I visited Graham and his lovely family in the summer when the cows were out grazing the lush Lancashire grass and the skies were a dark inky blue, though it was still clear enough to see Beacon Fell in the distance. Like many a farmhouse cheesemaker in the British Isles, Graham is wonderfully convivial, with a brilliant sense of humour. It’s clear when you meet him that he loves his job, or ‘just our way of life’, as he would call it, making Lancashire cheese in exactly the same way his grandmother did many years before.
Over a brew, I sat with the Kirkham family, talking about the wonders of farmhouse cheese and its welcoming community, and how every year a bunch of Britain’s best farmhouse cheesemakers travel to Cambridge for a long weekend and spend their days on the River Cam, invariably falling in as they try their hand at punting – something I’d love to see!
This loaf is effectively a large, savoury scone made with fresh chives, Kirkham’s Lancashire and a handful of crunchy walnuts. I love to take slices of it on a long walk with a Thermos full of homemade soup, and savour it as I sit by the river or under the canopy of a large tree.
A Portrait of British Cheese by Angus D. Birditt is available to order now.
Kirkham’s Lancashire Loaf
- 170 g self-raising flour
- handful of fresh chives, finely chopped
- 110 g walnuts, finely chopped
- 170 g Kirkham’s Lancashire, grated
- 3 tbsp whole milk
- 1 large egg
- sea salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4 and line two small loaf tins with baking parchment (I used two white enamel oblong dishes at 16cm long). You can also use one large loaf tin – also lined with baking parchment – if you prefer having a larger loaf.
- In both cases, combine the flour, chives, walnuts, 150g of the cheese, salt and pepper in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, beat the milk and egg together.
- Gradually add the egg mixture to the flour and cheese mixture and stir together until all the flour has been combined well.
- If using two small dishes, halve the dough mixture and roughly shape each half into a small loaf. Or if you are using one large dish, form the dough into a single loaf. In both cases, then scatter the rest of the cheese on top and bake in the oven for 25–30 minutes, until golden brown. Place the loaves (or large single loaf) on a wire rack to cool before slicing.
- Cut into thick slices and spread with butter. I love serving this loaf with a sweet tomato or rich onion soup.
A Portrait of British Cheese by Angus D. Birditt (Quadrille, £27), Photography © Angus D. Birditt