Alex James: Mozzarella magic in the Daylesford deli

Rural Notebook
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The Independent Online

I forgot everything, stopped talking. My heart missed a beat. Hard to believe that no one else was fussing or pointing. No one seemed to have even noticed, but there it was, just sitting quietly between the truffled Brie and the Stichelton: My first glimpse of the fabled Laverstoke Park Mozzarella. Possibly the most expensive, most ambitious, most ridiculously wonderful cheese ever conceived, before my very eyes on the cheese counter at Daylesford at last.

This biodynamic buffalo mozzarella is the flagship product resulting from the next-generation farming endeavours of ex-Formula One champion Jody Scheckter in Hampshire. Stand it beside another mozzarella and they would look quite similar. But there is nothing like this cheese – the man has redeveloped the entire agricultural model to make it.

I wouldn't like to guess at the amount of money he has spent. He's practically re-invented soil, introduced new composting systems, imported the largest herd of water buffalo in the country, brought in mozzarella oompah-loompahs from Italy to superintend. But will this cheese be a hit the way Stinking Bishop is a hit? It certainly deserves to be, but then who can say? The Darkness spent a fortune trying to re-invent the axioms of rock on their second album and came up with mad mush that nobody wanted.

All said and done, it is a mozzarella, which is really a cheese for people who don't like cheese that much. Mozzarella, even the very best, which this certainly is, could never be the finale of a great repast. As a type of cheese, it's first-act stuff, really. Mozzarella leaves little puddles wherever it stands, doesn't keep very long. Sometimes it squeaks on the teeth. It doesn't ever taste of much. I put some under the grill (Melted cheese is the highly addictive "crack" form of cheese). Well, soon there wasn't any left but I think the best thing about it this cheese is that it is uniquely and perfectly round, like a little world of its own. Blessed are the cheese-makers.

Here comes the summer

This summer has already been better than last year, even if it rains from now until September. It was frustrating last summer, after having spent the entire winter turning an acre of concrete outside the back door into a garden, not to be able to sit outside very much. Chipping Norton, where we go to buy crisps and magazines, is quite surprisingly the coldest town in England. It's high up, so it's windy as well, but none of the brochures tells you this.

Well within our limits

I am using water from a well we discovered beneath the concrete to irrigate our vegetable patch. The house was probably built here because of the well (it is ancient). I had been wondering whether it was OK to drink the water, but realised yesterday that I had connected the kids' paddling pool to the well water tap, so they've been drinking it all weekend. We are ready for anything now. I feel very safe.