Steven Lamb is a busy man. He is also an inspiring one. Listening to him talking about two of his culinary loves – charcuterie and cheese – instantly makes you want to know how to cure, smoke and get elbow deep in cheese curd. It is therefore no surprise that he shares his enthusiasm and expertise through teaching, writing and food consulting across the UK. He has also spent over a decade working alongside the legendary Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall as an integral part of the southwest River Cottage HQ cookery school and event operation. His first RC handbook ‘Curing & Smoking’ was a huge success and his second handbook ‘Cheese and Dairy’ is published on 22nd March. We were keen to find out more about this native Mancunian and why he has made his home in Dorset… When and how did your love affair with the west country begin?
My Great Grandfather played football for Exeter City in 1908 and he appeared in the club’s first ever professional fixture in the Southern League against Millwall on 2nd September 1908. So the West Country was always a place that had a family draw. I came from Manchester on camping trips when I was younger and have always felt an affinity with the area. It is the antithesis of an urban landscape and one I felt drawn to. Where would you go in spring to think/dream/dog walk?
I have three brilliant daughters all under the age of 8, 2 dogs, a cat and a very understanding wife which makes for a house full of noise and activity. Some days I feel as though I would walk over broken glass barefoot just to get some quiet and time to think. There are some wonderful walks where we live but I’m not a very good aimless rambler – I like to have a purpose or destination. So any walk that involves a good pub en route or a great view or both work for me. I like to walk on Dartmoor to reach a Tor or beat the tide walking from Charmouth to Lyme Regis but invariably as a family and with the dogs in tow this can be hard. I sometimes think that to other people we must resemble a travelling circus. What is your favourite view?
I love the view of Lyme Bay from on top of Golden Cap. I also think that the 360 degrees panasonic views from Pilsdon are incredible. Some of the most remarkable views I have experienced are in Somerset where occasionally you find yourself below sea level which feels that all you can see is sky. The view from the tree swing on Burrow Hill is magical and whenever I drive North I love to glimpse the snapshot view of Glastonbury Tor from the M5. I caught it by accident once and now it has become a beacon. Is there anything you wouldn’t eat?
I am an adventurous eater but even at the end of the world when all there is for survival is tripe, I am still opting out of that option thank you very much. What are your favourite spring ingredients?
We don’t really think of milk as a seasonal ingredient because it has become so industrialised, however if you can get hold of some raw milk that is packed full of flavour from the best organic spring pasture; then make a simple fresh cheese curd with it you would then understand how it is very seasonal. Where do you like to eat out?
A few of my favourites are Brassica in Beaminster, The Pig Hotel near Honiton and The Lord Poulet Arms in Hinton St George. Who are your favourite food producers?
There are so many great producers but some of my favourites are Barber’s Cheese, Black Cow Vodka, Castlewood Sparkling English Wine and Trill Farm Salads. Where is the best place for a campfire beach party of country picnic?
Anywhere on Stonebarrow on a sunny spring day will be the best picnic spot or in an orchard in Kingsbury Episcipi, Somerset. Can you share a hidden gem with us?
The Sea Shanty Café on Branscombe Beach What would you cook for a spring Sunday lunch at home with your family?
Slow roast hogget, studded with anchovies, served with greens, rosemary roasted potatoes and garlic scapes. One of the best menus to celebrate spring! If you could write a handbook on anything what would it be?
I’ve just finished a book on cheese and dairy for River Cottage which is a mixture of celebrating the artisan crafts of some wonderful producers but also a ‘how to make your own’ manual. I like the format of a handbook because it is aimed at getting the reader to feel inspired and confident enough to start their own practical journey of making produce. I imagine they are not the sort of books that are read cover to cover but people dip in and out of them when they feel the urge to create something. So with that format in mind, I would be interested in a handbook that concentrated on small goods such as pates, terrines, rillets, balantines, parfaits and confit. River Cottage Handbook No.16 Cheese & Dairy by Steven Lamb, published 22nd March by Bloomsbury www.stevenlamb.net