Five Ultimate Cheese Board Tips

I get genuinely excited when I see a cheese board anywhere, from restaurants to dinner parties and every year my in-laws knock together an amazing one on Christmas. Wherever it is, I always make sure I leave a little room in my tummy for cheese.  Always.

So in all of cheesedom, what makes a great cheese board?

Simple …. a good balance of flavours. With so many varieties, tastes and textures to choose from, where do you start? I have five top tips to help you on your way…

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ONE 
Take the cheese out of the fridge at least an hour before you serve it. This allows time for the flavours to release and will also give the cheese a gorgeous softer texture.

TWO
Limit your cheese choices to four or five maximum. Always have the three classics; a soft cheese like Brie or Camembert, a firm cheese like Cheddar or Lancashire, and a blue like Roquefort or Stilton. Then add a couple of whatever takes your fancy, I absolutely love Manchego drizzled in honey and Ginger Spice from the Snowdonia Cheese Company (which is seriously, seriously good).

THREE
Add accompaniments with your cheese, such as crackers or maybe an artisan bread served with a small dish of room temperature butter. Serve with a chutney and a fruit, perhaps a handful of grapes, figs, sliced apple, sliced pear, baby tomatoes or olives, and some some walnuts would be a great addition too.

FOUR
Make your cheese board look as pretty as a picture by serving on a beautiful wooden board or on a natural slate plate giving everything on the plate a little space. Arrange the cheeses in a clockwise direction from mildest to strongest.

FIVE 
The main consensus on pairing wine with cheese is: for strong cheeses, go with bolder wines such as a robust Rioja, and milder cheeses go with a lighter wine or even Champagne! Whatever you decide, it’s usually best to match the cheese and wine from the same region/country if you can.

Focaccia Trio

I have a complete Mediterranean spirit, so for me, Focaccia always reminds me of summer, sitting outside with a cold glass of rose and munching on some Focaccia all afternoon. I’ve made this before, bit this time I thought I’d add some bits of olive and chillies to mix it up.

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Ingredients

500g strong white flour, plus extra for dusting
2 tsp salt
1 x 7g sachet of fast-action dry yeast
80ml olive oil
250ml warm water
1 bunch fresh rosemary
handful finely shopped red chilli
handful of sliced green or black olives
Himalayan sea-salt

In a large bowl add the flour, salt, yeast and olive oil. Then mix in enough warm water to make a soft dough, it may seem a bit sticky and watery but after you’ve kneaded for 10 minutes, or 5 minutes in an electric mixer with a dough hook, the dough should feel pillowy and stretchy when pulled.

Dust a large baking dish with flour. Shape the dough into an oval and flatten it to about 30cm long and 20cm wide. Cover the dough loosely with oiled cling film.

Preheat the oven to 200C, Gas Mark 6.

Leave the dough in a warm place for about 1 hour or until doubled in size. With a floured index finger press holes in the dough right through to the bottom. Add rosemary sprigs in the holes and sprinkle the Himalayan salt over the dough. Add the chillies and olives in sections or add both on the whole of the dough.

Bake for 25/30 minutes, or until the bread is well-risen and a lovely light golden colour. This can be served warm and is perfect side dish!

 

 

Lemon & Lime Marmalade and Poppy Seed Muffin

There are two types of people in this world – The ones that pick out yellow and green Skittles and the ones that pick out the red and purple (I find that orange is neutrally accepted by both parties). I am without a shadow of a doubt a lemon and lime Skittles type of girl. The sweet citrusy tang I love has been described by some (the red and purple people) as eating solidified balls of lemon Fairy Liquid. But what do they know? If like me your a citrus fiend, then you’ll love my Lemon & Lime Marmalade and Poppy Seed Muffin recipe!

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Ingredients

300g self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
100g caster sugar
300g lemon and lime marmalade
250ml milk
2 eggs
120g melted butter

Preheat oven to 200°C/Fan 180°C/Gas Mark 6. Line a muffin tray with 12 cases.

In a bowl, sift together self-raising flour, caster sugar, baking powder and poppy seeds.

In a separate bowl, mix the eggs, marmalade and milk until well combined, then mix through the melted butter.

Pour the dry ingredients into the wet and mix until it’s just combined.

Divide the mixture into the 12 muffin cases.

Bake for 20/25 minutes until well risen and firm to the touch. Allow to cool for 5 minutes, then transfer onto a wire rack to fully cool.

Enjoy!

3 Fancy-Pants Toast Ideas

There’s something SO comforting about hot toast with melted butter on top, but I have three (all tried and tested) utterly brilliant ways to transform the humble toast into something a bit fancy.

Courgettes, Feta, Chilli & Mint Toast

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Ingredients

1 slice of bread of your choice
1 small courgette
good pinch of chilli flakes
half a lemon zest
extra virgin olive oil
small handful mint leaves, roughly chopped
crumbly feta

Slice the courgette lengthways into ribbons and place in a bowl with a small glug of olive oil, a few chilli flakes, most of the mint and lemon zest. Set aside to soften for a few minutes.

Toast the bread and drizzle on a little olive oil. Top with courgette ribbons and feta and add a few more chilli flakes and mint leaves.

Hot Pepper & Cheese Toast

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Ingredients

1 small pepper (red or orange), diced
1 slice of bread of your choice
a dollop of spreadable cheese (I use Seriously Strong Lighter)
a handful of rocket leaves
chilli oil
olive oil

Roast the peppers with a little drizzle of olive oil for 35 minutes or until tender and skin is slightly blistered. Leave to cool slightly.

Toast a slice of bread and lightly spread the cheese. Add the rocket leaves and peppers and lightly drizzle with chilli oil. Eat.

Blue Cheese, Figs & Prosciutto

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Ingredients

1 slice of bread of your choice
2 baby figs
half a teaspoon of demerara sugar
runny honey
extra virgin olive oil
small handful of soft blue cheese
2 slices prosciutto
balsamic vinegar

Whilst the oven is preheating, slice the figs in half through the stalk and place cut-side up in a small roasting dish. Sprinkle over the sugar and drizzle with a little honey and oil and roast for 20 minutes until juicy and sticky.

Toast the bread and drizzle over any juice from the roasting dish. Add the cheese, prosciutto and figs, then drizzle over a little balsamic vinegar.

Spicy Potato Rolls

I have a ‘thing’ about potatoes, I could probably live of them for the rest of my life. Potatoes and wine. That said, I tend to have a lot of potatoes around, and I have the perfect solution for left-over mash – my Spicy Potato Rolls.

Simply, take your mash and add a splash of olive/rapeseed oil, a little lemon juice, and herbs and spices (I usually use whatever I have laying around – this time was cayenne pepper, parsley and ground nutmeg). Spread the potato evenly on puff pastry and roll up in a palmier style. Using a sharp knife slice the roll roughly 2cm or so wide. Brush with egg and bake in a preheated oven for 25 minutes or until golden. Serve warm with a cup of chai for a perfect Indian afternoon tea.

Baked Aubergine

Melt-in-your-mouth aubergine in my opinion is as good as it gets. Add to that a scrumptious tomato sauce topped with mozzarella and I’m in heaven. I ate this in abundance during a sailing trip to Greece, I’ve changed the original recipe slightly, just by adding by own little twist 🙂

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Baked Aubergine

One large aubergine (sliced in half lengthways)
One tin of chopped tomatoes
Mozzarella slices
Olive or Rapeseed oil
Two cloves garlic
One red chilli
Balsamic Vinegar
Sugar
Vodka (optional)
Oregano and Basil (fresh or dried)
Salt to taste

Preheat oven to 180°. Drizzle the aubergine with either olive oil or rapeseed oil and brush until fully covered, add a few score marks to the inside flesh and pop into the oven for around 35 minutes or until soft.

In the meantime, heat a little oil in a pan and add the chillies and garlic and stir for a minute. Then add the tomatoes and a small splash of vodka (I use Lime Smirnoff), two teaspoons of balsamic vinegar and half a teaspoon of sugar. Simmer gently for 30 minutes.
Finally add the herbs and salt to taste.

Once the aubergine is nice and soft, top the two slices with the tomato sauce and layer on a few slices of mozzarella. Add back into the oven and bake until the mozzarella is nice and golden. Add a few fresh herbs on top and serve with a fresh green salad or homemade fries.

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Springwatch Soup

I love it when days get that little bit longer and you can leave the house without twenty layers of clothes on. And so, my attention also turns to lighter and greener foods – naturally. I absolutely love making homemade soups, much better than from a can, and this recipe is super quick and easy. After all, you don’t want to be stuck indoors when the sun is teasing you to come out and play!

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Springwatch Soup

1 bag (85g) of watercress
2 small to medium potatoes (diced)
1 clove garlic
olive oil
1 onion (diced)
1.5 pints vegetable stock

In a large saucepan heat a little olive oil and sweat of the onion until nearly translucent.

Add the potatoes and garlic and sauté for a couple of minutes.

Pour in the stock and simmer until the potatoes are soft.

Add the watercress, simmer for another minute (no longer, so you can keep the colour vibrant)

Using a hand-held blender, liquidise until a lovely smooth consistency.

Season to taste. I have garnished mine with salad cress, a few drops of rapeseed oil and chilli flakes.

I reckon Chris Packham would love it!

Spicy Roasted Chickpeas

I really struggle to sit through a movie without eating some form of snacky snack, even when I read or sit at my desk at work. Actually whatever time, I like a good nibble. This does however, pose a problem regarding what grazeable product I can eat without feeling too guilty about the crap content. Rummaging around one day, pre-movie, I came across a lonely tin of chickpeas…and an oven. The rest is history. For a lighter in taste and texture option try a tin of green lentils which doesn’t take so long to cook either.

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Spicy Roasted Chickpeas
Ingredients

1 (400g) tin of chickpeas, drained
2 tsp olive oil
salt
½ tsp paprika/cayenne pepper (or to taste)
oregano (fresh or dried)

Method

  • Heat the oven at 200C.
  • Pour the olive oil to a large roasting dish and heat up in the oven whilst it is preheating.
  • Add the drained chickpeas to the hot roasting dish.
  • Season to taste, I usually add sea-salt, cayenne pepper and oregano and mix thoroughly.
  • Pop into the oven for 40-45mins. Give the chickpeas a good shake at least once half-way through cooking and try a chickpea to see if more salt etc needs to be added.
  • When done, you’ll find the humble chickpea transformed into a beautifully crunchy and super tasty ultimate snack.
  • With this recipe you can be as creative as you like, try different herbs and spices or even use flavoured olive oil.

The world is your chickpea.