A little while ago, I was bored and I had a couple of minutes to spare so I clicked on this online cheese comparator and discovered, with a grin, this result : "Your cheese rating is: Leerdammer. Leerdammer is a semi-hard Dutch cheese, made from cow's milk. It has a smooth, polished, natural rind, and is sometimes waxed." Personality-wise, I have no idea if that's a good thing or a bad thing but I think I'd rather be Leerdammer than stinky old Stilton !
But I think they missed the whole point in their description. One of the most instantly recognisable features of Leerdammer is the holes. My daughter calls it mouse cheese because of them ! Even Leerdammer used the holes as their unique selling point a while back, with the slogan "the taste is around the holes". They have a whole (not hole !) new advertising campaign now, featuring a naughty elf and the strapline “Leerdammer – not as mild as you might think”.
But it's not just the adverts that have changed. A new 225g block format was launched in December last year and replaced the Leerdammer Original and Lightlife wedges. Before then, Leerdammer was mainly known for it's pre-cut slices, which are great for kids' lunchboxes and quick and easy sandwiches but always made me think of Leerdammer as "fake" cheese like the bright orange squares you get in hamburgers or Cheestrings (which I was amazed to find out recently are made of real cheese too !)
The block format makes it much easier to cook with and it is really easy to hold when grating. It's actually a very versatile cheese and can successfully replace cheddar in a lot of recipes - I tried it in a variety of dishes, from cheese sauce in cauliflower cheese to pizza topping, and I found that the flavour was just as nice as with cheddar but it seemed less greasy. The block was easy to grate and didn't crumble into a million pieces, as often happens. If you're watching your waistline, Leerdammer Lightlife is also a great alternative as it has 50% less fat than standard cheddar.
Leerdammer recently ran a national competition called 'Leerdammer Master Mum' where parents up and down the country entered recipe ideas, all revolving around simple but nutritious meals. If you want a couple of ideas to tickle your tastebuds right here, here are two recipes suggested by Leerdammer :
Pork and Apple burgers
Makes 6 burgers
Takes 15 minutes to prepare and 15 minutes to cook
1 crisp eating apple (Braeburns are ideal)
100g Leerdammer Original, grated
400g pork mince
1 small onion, peeled and finely diced
75g fresh white breadcrumbs
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
Small round pitas or burger buns to serve
These are a real winner. Great for a midweek meal or a barbecue. If you feel like a bit of extra cheese, top with a slice of Leerdammer when cooked too - it melts beautifully over the top for a final treat.
Grate the apple and Leerdammer coarsely and add to the pork with the onion, salt, pepper and breadcrumbs. Mix well together with your hands then shape into 6 burgers and flatten so they are not too thick. Grill or fry for 5 to 6 minutes on each side, until no longer pink in the centre. Allow to rest for 5 minutes before serving with burger buns or soft white pitas. Add salad and relishes to serve.
Savoury Leerdammer bread and butter pudding
Takes 10 minutes to make; 20 minutes to bake
250g crusty white bread
1 tbsp sunflower oil
1/2 medium onion, finely diced
1/2 leek finely sliced
100g frozen sweetcorn
100g small mushrooms, sliced
75g Leerdammer Mature cheese grated
400 ml milk
Salt and black pepper
This is a great, economical family supper. You can vary it by adding peas or for a meaty version try bacon, ham or sliced cooked sausages. Why not keep slices of leftover bread in the freezer ready to make this when there’s not much else for supper!
Set the oven to 180c / 160c fan oven / gas mark 4.
Cut off the crusts from the bread, then cut the bread into 3cm chunks. Melt the butter with the oil in a small frying pan and fry the chopped onion for 3 to 4 minutes until tender. Add the leeks and fry for another minute or so. Add the sweetcorn and mushrooms to the pan and stir well for just a minute or so until the mushrooms are softened
Place a spoonful of the vegetable mixture into four individual 200ml baking dishes; scatter over a little cheese then the bread, top with more vegetables and cheese so everything is tumbled together. Beat the eggs in a bowl and pour on the milk and season well. Pour over the bread mixture then bake for 15 minutes until set. Serve hot from the oven with a green salad.
for more information : www.leerdammer.co.uk