The Truffler: British Cheese Festival; Abergavenny; Peter Gordon; Australian beef

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Indy Lifestyle Online

All the grands fromages of the British cheese world are gathered together to create a tremendous stink in the Cotswolds town of Stow-on-the-Wold this weekend. It's the biggest-ever British Cheese Festival and Awards, and for the second year running, all cheese-lovers are invited to come along and smell, taste, buy and talk cheese. The Awards, reflecting the heartening resurgence of cheesemaking in this country, began in 1994; this is the second year the public has been able to get involved. Today and tomorrow, in the Town Square, there's a cheese market (admission £2) with more than 350 cheeses for sale. If that seems a bewildering range, the judges have tasted more than double that number to choose winners of the different categories – see all the entries displayed in St Edward's Hall. There are also workshops and talks by cheesemakers and experts. Tickets not yet sold can be bought at the ticket office today and tomorrow. For details, visit www. thecheeseweb.com.

¿ Prospect Books, whose publisher Tom Jaine held court with Alan Davidson at Abergavenny's Borough Theatre last weekend as part of the Welsh town's humdinger of a Food Festival, was displaying its copies of Noshe Djan, Afghan Food & Cookery by Helen Saberi on its stand in the Festival Market. By the end of Saturday, Jaine had already sold four copies, and admitted the subject was indeed topical. Prospect's hot new title, Trifle, by Saberi and Alan Davidson, was, however, selling even better.

¿ Radio 4 listeners who weren't in Abergavenny may have felt as if they were when they turned on The Food Programme last Sunday or Monday. The programme broadcast an Any Questions?-type debate between panellists who included Raymond Blanc and Mike Love, vice-president of McDonald's in the UK. Love, who has worked for the Conservative Party and Shell and is clearly no stranger to having to defend the unpopular, appeared unruffled by an audience generally unsympathetic to his cause – unless McDonald's can be persuaded to buy more Welsh meat for its burgers. Local food? Of course it's a good idea, Love agreed; it all depends what you mean by local. Perhaps not just coincidental with Love's appearance in Abergavenny was the fact that McDonald's has just appealed against Monmouthshire County Council's refusal to grant it planning permission for one of its gaffs on the edge of town. Abergavenny awaits the inspector's report...

¿ Peter Gordon, the Kiwi chef who made kangaroo-meat respectable, is back on the high street – Marylebone in London, to be precise – with his new restaurant The Providores, so expect Antipodean ingredients back in the spotlight. Cherikoff, The Rare Spice Company, sources the likes of akudjura (ground bush tomato – tastes similar to sun-dried tomatoes), lemon myrtle, and dried, and extract of, wattleseed (I'm getting coffee, chocolate, and yes, hazelnut – use it to flavour desserts). These are among the bush foods on which Aborigines survived much better than they do on a Western diet. Cherikoff's herbs and spices are now supplied wholesale in London, and to Sainsbury's Special Selection racks, where you may find wattleseeds, Australian aniseed myrtle (a sweeter aniseed), forest berry herb (tastes of passionfruit, caraway and cumin), and lemon myrtle, which, with its lemon, lime and lemongrass aroma, Aborigines rated as an aphrodisiac and pick-me-up.

¿ And it's not just spices – now the Australians are bringing in their own top-class beef. Based in Guildford, Big Island (0845 330 1124) is importing steak from grass-fed, free-range herds of Herefords and Aberdeen Angus in Western Australia and selling it by mail order and through Harvey Nichols' food hall. After five weeks at sea, the Scotch fillet, sirloin, rump and rib-eye steaks arrive in Surrey, and are then sent on by mail, still in the chilled vac-packs, to arrive with customers the following day. Delivery charge is £5 per box. Packs range in size and price, from 2-3.5kg of fillet steak at £22.50 per kilo, to 4-5kg of rump steak at £11.90 per kilo.

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