A Cheesy Day out

A Cheesy Day Out

Like many we find present giving often becomes difficult the longer you know someone – there are only so many purple jumpers you can give a person. Over the years Christine (my husband’s sister) and I have had several Activity days instead. Learning/improving a skill whilst spending a day away from the children does have its attractions (we love them really)

We have learnt the basic intricacies of both Thai and Indian cookery, improved our bread-making ability and made a good team creating a flavoured sausage you will never find in a butcher’s cabinet.

Our latest ‘day out’ was to the Northumberland Cheese Company. https://www.northumberlandcheese.co.uk/

The day started gently with a coffee and a chat with Martin (Manager), previously a Naval Chef he discovered a passion for cheese after leaving the service.

Once acquainted we were instructed to ‘don the appropriate gear’ – white coats, wellies and a hairnet – and had a very instructive guide through the various ‘cheese rooms’ so we could gather a sense of the process from when the milk arrives to the point of distribution of cheese to the customers.

Then it was down to the business of producing cheese – the visitors (us) have the option to observe or to join in. Well, we are both ‘hands on’ folk so having rolled up our sleeves and thoroughly washed our hands we joined in the days work. I think that doing something improves the learning of a skill – plus it provided a greater opportunity to ask questions. We had so many queries Craig must have ended the day with a headache.

Both batches were made using Jersey milk – although the morning’s cheese will differ from the afternoon’s due to the various techniques used during the maturing process.  One will sit in brine for 24 hours, the other will spend time in the Mould Room (enough science, I learnt a lot in 6 hours but not enough to give a lecture)

We added starters and Rennet when instructed. I learnt why my one previous attempt to use Rennet was a disaster – always read and abide by the instructions is now my advice.

There was great fun in cutting the curds (often performed by a rotating set of cutters – but we just had to try).

We then impersonated ‘artisans’ when we netted and transferred the curds to the moulds – overseen by Craig and Johnny, who also made sure each mould had the correct weight as it was surprising how quickly the whey separates even more and what was once a full mould becomes shallow.

We attempted to assist with the ‘turning’ of the moulds but quickly decided that really was best left to the experts, although we did help to remove the nets.

We think, in total, we assisted with making 180KG of cheese. We were not involved with the making of the Wedding Cake you will be pleased to note, although we did have the opportunity to make a small round for ourselves. Christine made sure those moulds were well filled ?

I was really surprised at the volume of whey that is left over once the curds are removed so it was good to hear how it is re-cycled back on the farm (well, excluding what we spilt on the floor – it really is a messy business)

In-between batches we were treated to lunch in the café. It is very popular so call in if you are passing and enjoy a drink and light meal. Follow the link for directions. https://www.northumberlandcheese.co.uk/cheese-loft-cafe

I tried the Cheese Soup, new to me, and very good it was too. Each day the soup is made fresh using any available cheese so each day it is different. Very recommended.

A cheese tasting session encouraged me to try cheeses I would not normally taste – the Nettle was surprisingly mild whilst my favourite was the Original, a mild cheese yet full of flavour.

Now, we must wait 12 weeks for the 500g sample of ‘our’ cheese to arrive in the post.

(note – except for photo of Cheese Company building, taken by myself, all other photos are from Google Images. We were too busy to have even thought of taking in a camera and I doubt it would have been permitted)

Photo Acknowledgement:

Featured Image – Photo by Alexander Maasch on Unsplash




Bangkok to Singapore 2016

Bangkok to Singapore 2016

After a crazy 24 hours in Bangkok accompanied by monsoon rains we looked forward to a relaxing journey back to Singapore aboard the luxurious Belmond train. The itinerary would take us through Thailand and Malaysia. We would be travelling for 4 days, spending 3 nights on board calling at River Kwai and Death Museum, Kuala Kangsar and Kuala Lumpar before arriving at Singapore Woodlands Station for a short car trip into Singapore city.

The purpose of the journey had been to celebrate my retirement. We started the holiday in Singapore attending the 3-day Formula 1 Grand Prix prior to flying north. Away from the noise and bustle of fast cars and large crowds – we obviously had never visited Bangkok before!

We knew we would only have a short time, so by pre-planning, we did manage to visit a variety of Temples, Palaces and markets. We used the popular local mode of transport – Boat/ferry – to move up the river then walked back towards the city centre stopping at places of interest. Well, most of the way, we did eventually give up and caught the boat back. They are very regular and behave like buses – you wait some time then two come at once.

Luckily the day we arrived was dry – and, again, luckily the next morning a monsoon arrived which changed our plans. Looking for ‘indoor’ pursuits we discovered the Jim Thompson Museum, him of Silk and architecture fame. I would recommend a visit to view the building itself alone – plus lunch in the restaurant was good. (http://www.jimthompsonhouse.com/)

Boarding the train at Hua Lampong station was interesting – meeting fellow passengers with who we would be spending the next 4 days could have been an anxious time but it was easy to see that everyone else was as excited about the coming adventure as I was. www.Belmond.com/trains

The cabins were comfortable and reasonably spacious, although not sure how someone of a larger size would negotiate the shower. We avoided the need to toss a coin as to who would climb up to the top bunk as we had twin beds. That said we did have a ‘bunk bed’ arrangement when we travelled on the Orient Express to Venice and coped well.

It is obvious that a lot of planning is undertaken by the train team to ensure everyone has a good experience – down to rotating seating plans and settings for meals. No panic if you were seated with anyone difficult to engage with as the chances were you would not see them again. We were lucky in that our fellow passengers were friendly and fun yet not encroaching when we wanted to sit quietly in the Observation Car etc.

The Observation Car was popular – it was the only place to obtain access to Wi-Fi, although few people were observed using it and then only for short periods. I used it for a few minutes daily just to send updates and photos to our children. Other than sitting peacefully watching the world go by the main source of fun in this car were the passing Palm Fronds and low hanging trees that would ‘whip’ anyone lost in a daydream – much to the entertainment of others.

For me the highlight, if I could call it that, was the trip to the River Kwai and the visit to the Death Railway Museum and Research Centre. Disembarking from the train we travelled on a slow boat along the river. The original bridge is no longer there although some iron sections of it were used when the bridge was re-built. During the boat journey an Australian expat related the history of the bridge and the many nationalities forced to suffer dire living and working conditions whilst it was built. The focus at the museum is to demonstrate the grisly events and conditions in realistic terms. Although not a vast exhibition I found it very emotive. ‘Man’s inhumanity to man’

Followed by a visit to a WW11 Cemetery, beautifully maintained as they always are, added to the poignancy of the day and it was a rather sober group that returned to the Train to continue our journey towards Malaysia.

The excellent dining experience soon lifted the mood and many found their way to the Bar to enjoy the piano playing and local traditional entertainment.  

The train also stopped at Kuala Kangsar where we visited local Museums, a Mosque and finally a Royal Palace (that was closed for renovation, so we only could walk around the perimeter)

Although a stop at Kuala Lumpar was planned our train had had to wait in a siding for a national express that was delayed, consequently we did not arrive in KL until late and so were restricted to a walk along the platform.

The train journey is a way to see local scenery and village life at a leisurely pace, providing an opportunity to gaze on paddy fields and the many uses (and abuses) of scooters as a mode of transport.

Nowadays the train terminates at Woodlands Station in north Singapore, so a short Taxi ride is required to travel to the city centre. For us this meant a journey to Raffles for a 4 night stay before our flight back to the UK.  The reputation of exceptional service and friendly staff is well deserved in this traditional hotel.

Returning to the office to render my resignation and to commence working three months’ notice did not go as planned – due to events in my absence I found myself agreeing to stay another 9 months.

Back to earth with a bump you could say.