This is a very simple idea and one which we know has worked for lots of you: sets of biscuits, chutneys and preserves to go with cheese, to suit numbers from 25 up to 150. We call them 'wedding bundles', but of course they'd suit any large event where there's a lot of people and a lot of cheese!
Each bundle contains:
- biscuits and crackers;
- preserves of various sorts - chutneys, pickles, relishes;
- a set membrillo-type preserve.
What's on offer here has been refined over the years. Everything has earned its place and nothing overlaps with anything else. Our two chutney makers are a) local and b) very local. Jay Allan of Exeter-based Hillside is a former chef who left the restaurant kitchen to start making his own products (including a wonderful fig chutney and an inventive twist on piccalilli) about 10 years ago. For Clare Gault - who is Clare's Preserves - it involved more of a change: her previous job was as an engineer on board ships! Now she makes the most beautiful range of pickles and relishes, and she does it about 200 yds up the road from The Cheese Shed, which means re-stocking usually happens very fast indeed.
The idea of a set preserve - where fruit is made into a firm, sliceable jelly - is most obviously associated with the Spanish membrillo, made from quinces. Our version is made in Dorset; as well as a classic quince flavour, Global Harvest also make versions using figs, pears, and damsons.
The biscuits are a beautifully varied bunch. Bath Olivers are, I suppose, the English classic - and something we felt we had to stock almost as soon as The Cheese Shed started. Then we absolutely needed to have an oat biscuit, and so we stock Rick Stein's version, made just next door in Cornwall.
The other three we use all have a Scottish connection I always thought water biscuits were a bit dull ... until, that is, I was introduced to the ones made by Stag's Bakery up in the Isle of Lewis - then I had to take it all back! Peter's Yard is the Edinburgh-based business based around the idea of Swedish sourdough crispbreads, which they've now been making for a number of years here in the UK. Finally, one day I was browsing the shelves of the Riverford Farm Shop near Totnes when a stack of sturdy, non-nonsense brown boxes caught my eye. They contained Oval Alberts, made by McKenzies in Aberdeenshire - and this is a lovely floury biscuit which has formed the final part of the picture for us. We use both plain and flavoured ones in these bundles.