Guernsey: Hedge Veg, Fenella Maddison’s Fort Grey cheese and a recipe for aubergines

August 31, 2009 § 2 Comments

One charming aspect of visiting Guernsey, the island of a thousand greenhouses, is discovering the local custom of “hedge veg”.  Keen amateur gardeners sell their surplus produce in their front gardens or at the roadside, leaving out an honesty box.  You will find most often potatoes, tomatoes and French beans, also cucumbers, peppers and aubergines and occasionally melons and grapes too.  Shops are thin on the ground outside St Peter Port but during the summer months, thanks to hedge veg, you will find an abundant supply of fresh picked fruit, vegetables and salad wherever you are on the island.

Here’s a rather splendid example from the west coast:

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The last day of our holiday came round on Saturday so I decided to to pick up some fresh Guernsey produce for a nostalgic supper at home that evening.  First stop was our local Vazon Bay roadside stall for some gorgeous glossy aubergines:

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Next, a visit to the bustling Forest Stores en route to the airport to track down a locally made soft blue cheese called Fort Grey.  I’d spotted an article on this cheese in the Guernsey Evening Press a few days earlier.  It’s made by Fenella Maddison using local Guernsey cows’ milk from Torteval.  She made the headlines after taking a Silver award at this year’s Nantwich Cheese Festival held at the end of July.

Here’s Fenella’s cheese which made a lovely end to our meal back home later that evening.  It’s soft and creamy but with a distinct blue tang.  If you enjoy Gorgonzola dolce then I think you would enjoy this cheese too and I urge you to give it a try if ever you have the chance.

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Savouring the cheese at the end of our meal the name Maddison suddenly rang a bell – Derek Maddison was a former colleague of mine at GEC’s Stanhope Gate head office in London some years ago.  I remembered he’d then moved to Guernsey to take up an insurance job.  The mental wheels kept turning and I remembered too that his girlfriend at that time was called Fenella… what a coincidence!  Clearly Derek and Fenella are married, living in Guernsey and Fenella is now an artisan cheesemaker.  Good on you Fenella!  I shall drop you a line shortly and let you know how much I enjoyed your cheese.

Before the cheese course, I turned the glossy Guernsey aubergines I brought home into one of my favourite pasta recipes – Spaghetti alla Siciliana – adapted from Marcella Hazan’s recipe.  I don’t salt and drain aubergines now but roast and squeeze out the bitter juices instead.

Here’s the finished dish ready for serving:

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And here is the recipe:

Spaghetti alla siciliana

For 6 as an Italian style pasta dish; 2 for a generous main course dish

1 large or 2 medium aubergines baked for 45 minutes, cooled, squeezed, peeled and chopped into rough chunks
1        tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic peeled and chopped
14 oz 400g tinned plum tomatoes drained and cut into thin strips
freshly ground black pepper
salt
1lb spaghetti (wholewheat is good here)
3 tbsp grated mild pecorino cheese
1 oz fresh ricotta
8-10 fresh basil leaves roughly torn
freshly grated parmesan cheese for the table

 Add the olive oil to the pan along with the sliced onion.  Cook over medium/high heat until the onion becomes pale gold.  Add the chopped garlic and cook for a few seconds more, stirring as you cook.  Add the tomato strips, turn the heat up to high and cook for 8-10 minutes stirring frequently.  Add the aubergine, turn the heat down to medium and cook for a minute or two, mixing it with the other ingredients.  Season with pepper and salt, remembering that salty pecorino will be added subsequently.

Cook the spaghetti in plenty of boiling water.  When still al dente, drain and mix with the sauce in the pan or in a warmed serving bowl.  Stir in the cheeses and basil and season once more.

Serve immediately with more parmesan cheese at the table.

 Details for Guernsey’s Forest Stores are:

Forest Stores
Le Bourg
Forest
GY8 0AW

01481 238 395

As far as I know, the only retail outlets for Fenella’s Fort Grey and Torteval cheeses are on Guernsey – either the Forest or Torteval stores.  You can read about Fenella’s cheesemaking exploits here:

http://a2guernseymilk.com/cm/latest-products/43-uk-latest-products/68-torteval-cheese-from-guernsey-island-an-introduction.html

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