Guest blogger Monica Shaw looks at the options for vegetarians in British Cheese Week. What, you thought all cheese was vegetarian? Think again...
All Photography by Monica Shaw
Go to any gastro pub in Britain and more often than not the vegetarian option will involve some form of goats cheese. As much as we veggies would love a little more creativity on these menus, we admit that many of us consider cheese a staple of our diet. It’s got protein, calcium and most importantly, that savoury deliciousness that can raise a boring salad or bland pasta dish to an altogether new level.
Cheese’s significance in the meat-free diet makes British Cheese Week all the more significant to vegetarians. As we’re celebrating this god amongst foods, it’s worth making a special shout-out out to all the vegetarian cheeses out there.
Our non-veg readers may be surprised to learn that cheese isn’t always vegetarian. Why? It all comes down to the rennet.
Rennet is the ingredient in cheese that coagulates the milk, separating it into curds and whey. Many cheese are made with animal-based rennet, an enzyme that comes from the stomachs of calves, lambs or pigs. Hence, not vegetarian.
Fortunately, there are huge numbers of British cheeses available made with vegetarian rennet and most producers now label their cheese to indicate the type of rennet it uses (if they don’t just ask).
One of our favourite veg cheeses is Old Winchester, a hard Italian-style cheese that makes a very fine substitute for Parmesan (Italian law makes it impossible to make Parmesan without using animal rennet and still give it the name “Parmesan”, making this cheese automatically off-limits for vegetarians).
Another favourite is Spenwood sheep’s cheese made by Anne and Andy Wigmore in Riseley, Berkshire and sold at Neal’s Yard Dairy, which labels all of their cheeses with the type of rennet it uses.
A trip to the Waitrose cheese counter or your local cheesemonger will reveal that there are loads of wonderful vegetarian British cheeses out there. So in the spirit of British Cheese Week, why not get tasting?
Got a favourite vegetarian cheese you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments
Blog post by Monica Shaw