast-off was over, we were invited to tour the cheese tent – which was lovely and cool – to review and taste some of the cheeses up for the Cheese Awards. There was Ewes milk cheese, a gorgeous garlic and herb cheese called ‘Green Thunder’ from Snowdonia cheeses (we tracked them down and bought some, it was so good), a cheese wrapped in nettles and even a charcoal cheese – which was lovely!
We then had time for an ice cream and to explore some more of the show before we made our 40 minute journey back home.
Disclaimer: We were provided with complimentary tickets to the Royal Bath and West show together with the ingredients for the toastie and a lovely Barbers goodie bag. Please note that all words and opinions are my own and have not been influenced in any way.