The big cheese August 2016
The Big Cheese at Thornham Deli
At this time of year we love picnics, BBQs and al fresco dining. One of the ingredients that is always sure to make an appearance at some point of the meal is a lovely cheese. Whether it is in a sandwich, as part of a board with charcuterie and pickles, with biscuits and grapes or just as a lovely bite in its own right, cheese quite often emerges as the star of the show.


the big chees at thornham deli

Here at the Deli we love supporting local suppliers and producers and in the case of cheese, we are spoilt for choice. British cheese, and Norfolk cheese in particular, is really coming into its own as our cheesemakers use the best in cow and goats milk, combined with a little bit of clever science - the cheesemaker truly is a food-making alchemist.

Catherine Temple is a pioneer in this field. A trained scientist, Mrs Temple’s cheeses are a work of art and science, but she was almost forced into cheese-making when it was clear the family dairy herd was not going to make enough money to survive purely as a milk producing unit.

Here is her story:

Catherine Temple is one of the pioneers of the Norfolk foodie scene. She hails from a farm in Nottinghamshire where, she says, she rapidly saw that traditional dairy farming was under threat from the low prices paid to farmers. She qualified as a scientist and, while studying, met her husband-to-be Stephen – who was brought up on a farm in Wighton, near Wells-next-the-Sea on the Norfolk coast. The couple went to Malawi in Africa to work as researchers on tea plantations but when the project ended and the couple returned to England in 1998, they both realised they needed to find some way to make Stephen’s family farm pay.

“I was in the library writing up my pHD when I spotted the cheese shelf,” says Catherine. “I got some books out on how to make cheese, and combined that with the knowledge I had gleaned from my mother, who used to make cheese when we had a glut of milk on the farm.”

This self-tuition was enhanced by research trips to Italy, France, New Zealand and some experimentation. The Mrs Temple cheese range that emerged from Catherine’s research is a success story in its own right. What began as a small side-line business selling at local farmers' markets is now a thriving cheese making operation, employing three full-time cheese makers, admin staff and requiring a good deal of input from both Catherine and Stephen. It also has the ultimate seal of approval – it has regularly appeared on menu at the Queen’s residence at Sandringham.

Catherine still works full-time at the University of East Anglia, while continuing to run cheese and wine evenings and front Mrs Temple’s marketing strategy. Stephen runs the 500 acre farm and devotes some time every day to the cheese making process.

One of the things that Catherine is most pleased about, is the self-sustainability of the whole operation. “We are off-grid; we produce our own electricity, we source our own water, we grow fuel for our power plant. We are not just carbon-neutral, we are carbon-negative. And of course, we created three completely new jobs for local people.”

At 58 years, Catherine is looking forward to a time when she can retire from her many jobs, but the pride shines through as she beats the drum for British produce. “I travelled across the world to look at the way cheese was made in other countries but now we should all look a bit closer to home. Where there were 90 cheese producers in the UK when I set out, there are now more than 400. And there are some fantastic cheeses out there. All these producers are trying to carve out their own niche. I would say that British cheese is now the best in the world. I don’t believe in the word legacy, but when I retire, I will know the UK’s cheese industry is in very good hands.”

Here are some of the thoughts on favourite cheeses from our lovely Deli team:

“The black bomber cheddar is undoubtedly our most popular cheese behind the deli counter. This strong cheddar is beautifully complimented by its smooth and creamy texture. A must have!” - Elsa Buck

“I absolutely love Mrs Temple's copy's cloud. It is a wonderful, local alternative to Brie. Creamy and full of flavour” - Denise Le Gallez

“I believe Binham Blue is the best local cheese. I love how creamy it is whilst still being a strong flavoured blue cheese.” - Maddie Smith

“Norfolk Tawny is one of our newer cheeses. The tawny's strong flavours are not for the faint hearted but are perfect for all cheese lovers.” - Lucy Roberts