“Food is the cheapest luxury you’ll ever get,” says Britpop legend turned gourmand Alex James, who swapped a music career with Blur for a farm in the Cotswolds and a cheese-making business.
“Eating cheese is kind of my daily life,” says James, who compares finding a good cheese to finding a rare indie record. “One of the delights of cheese is when you find a good one you know you won’t find it ever again, unless you come back,” he says. “Indie records used to be like that. When I was a kid you could only get certain records in certain places. There was one Joy Division record I was never able to find, with a picture of a farmer on the cover. I saw it when I was on holiday in France when I was about 16, and I’ve been looking for it ever since.”
This week, you can see James discovering Australian cheeses – along with many other things – as he travels with local chef Matt Stone from Perth down to Denmark and Albany on a foodie road trip around Western Australia.
“Australia is one of the best food destinations in the world,” insists Perth-born, tattooed, punk- rock chef Stone. “Australian produce is great and it doesn’t need a lot of work, which makes my job as a cook really quite easy.”
The duo’s fresh approach to cooking sees them prepare unique dishes, from fish cooked in paper bark, a cricket clambake with spinach and fermented chilli, to a dessert with meringue and green ants in it.
“You can’t eat all varieties of ants,” says Stone. “We used some green tree ants as they have a really sour flavour – they work really well on a sweet dessert, giving it a bit of pop and a really good citrus hit.” Crickets, meal- worms and other creepy critters are vitamin-packed sustainable foods, continues Stone. “They’re one of the most ethical sources of protein as well as other vitamins like K2… we use a lot of Australia’s native ingredients in the show.”
But back to James’s specialist subject: Stone is adamant that Australian cheeses will be world class in the next five to ten years. “Aussie cheese is coming along in leaps and bounds… that’s due to the fact that the quality of the milk that we can get to make cheese is so high.”
One small dairy farm featured on the show that sold milk at a local farmer’s market impressed James hugely. “Their milk is gorgeous,” says James. “I actually made the farmer squirt it right out of a cow and into my mouth.”
Recipes That Rock begins on 11 October on Food Network (Freeview 41, Sky 248, Virgin 287).