AN end piece of very good cheddar is lurking in my fridge.

Its characteristic, nutty bite has been rounding off recent meals indulgently; however, this last corner is destined not for the cheese platter, but for the pot, to anoint the soft golden layers of a potato gratin. Cheese often crops up in traditional cookery books as a crafty way to use up any that is past its best - not merely grated over the top of dishes before being melted under a grill, but properly incorporated, as with leek and stilton soup, or cheese dumplings for a stew.

If it sounds rash to buy excellent cheese for cooking, rather than saving it for a cheese board, think again. For the cost of a "luxury" supermarket sandwich, you can buy 180g of good quality cheese. The flavour of great cheese is an underrated luxury, especially in this age of canary-yellow, shrink-wrapped, milky mediocrity, masquerading as cheddar. The more you can spend, especially if buying from a cheesemonger or trusted deli, the less you will actually need to use, such is the depth of flavour. Think of a four-cheese pizza: the blend of creaminess, sharpness and softness combine for an irresistible, oozy result. The warmth of cooking amplifies flavour.

Even in its simplest guise, slightly "high", good-quality cheese makes the most awesome cheese on toast. Leftover blues enliven fantastic cauliflower cheese and I always save up parmesan crusts, to simmer in milk with butternut squash for a deeply savoury puree.

Recipes serve four

Cauliflower and stilton soup

1 tbsp olive oil

1 small onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 fresh bay leaf

1 large potato, peeled and diced finely

1 large cauliflower, cut into florets

500ml chicken or vegetable stock

200ml milk

200ml double cream

3 tbsp half-fat crème fraîche

250g stilton

To serve

A few small cauliflower florets

1 dsstsp chopped chives

1 dsstsp crumbled stilton

1. Heat a wide saucepan over a gentle heat for one minute and add a dessertspoon of vegetable oil. Add the onion, garlic and bay leaf, season lightly with salt then sweat gently without colouring until softened, about five-10 minutes. Covering with a lid while doing this helps trap moisture, which drips back into the pan, helping the sweating and preventing browning.

2. Add the cauliflower and potato then stir these in before continuing the sweating for a few more minutes. Add the stock and bring to the boil then simmer until the cauliflower and potato are tender, about 10 minutes. Halfway through, add the milk and cream.

3. Once tender, remove from the heat. Fish out the bay leaf and discard. Chop up the stilton and crumble this into the hot soup. Ladle the soup into a blender and process to a smooth puree. You may need to do this in two or even three batches. When each batch is pureed, pass through a sieve into a clean pan, pressing with the back of a ladle to extract the maximum possible. Once all is blitzed and passed, swirl in the crème fraiche. Heat, and taste, adjusting for seasoning.

4. To serve, heat the soup gently, making sure it does not catch on the base of the pan. Divide between serving bowls. Blanch some small florets of cauliflower for one minute and scatter these on the surface of the soup with some small crumbled pieces of stilton and some chopped chives then serve at once.

Parmesan shortbread

A wonderful snack with drinks before dinner

300g plain flour

150g grated parmesan

200g chilled butter

2 egg yolks

1. Place the flour and parmesan in a food processor and slowly mix together.

2. Cut the butter into small pieces, about half a centimetre square. Add all the butter into the mix and pulse to bring the mix together, until it resembles breadcrumb texture, just as if you were starting to make pastry.

3. Now tip the breadcrumb mix into a large bowl and lightly work the egg yolk in, taking care not to over-work the mix; stop as soon as it has come together.

4. Divide the mix roughly into four or six then roll each into a long sausage shape. Roll in cling film and chill in the fridge until hard

5. Cut into thick coins about 4mm thickness and spread out on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 180C until golden, then cool. Once cold, store in an airtight container until needed. These can be served as they are or used as a canapé base with toppings.

Geoffrey Smeddle is chef patron of The Peat Inn, by St Andrews, Fife, KY15 5LH 01334 840206