These days there are not many food items which have missed out on the ‘Chilli’ treatment, and Cheese is no exception. But unfortunately there still seems to be a distinct lack of tasty chilli cheeses in our supermarkets, I can think of one major name but that is it apart from the supermarkets own labelled cheeses that appear at Christmas and are ultimately disappointing.
So it was brilliant to hear of Windyridge Cheese Ltd based in Devon who make a wide range of ‘Flavoured’ Cheeses. They sell over 30 different flavours, but sent us their complete ‘Bull at a Gate’ Chilli flavoured range.
These are Curry Cheddar, Tomato Twister, Jalapeno Jack, Moroccan Fruit, Mex Mix, Afterburn, Moroccan Spice and Flaming Inferno. I am informed that Afterburn is their best seller.
Windyridge Cheese ltd is a blended cheese company originally formed in 2002 from its original base in Higher Holton, just outside Wincanton, Somerset. In October 2011 the company was taken over by Melvin Glynn and Olivier Chavanon who were previously Managing Director and Marketing Director of Ilchester Cheese until they sold that business to Norseland UK.
In May 2012 Windyridge Cheese was relocated to a new purpose built factory in Poyntington, Dorset.
All of their cheeses are handmade from specially graded Mature Cheddar, Red Leicester or Wensleydale and is ‘hand pressed’ not ‘extruded’ which gives a much better texture. All ingredients are sourced from local suppliers where possible to ensure a consistent product.
The products are available in 3kg whole wheels, 1.5kg half-moons or 200g pre-pack portions and are hand cut to order.
Now, in my real job I am a firefighter and a fire station favourite is a cheese toastie so who better to help me with this review than my fellow watch members.
These are reviewed in a unofficial heat order according to Windyridge Cheese, starting with the mildest.
All the cheeses below are made from blending ready made Mature Cheddar and adding the relevant ingredients then repressing the cheese to reform it in the same way Mexicana is made.
Although technically not a chilli cheese, the idea of curry and cheese is a great idea, and a curry always goes down well on a fire station! Once unwrapped I can detect the aroma of the curry spices, and tasting does indeed remind me of curry, however the lack of the chilli heat means these flavours are not a strong as they could be. The colour throughout the block is great and looks like marble. It breaks and becomes slightly crumbly but is not like the horrible cheap mild cheddar you can buy which feels like rubber.
This cheese is nice and subtle in it’s flavours.
Mature Cheddar Cheese, Spices (Coriander, Turmeric, Salt, All Spice, Ginger, Fenugreek, Garlic, Black Pepper, Cumin, Red Pepper)
This cheese has great colour, a nice pink shade with large red flecks which must be the tomato pieces. The ingredients list state Habanero chillies but the percentage must be very low as I can hardly detect the chilli, I know its there but there is no burn, the chives give a good hint of onion. Tomato, cheese and onion are a match in any dish. The same comments about the texture applies, firm but nice and crumbly once broken apart.
Mature Cheddar Cheese, Habanero Chillies, Tomato Powder, Tomato Pieces, Chive Rolls
This block is a fairly standard cheddar colour with large pieces of green Jalapeno visible throughout and the odd chilli seed. I would say again that the chilli taste is there but it’s so subtle, there is almost a hint of onion but according to the ingredients there is none included. Compared to the two types above, this has less extra flavour so if you get a piece with no green or seeds then all you will taste is Mature cheddar.
Mature Cheddar Cheese, Green Jalapeno Peppers
Now here we have a jump in the heat and flavour. This block of cheese looks great, with large pieces of Apricots and Raisins and reminds me of a spicy tagine in colour. There are also good size pieces of red which I assume are the Red Peppers. The heat comes from the Harissa seasoning, although traditionally a Tunisian ingredient, it has made in roads into Moroccan cooking in recent years.
As with the other cheeses, this crumbles nicely once broken, and reveals more of the added ingredients, every now and then you can detect chunks of Apricots, another traditional tagine ingredient. I didn’t think I would like this cheese as I’m not a big fan of fruit with cheese but this does work well.
Mature Cheddar Cheese, Apricots, Raisins, Harissa Seasoning (Cayenne Pepper, Salt, Acidity Regulator: E262, Smoke Flavouring), Mixed Red & Green Bell Peppers, Red Chilli Peppers
Mex Mix Cheddar
Next is a cheese which on first impressions, looks and tastes very similar to the Moroccan Fruits, except there are are no chunky added ingredients, I can detect the garlic and onion, and initially there is no chilli taste but after a few seconds I can feel it’s presence, but it’s very subtle, less that the previous cheese. It has good flavour but I feel this is not hugely different in taste from the Moroccan Fruits.
Mature Cheddar Cheese, Spices, Spice Extract, Onion, Tomato, Garlic, Salt, Flavourings, Herbs, Pepper
This variety is the companies best seller, it is the most well known and the only one I had heard of prior to reviewing these. This block of cheese has a great look, keeping the pale colour of the cheddar with lots of lovely flecks of red and green, which is a mix of the red and green bell peppers and Jalapenos. The garlic comes through well to make this the tastiest of the cheeses so far. I can see why it is the best seller. The Jalapenos give a nice warming feeling and would definitely appeal to the masses who want chilli cheese, although I would say the heat is marginally hotter than the Moroccan Fruits, hot but not too hot. Very good all round.
Mature Cheddar Cheese, Mixed Red & Green Bell Peppers, Garlic Powder, Jalapeno Peppers, Red Chilli Peppers
The second of the Moroccan named cheeses, this time with Harissa paste instead of Harissa Seasoning presumably to give more all round flavour as it doesn’t have the extra fruit pieces. The Harissa paste includes Rose Petals which does actually add a very subtle floral note the the flavouring and works well. The chilli heat level is slightly higher again and this a more all round mouth heat which lingers for a while and then fades. Again, the heat level is still fairly low which is understandable as all these cheeses are made for a wide audience. Not as tasty as the Moroccan Fruits but the Rose Petals do add to the overall flavour.
Mature Cheddar Cheese, Harissa Paste (Paprika, Salt, Rose Petals, Spices, Citric Acid), Soya Oil
So now to the final cheese in the set, the companies hottest cheese, a very simple ingredients list, the Cayenne pepper gives the cheddar the pale red colour and there are flakes throughout the block from the non identified red chillies. This does has a fairly plain flavour especially compared to some of the others in the range, the chilli heat is there. At first taste it took about 5 seconds to appear, a mouth and throat heat which then built, and I would agree this is the hottest in the range and more than hot enough for the average shopper who wants chilli heat in their cheddar.
Mature Cheddar Cheese, Ground Ginger, Cayenne pepper, Red Chillies
Cheeses kindly supplied by Windyridge Cheese Ltd
So there you have it, 8 Chilli Cheeses which vary in flavour and heat levels, but none of them are what I consider to be really hot and I can understand why, as these are not sold as extreme products. Having said that it would be great to see the company make a couple of extra hot versions using some super hot chillies.
Needless to say all these cheddars went down very well at the Fire Station, the watch are not hardened chilli heads so the Flaming Inferno was more than enough for most of them! One thing that was noticed by everyone that tested by making cheese toasties or cheese on toast, was that the cheddar melted very well. So many cheddars, when melted dissolve into a pool of liquid fat and a small amount of solids are left behind, but the cheddar used here seems to be a decent quality.
I haven’t mentioned the packaging in any of the mini reviews, but you can see from the pictures above they all follow the same design (apart from the Tomato Twister) with the picture of the Bull and a different colour background, some are very similar and I found myself mixing them up, not a big issue really. The labels are bright and clear which is all you want.
As mentioned at the start, these are blended cheeses, the extra ingredients are added in to previously made mature cheddar. This is a quicker way to make flavoured cheeses as the company will not have to wait for the cheddar to mature which enables a faster turnaround of orders.
The cheeses are available in various parts of the country from delis and farm shops, market traders and various food events during the year including some Chilli festivals.
For availability in your area take a look at the Windyridge website for details of stockists.
The 200g pre packaged blocks pictured are sold for a RRP of £2.49
The majority is sold by weight at delis or markets and the RRP is £11.99 per kg