There is nothing quite like a big pile of cheese to celebrate your birthday so this year I thought I would go one better and got Matt a cheese course!
This weekend just gone we headed to the Yarner Trust (http://www.yarnertrust.org/), near Bideford in North Devon. Located in the little village of Welcome, just 1 1/2 miles from the coast, this organisation is dedicated to providing training for people who are interested in becoming self-sufficient.
They are based in a beautiful 14th century farm. We stayed the night and had a lovely little room with wobbly walls and original floor boards. It was very difficult to drag ourselves back to boring old London!
The cheese making course was run by the incredibly knowledgeable Vera Tooke. Over the course of the day (from 8 until 3) we firstly made soft cheese flavoured with herbs and garlic (a bit like Boursin). This is it hanging and then the finished product...
Second was the mozarella - a remarkably easy cheese to make - you just add the starter and rennet and then leave for 2 hours before pulling out lumps of curds, adding some bioling water, then stretching into mozarella balls
Finally, we made a Gouda like cheese. The Gouda has to sit for a month before it is ready so we currently have it in a cupboard - we turn it every day for the first week then once a week from then on. It's already looking lovely and yellowy on the outside so we'll report back once it's ripe.
Not only did we make cheese but we had a thoroughly lovely very short break away. On the way down we visited Clovelly, which I haven't been too since I was little, and it was just as lovely as I remember. You have to pay to enter the village because it's so popular in the summer and it consists of one, very long, very steep street down to the sea. They still have donkeys to carry goods up and down. In fact, here's a donkey we picked up on the way (his name's Dominic)
In Welcombe itself we had a good explore - we walked the vert steep road to the coast, which is protected by the National Trust and has a gorgeous little river ending in a waterfall at the sea. Opposite the river was a very beautiful house at which I said, "you know, I swear that's Kirsty Alssop's house" and do you know what?
Our final event was a visit to the local pub - and what a local pub it was! The Old Smithy is a lovely thatched building from the outside and inside wouldn't look out of place as a quirky London pub. Needless to say we fully sampled the local cider (well, it was half the price of London!) and were treated to an impromptu performance by a Quartet of chapscalled The Show Ponies playing varous instruments and singing what can only be described as twenties ragtime meets cabaret - brilliant!