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10 Minute Meal – Mozzarella in Carozzoa with Parma Ham

This recipe is, like a vast majority of my repertoire, adapted from a Nigella recipe many years ago – primarily with the addition of meat! It is basically a mozzarella and ham filled eggy bread sandwich. Crispy on the outside and soft (slightly soggy even – in a good way) on the inside.

This is not a healthy recipe. Counting the calories is not advised nor is using anything other than cheap white sliced bread – like with my Triple Decker, save the sourdough for another time. You need the bread to be press-able together for the whole thing not to totally fall apart on you. I’d also recommend the kind of mozzarella that comes quite dry in a block for slicing rather than the balls sitting in liquid or the slightly soggy interior may well become too much.

I like to serve this with either Marks and Spencers Caramelised Onion Chutney and some peppery salad leaves or baked beans – different levels of classy – equally tasty.

Serves 1

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Ingredients:

4 slices Thick White Sliced Bread
4 slices Parma (or Serrano Ham)
150g Mozzarella
2 tbsp Plain Flour
80ml Milk
1 Egg
Sea Salt Flakes
Butter for frying


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Cut the crusts off 4 slices Thick White Sliced Bread.

Lay 4 slices Parma (or Serrano Ham) over the bread with one slice of ham over each slice of bread. Leave a border of bread around each slice.

Slice 100g Mozzarella into 4 rectangles and lay 2 slices over 2 slices of the bread and ham.

Place a cheese-less slice of bread and ham over each slice with cheese to make 2 equally filled sandwiches. Using your thumb and forefinger, press around the borders of each sandwich to squidge the edges together to seal them. Reinforce the seal using the edge of your hand (like in a karate chop position).

Tip – Its ok – you can make the requisite noise as you’re doing this, I won’t judge.

Pour 80ml Milk into a small (lipped) plate. Put another large plate next to it.

Whisk 1 Egg with a pinch of Sea Salt Flakes and put in another small lipped plate.

Dip each sandwich in the milk VERY briefly, coating both sides. Put each sandwich on the large plate.

Coat each side of each sandwich with around 2 tbsp Plain Flour and gently shake of any excess.

Put a large knob of butter in a non-stick frying pan and put onto medium heat. Once the butter is just melted, take your plate f sandwiches and plate of egg right next to your hob. Dip each sandwich into the egg on both sides and place into the buttery pan.

Tip – Some mozzarella may escape – shove it back in or allow it to go a bit crispy in the pan. Don’t cry.

Gently fry until golden brown on each side and serve immediately.

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Simple Victoria Sandwich Cake

Its a classic and one of the first things I ever baked. So simple and so good. Very little more needs to be said.

But I will anyway. Traditionally, the sponges are sandwiched only with jam. But I find this a bit boring so I add buttercream with the jam. And traditionally, the sandwich is topped with only caster sugar but again – Zzzzz – so I’ve used a basic white glace icing.

Confession time (I have lots of these). Actually two confessions. Firstly I made this cake with proper butter which is of course traditional and lauded by the traditionalists but actually I think it makes the cake a little on the heavy side. I should have stuck with what I know and used light margarine – I’d recommend you make this substitution. Secondly I made the whole recipe in ounces – as it should be but because I try to cater to allsorts, I’ve included the metric equivalents. Those over the pond should either invest in scales or google the conversions. Oh there is a third confession actually, I ate a good portion of the cake batter straight from the mixing bowl.  No regrets.

Serves 10

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Ingredients:

10oz (280g) Salted Butter (Or Light Margarine)
10oz (280g) Caster Sugar
5 Large Eggs
4 tbsp Milk
1 tbsp Baking Powder
10oz (280g) Self Raising Flour

3oz (80g) Butter
6oz (160g) Icing Sugar
1 tbsp Milk

5oz (140g) Strawberry Jam

3oz (80g) Icing Sugar
1 tbsp Milk


Preheat the oven to 180c or the equivalent.

Line 2 15cm round cake tins with liners or butter and flour.

Weigh 10oz (280g) Salted Butter (Or Light Margarine) and 10oz (280g) Caster Sugar a large mixing bowl and beat together until light and creamy.

Tip – make sure the butter is at room temperature or very carefully soften it in the microwave – cut it into small cubes and spread them out around a plate or bowl and nuke for 4-5 seconds at a time – you don’t want to melt it.

Tip – A hand whisk or stand mixer is ideal for this but it can be done with a wooden spoon and elbow grease. 

Add 5 Large Eggs one at a time giving the batter a good whisk between each egg addition.

Tip – The mixture will likely split – do not panic, do not start again, do not weep gently. Keep whisking, it turns out that it really doesn’t matter!

Add 4tbsp Milk one spoonful at a time whisking the batter as you go.

Add 1 tbsp Baking Powder and 10oz (280g) Self Raising Flour and fold this into the batter by hand until just combined.

Tip – Don’t use a mixer here as the gluten in the flour will overwork and your cake sponge will turn out tough. 

Split the mixture between the two tins and spread out to even layers. Bake for 20 minutes then check if it is done, give it another couple of minutes each check until it is done.

Tip – ‘Done’ will be when the sponges are golden brown on top and a skewer poked into the middle of the sponge comes out with only crumbs stuck and no liquid batter. I don’t condone overcooking as the cake will be dry but on this occasion, ‘actually cooked’ should be aimed for.

Leave the sponges to cool on a rack, in the tin at first unless you used liners in which case it should be easy to life them out still in the paper and onto the rack.

Wait until the sponges are totally cold before filling and icing.

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Make the buttercream by mixing 3oz (80g) Butter,  6oz (160g) Icing Sugar and 1 tbsp Milk for 5 or so minutes until it is light and fluffy.

Tip – Do not substitute the butter for spread in this part of the recipe – the butter taste and texture is essential to this bit but do make sure the butter is softened before starting the mixing.

Tip – I tried to use my new old Kenwood to make this but ended up having to go back to the old trusty electric hand whisk. You’ll not get a good light buttercream without some kind of eclectic assistance or you’ll end up with the rock hard layer of butter icing of my youth.

Spread the buttercream over one half of the sponge making sure it is relatively evenly spread and just shy of the edges.

Tip – The buttercream will squeeze out as you apply the top layer so if you spread it to the edge now, it will squirt out and make a mess. Not the end of the world admittedly.

Tip – If you can be bothered, I suppose you could pipe the buttercream for a super neat edge.

Spread 5oz (140g) Strawberry Jam over the second half of the sponge – you can go a bit closer to the edge this time as there will be less splurging.

Tip – Jam can be lumpy, even the seedless smooth stuff that I buy so I give it a good stir whilst still in the jar so it makes it easier to spread evenly.

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Put the jam covered sponge on top of the buttercream sponge and give it a good press together.

Make the glace icing by mixing together 3oz (80g) Icing Sugar and 1 tbsp Milk until smooth and spread the icing over the top of the cake by dumping the whole lot dead centre and spooning it outwards with the back of the spoon until the edges are nearly reached.

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Serve in great hunking slices with a cup of tea. In a cup and saucer (japes).

Cedges Classics – The Triple Decker

Now I am quite sure that I don’t come from the only family that has partook in a 3 layer breakfast sandwich delight on a regular basis but I’m yet to come across one. As a result, ‘The Triple Decker’ or ‘Trip Dec’ is a little legendary in my friendship circles.

Now this is not diet food and probably not recommended for consumption everyday but as a weekend breakfast – nom! It is also best not messed around with. The addition of some fried mushrooms is acceptable. Some baked beans to dip it in is mildly acceptable. Use of any bread other than plastic white sliced will ruin the entire point of the sandwich. The addition of ketchup is an abomination and will not be tolerated. Don’t even mention that brown stuff. Bacon should be cheap – ‘dry maple cured 100 day aged Gloucester old spot’ streaky bacon is not appropriate. Back bacon can be substituted for the middle bacon – both are preferably procured from the supermarket value range. Streaky bacon is pointless.

This is a proper northern breakfast sandwich – for the love of god butter the bread.

Serves 1

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Ingredients:

2 Rashers Unsmoked Middle Bacon or 3/4 Rashers Unsmoked Back Bacon
3 Slices Thick White Sliced Bread
Butter
1 Large Egg
Salt


Start by frying 2 Rashers Unsmoked Middle Bacon or 3/4 Rashers Unsmoked Back Bacon on a medium high heat in a non-stick frying pan.

Tip – Use a non-stick frying pan. Using some kind of non-stick pan does not make you better than everyone else nor does it put you on some kind of higher echelon of cook – it makes you a chump. I’d recommend the Kavalkad from Ikea – cheap as chips – keep a few in the house, replace them when the non-stick starts to go – ultimately significantly cheaper than spending £40 on a pan that loses its non-stick in a year anyway.

Meanwhile cut any dry crusts off 3 Slices Thick White Sliced Bread (I went for removing the top and bottom crusts but the sides were nice and soft so I left them). Liberally butter all 3 slices of bread, one of them on both sides (for the middle section).

Once cooked, remove the bacon from the pan and place on one slice of the buttered bread. Lay the double buttered slice on top.

Crack 1 Egg directly into the frying pan you used for the bacon. If you’re using that non-stick pan I recommended, you won’t need to add any oil.

Push any runaway egg white back towards the yolk as the egg starts cooking.

Once the egg white is cooked enough for the egg to hold its shape, use a fish slice to flip the whole egg over in the pan. Use the edge of the spatula to gently press down on the white all around the egg yolk to make sure the white is cooked through. Flip the egg back over to make sure the white is cooked though.

Place the cooked egg on top of the bacon bread stack and gently break the yolk and spread it over the whole surface of the sandwich to ensure yolky goodness in every bite.

Sprinkle the yolky egg with a small pinch of Salt (preferably sea salt flakes – the one nod I’ll sanction towards the poncey).

Lay the last slice of bread on top of the egg (butter side down obviously) and press down gently.

Cut the sandwich into two halves making sure to wipe any egg yolk left on the knife on top of the sandwich.

Eat – expect to be messy – keep kitchen roll close by but don’t employ it until all egg yolk has been licked off of the plate and your fingers.

Cedges Basics – Proper British Pancakes

Pancake day falls on Tuesday 28 February 2017 so I thought it was a timely week to resurrect  my ‘Feel the Fear’ only that was sort of irrelevant so I’ve re branded these posts as ‘Cedges Basics’.  Pancakes are not just for pancake day – I make them year round – they’re a super simple pudding or brunch.

Pancakes are not nearly as difficult as Blue Peter Presenters have made out over the years. Not even close in fact.  Watching them screw it up is however still quite funny….

The first rule of pancakes is to back the hell away from those mixes that now line every supermarket and convenience shop from late January until Shrove Tuesday. They’re just very expensive flour and a bit of dried egg. You only need 4 things to make pancakes (plus any toppings) – Plain Flour, Eggs, Milk and Salt. The recipe is in fact basically the same as for Yorkshire Puddings. It also takes 2 minutes to make the batter and a little patience to batch cook.

You can make these in advance for a larger group and keep them warm in the oven on low or heaven forbid, give them a quick nuke in the microwave before serving.

Serves 2 (Makes 6 Pancakes)

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Ingredients:

4 heaped tbsp Plain Flour
1 tsp Sea Salt Flakes
2 Eggs
150 ml (Skimmed) Milk
Frylight


Measure 4 heaped tbsp Plain Flour into a medium mixing bowl and add 1 tsp Sea Salt Flakes.

Crack 2 Eggs into the flour and add a little of the 150 ml (Skimmed) Milk.  Whisk together to form a thick paste – try to beat out as many of the lumps as possible – the thicker the mix is at this point, the easier it is to get the lumps out.

Tip – Saying that, a few lumps are not the end of the world, don’t stress about it.

Add the rest of the milk a little at a time until all combined.

Tip – At this point a lot of recipes will tell you to leave the mixture to ‘rest’. You can do – there is no problem preparing the batter in advance but I’m yet to establish any actually benefit of leaving it.

Tip – You can at this point move the batter to a jug for easy pouring, otherwise make sure you have a ladle handy.

Take a small frying pan and put onto a high heat until it is just starting to smoke then turn the heat down to medium.

Spray 3/4 sprays of Frylight into the pan, trying to coat the whole surface.

Take a ladleful of batter and pour into the centre of the pan with your dominant hand whilst starting to swirl the batter around the pan with your other hand.

Tip – If the pan is still a little too hot and the batter starts to cook through before it has spread to the pan edges, hold the pan away from the heat until the batter has spread then return to the heat. 

When the batter is no longer liquid on top of the pancake (only 30 second of so), use a flat spatula to gently tease the pancake away from the pan. It is ready to flip once the pancake can be shaken around the pan loosely.

Flip the pancake – you can either do this by practicing throwing the pancake up in the air and catching it or if you’re not trying to show off, use the fish slice.

Give the pancake another 30 second or so on the second side then put onto a plate and serve.

Repeat with the rest of the batter until all of it is used up.

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The classic topping is sugar and lemon but go to town with whatever you fancy. Nutella anyone?

Ramen with Korean Belly Pork

Remember how in my recipe for Korean Belly Pork I suggested making enough of the Pork so that there were leftovers? Well this is what I did with mine – fancy noodle soup.

I’ve done some research and in Japan, the word ‘Ramen’ refers to noodles that are both fresh and instant (what we’d think of as Supernoodles). My favourite dish at Wagamama‘s is Shirodashi Ramen and I sometimes try to make a version at home although I’ve never quite got it right. Ramen really took off in London a couple of years ago and outlets like Bone Daddies and Tonkotsu have been super successful. The Japanese take their ramen, like all of their food, very seriously – the film Ramen Girl is worth a watch for a Hollywood comedy take on the subject. What I have since learnt is that in Korea, their version of Ramen – ‘Ramyeon’ only ever refers to the instant variety. This version I have created is therefore neither ‘Ramen’ or ‘Ramyeon’ but who cares because it turned out damn tasty and even got a 10/10 rating from my father which is no easy feat.

If you don’t have any leftover Korean Belly Pork, you could use almost any roast or grilled meat or fish as a substitute or even some marinated tofu. You could also use your preferred noodles, just cook them per the packet instructions before putting into the serving dish.

Serves 2

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Ingredients:

2 tbsp Doengjang Paste
1 tbsp Gochujang Paste
1 tbsp Nam Pla (Fish Sauce)
1 tbsp Chicken Stock Concentrate
2 Eggs
100g Kale
200g Medium Straight to Wok Noodles
Leftover Korean Belly Pork
2 Spring Onions
80g Fresh Beansprouts


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Start by making the broth. Boil a kettle of water. Meanwhile, measure 2 tbsp Doengjang Paste, 1 tbsp Gochujang Paste, 1 tbsp Nam Pla (Fish Sauce) and 1 tbsp Chicken Stock Concentrate into the bottom of a medium saucepan. Add a little of the boiled water to the pan and dissolve the pastes.  Add a further 1 litre of the boiled water and bring to the boil.

Tip – The stock didn’t taste that spicy to me at this point but after it had boiled and sat for a while, the spice really developed so if you prefer a spicier broth, I’d recommend waiting until nearer serving before adding any more chili paste. 

Once boiling, add 2 Eggs to the stock and set a 6 minute timer. After 6 minutes, remove the eggs with a slotted spoon and run under cold water then set aside to cool a little. Turn the stock down to a gentle simmer.

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Prepare the rest of the ingredients by discarding any stalks from 100g Kale and place in a bowl. Cover with boiling water and leave for 2 minutes or so before draining.

Thinly slice Leftover Korean Belly Pork and lay out in one layer over a plate ready for reheating in the microwave for 1-2 minutes.

Tip – I’ve not specified a quantity of leftover pork as this will depend on what you have and how much of a carnivore you are. Clearly I had a truckload and added it all but I appreciate not everyone is quite this greedy.

Peel the boiled eggs and cut in half lengthways.

Peel off the outer layer and cut 2 Spring Onions into rounds, discarding the darker green parts.

Heat 200g Medium Straight to Wok Noodles. I pulled the noodles apart with my fingers and placed them into a frying pan on a medium heat with a little water for 4-5 minutes. I could have microwaved them.

Each dish can now be put together.

– Put the belly pork into the microwave to warm for 1-2 minutes.

– Meanwhile, put half of the warmed noodles into the bottom of each bowl.

– Cover half of the noodles with half of the kale and the other with half of 80g Fresh Beansprouts.

– Take the belly pork out of the microwave and place half in each bowl.

– Pour half of the stock into each bowl gently.

– Top each bowl with 2 egg halfs and half of the spring onions.

Tip – A spring of sesame seeds would also be a nice addition but I didn’t have any!

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Serve. Use chopsticks and a large spoon to eat.

Korean Belly Pork with Sticky Rice and Soy Kale

I’m heading over to South Korea for a fortnight later in the year to meet up with my friend Jonny for the last two weeks of his 9 month sabbatical  (git!). FYI – his blog is a great witty read. I’m super excited whilst being super nervous about ‘proper travelling’ – I’m more of a fully planned in advance/guided tour traveller with a wheely suitcase and continuous air-con so it will be a culture shock. Along with the actual culture shock – despite eating Asian food a good two or three times a week (and discounting holiday resorts in Turkey), I’ve never been to Asia. I’ve never really been anywhere where the writing is unintelligible and English isn’t wholly ubiquitous but I trust Jonny and I can’t wait!

A massive part of my excitement is obviously the food. But I’m not actually that familiar with the food with the exception of a few visits to BibimBap for their title dish and a knowledge that I’m not a fan of kimchi. Luckily my friend Kirsten bought me a copy of Judy Joo’s Korean Food Made Easy and after a flick though I discovered that the basis for most of the dishes appears to be doenjang (Korean fermented soya bean paste a bit like miso) and gochujang (Korean fermented red chili paste). So I picked up a pot of each from the big Wing Yip supermarket in Croydon and started experimenting. I have spotted doenjang in the world food aisle at Sainsbury’s but both should be available in any half decent oriental shop.

The basis of the recipe is Judy Joo’s Pork Belly Bossam adapted slightly for the ingredients I had on hand.  This recipe takes about 3 hours but actually involves very little exertion so don’t be put off. Its also warm but not crazy spicy – up the amount of chili paste if you like super spicy food.

Serves 4 (with a bit of leftover pork)

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Ingredients:

1.5kg Boneless Pork Belly
2 tbsp Garlic Paste
2 tbsp Ginger Paste
1 Bunch Spring Onions
2 tbsp Doengjang Paste

For the Glaze:

2 tbsp Doengjang Paste
2 tbsp Runny Honey
1 tbsp Garlic Paste
1 tbsp Ginger Paste
1 tbsp Gochujang Paste

For the Bossam Sauce:

2 tbsp Doengjang Paste
1 tbsp Sesame Seeds
1 tsp Garlic Paste
1 tsp Ginger Paste
1 tsp Vegetable Oil
5 tbsp of the Cooking Liquid

To Serve:

250g Pudding/Sushi Rice
1 tbsp Ginger Paste
300g Kale
1 tbsp Soy Sauce
1 tsp Sesame Seeds
Frylight


Boil a kettle.

Meanwhile, mix 2 tbsp Garlic Paste, 2 tbsp Ginger Paste and 2 tbsp Doengjang Paste together in the bottom of a large stock pot. Add the kettle of hot water and stir to dissolve the pastes.

Slice the tails off 1 Bunch Spring Onions and reserve the white and light green part of 4 stems. Roughly chop the remaining onions including the dark green parts. Add to the stock pot.

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Place 1.5kg Boneless Pork Belly (including the skin) into the stockpot and top up with tap water to cover the pork.

Tip – It may be easiest to cut the belly slab into 2 or 3 pieces to fit into the pot. My pork photographed came in 3 pieces as they were the biggest the supermarket had!

Put the pot onto a medium-low heat to gently boil for an hour and a half.

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Prepare the glaze and sauce whilst the pork cooks. For the glaze, mix together 2 tbsp Doengjang Paste, 2 tbsp Runny Honey, 1 tbsp Garlic Paste, 1 tbsp Ginger Paste and 1 tbsp Gochujang. Set aside.

For the sauce, mix together 2 tbsp Doengjang Paste, 1 tbsp Sesame Seeds, 1 tsp Garlic Paste, 1 tsp Ginger Paste, 1 tsp Vegetable Oil and half of the reserved 4 spring onion stems, finely sliced in a small saucepan. Some cooking liquor will be added later to let it down some. Reserve the remaining spring onion to use as a garnish.

While the pork continues to cook, you can prepare a roasting tray by lining it with foil and then a layer of baking parchment.

Tip – You can of course roast straight in a tin but the glaze will bake on good and proper and be a bitch to clean off so I’s really recommend lining the tin. 

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Once the pork has poached and is soft, remove it from the stockpot and leave it to cool a little on some kitchen paper. Also blot the top with additional kitchen paper to ensure it is dry all over.

Add 5 tbsp of the cooking liquid to the sauce in the saucepan.

Turn the oven on to circa 190c or equivalent.

When the pork is able to be handled, use a knife to remove the layer of gelatinous skin and dispose of the kitchen roll.

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Take the glaze and spread all over the pork including the sides and bottom. Place the pork into the roasting tray and put into the oven with a 30 minute timer.

Meanwhile, put 250g Pudding/Sushi Rice into a sieve and rinse under the tap until the water runs more clear than white. Put the washed rice into a medium saucepan (with lid) along with 1 tbsp Ginger Paste and 600ml Cold Water. 

Once the pork has 20 minutes remaining on the timer, put the rice pan onto a high heat and bring to the boil. Once boiling, turn the heat down to very low and put the lid on the rice.

After 12 minutes, turn the heat off entirely but don’t move or take the lid off the rice pan.

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When the pork has roasted for the full 30 minutes, take it out of the oven, loosely cover with foil and leave to rest.

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Put the sauce onto a low heat to heat through and reduce slightly.

Cook the kale by taking a large saucepan and coating with 10-15 sprays of Frylight and putting onto a high heat. Add 300g Kale along with a dash of water and stir for a minute or so until the kale starts to wilt. Add 1 tbsp Soy Sauce to the pan, stir to coat and take off of the heat.

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All of the dish elements are now ready to serve.

– Start by slicing the belly pork into 1cm-ish slices. Put a quarter of the cooked rice into the bottom of each dish.
– Serve a quarter of the kale over each dish of rice.
– Lay belly pork slices over the other half of the rice.
– Spoon some of the hot sauce over the pork slices.
– Garnish with the spring onion and 1 tbsp sesame seeds (not pictured because I’m a eejit).
– Serve with the remaining sauce on the table to add as desired.

Compiling My Perfect Cheeseboard

I both love cheese and am a bit funny with it at the same time. I like it cooked (hot and melted) but I’m not overly keen on it just on its own. Except with certain cheeses in certain circumstances. As with most things, I’m basically just picky! I didn’t grow up eating cheese (I wasn’t allowed it, don’t ask but yes, a children’s birthday party at Pizza Hut when I was little was just cruel when I wasn’t allowed to eat the pizza! Twice!)

I spent some time when I was 19 working on the deli counter in a Booths supermarket up in Lancaster. They’re family owned, all in the North West and often called “The Waitrose of the North”. I think they’re better than Waitrose but then I was fully indoctrinated! I spent large parts of my time asking anyone local who ordered Wensleydale to repeat themselves because it sounded like something off of Wallace and Gromit. Such fun. I spent the rest of my time tasting cheese, learning about it, sampling it and plotting cheeseboard meals to rival those we had at The Water Witch in Lancaster – they don’t appear to do them anymore sadly.

I’m not really a ‘little bit of cheese with a couple of crackers and a grape after dessert’ kind of girl, I’m more about an entire meal centered around cheese. There are no recipes here as such, just my musings and product recommendations on how I like to put together a cheese feast.

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The Cheese

It seems churlish not to start with the star ingredient. The cheese. As I said, I’m picky. In brief, I don’t eat any cheese that isn’t made with cows milk (especially goat’s cheese which I think tastes like licking a barnyard floor – bleugh! but also ewe milk so feta, manchego, etc.), I don’t eat blue cheese (have you ever tried to cut Dolcelatte on a hangover? Try it and you’ll never eat the stuff either) and I’m not crazy keen on very hard cheeses, especially very strong ones. Whilst I love rind ripened soft cheeses like Brie and Camembert, I don’t eat the rind so I have an elaborate ritual of cutting it off as I’m eating it. Maybe one day I’ll grow up and like it but maybe not!

Where to Purchase – Now you can of course go to a fancy cheese deli and purchase a multitude of fancy cheeses in one place but I’m not made of money so for the above pictured board I went to a few different places including M&S and Sainsbury’s to put it together. I’ve tried to make all of my links in this post supermarket orientated so they’re easy for everyone to find but smaller independents should have a lot of these too. The top supermarket trick is however to head to the cheese counter rather than the pre-packaged section. Firstly, you can get smaller chunks of more cheeses – variety is the spice of life after all. Secondly, the same cheese will usually be cheaper at the counter than on the shelf. Double check first tho.

Storage – Before I get down to the nitty gritty, some quick thoughts on storage. Cheese should be stored in the fridge. It shouldn’t however be stored in plastic as it’ll sweat. Ideally on getting home, you’ll unwrap the cheese and wrap it in wax paper or more likely, greaseproof paper then put it in the fridge. A lot of supermarkets, especially M&S do however now pre-wrap their cheese in breathable plastic – the wrapper tends to be baggy rather than clingy and has a matt, slightly waxy texture. Make sure to take the cheese out of the fridge at least 20/30 minutes before serving to come to room temperature – probably slightly longer for a soft cheese like Brie and Camembert.

Presentation – You can of course just stick the blocks of cheese on a board with a couple of knives and be done with it. I have however become a fan of pre-slicing some chunks of harder cheeses, especially if serving a crowd buffet style.  This cuts down on weird cutting practices and folks standing around waiting while one person goes to town. Don’t cut more than you think will be eaten on the first round, more can be cut on an ongoing basis as the board is revisited.  I don’t tend to pre-cut soft cheese but sometimes present it in two smaller halves. I have a friend who is convinced that it is super rude when attacking cheese to cut off the ‘nose’ or as I’d call it; ‘pointy’ bit of the cheese as that is the premium cut (the soft gooey bit in the very middle). This always seems to lead to some very elaborate side cutting and I’ve never fully cleared up at what point ‘the nose’ can in fact be consumed! I work on the basis of ‘you snooze, you lose’. Crack on.

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The Range – I’d recommend picking a cheese from each of the following categories for a very full and well rounded cheese board. A lot of cheeseboard compilers always seem to say…pick one or two great cheeses and keep it simple. Sod that! As far as I’m concerned – its all about the variety – trying something different whilst getting to indulge in some old favourites. And you know what, if you want to serve three different varieties of brie, then do that too.

Soft CheeseBrie, Camembert or even Stinking Bishop. Even better – Waterloo – the buttery god of soft cheeses. You can obviously go with a stinky french Brie De Meaux for authenticity (sometimes these taste a big ‘cabbagey’ to me) or try one of the many English made Bries such as Cornish Organic (the organic one is far superior to the regular one if you can get it). M&S used to do an amazing ‘Brie cheese’ (as its known in my house) but sadly they discontinued it and we shall forever mourn its loss.  Whichever you choose, make sure that there is no chalky core to the cheese and that is it oozy the whole way through. Leave it at room temp to ripen to ooey-gooey stage if needs be.

Medium Hard Cheese – These are your Cheddar, Double Gloucester, Cheshire and Lancashire type cheeses. My preference is a creamy Lancashire (there are a lot of varieties of Lancashire but very few are widely available). Cheshire is rather tangy and quite crumbly, nor my favourite. Folk tend to love a strong cheddar that bites back – look for something farmhouse made or for a strong Lancashire – the ever popular Grandma Singletons.  If you really can’t decide – go for some retro Stripy Jack/5 Counties for ultimate variety.

Smoked Cheese – Something a little different on the palette. The perennial favourite is Applewood but if you’re snobby about it (it is heavily processed and fake smoked) go for something like the Hickory Red Leicester from M&S (no online link). There are many Bavarian style smoked cheeses or Austrian ones in sausage shapes available from the supermarkets too.

Goat Cheese – God only knows why but folk do seem to enjoy a bit of chevre. You’ll see that some sneaked onto the above board to satisfy my housemate’s love of barnyard flavours. There is a whole world of goat’s cheese out there but I have little knowledge about it so I’m not best based to advise!

Blue Cheese – Again not really my cup of tea but I do know there is a massive variety of blue cheese out there. There are the creamy Dolcelatte and Gorgonzolas, brie style blues like Cambozola, harder blues like Shropshire Blue and of course the perennial favourite Stilton. I’d probably choose a style of blue in place of another style unless picking a stilton. Oh and by the way, you can now buy ‘Light Blue Cheese Triangles’. What has the world come too.

Flavoured Cheese – This is something that people can be a bit snobby about but these can sometimes be my favourite cheeses.  Wendsleydale with Cranberries, White Stilton with Apricot and Double Gloucester with Onion and Chive are probably the most ubiquitous. For the above board I tried some Wensleydale with Date and Orange and it was amazing. I’m also a fan of Red Leicester Whirl with Garlic and I’m not above a bit of roule. There is a whole world of flavoured cheeses to try…it’s hard to go to any kind of food market without finding at least one stall full of wax covered truckles with weird flavour cheese – Snowdonia is probably the most prevalent.  Some others that used to be super popular at Booths were Bowland, Sage Derby and White Stilton with Lemon.

The Rest – There are of course a million other options. I can’t make a cheese board without the semi-soft Port Salut – I do prefer the big chunk rather than the small whole cheese. If you can find the real thing on a cheese counter however – jump on it – its a world apart and delicious.  I also like to go for what I’d term a ‘rubbery cheese’ – something like Jarlsberg or Gouda. Or there are a multitude of creamy continental options like Doux de Montagne and a whole mass of harder options like Comte, Gruyere and Manchego (ewes milk). If you’re not sure – go to a cheese counter, ask for a recommendation and try some options before committing. Oh and last but not least, if I have any Graceburn Cheese in, that is definitely going on the board (in a ramekin!)

What to avoid – There are some cheeses that are just not overly suited to a cheese board but that’s not too say you can’t add them if you want to but I wouldn’t bother unless you feel strongly about it. I won’t put a Parmesan/Pecorino on a cheese board – its too strong and too dry  – best saved for grating over pasta in my book. Cream and cottage cheeses including Ricotta and Mascarpone  aren’t really practical. Similarly, Mozzarella, even the super expensive buffalo milk kind and the delicious Burrata isn’t a great cheeseboard option – best kept for savouring on its own or with a little (a lot) parma ham – it’ll be overpowered in this situation. Halloumi (which has a heady combination of goat, ewe and cow milks *boke*) is best grilled for a vegetarian and Feta would just be weird. Whilst I am often a fan of reduced fat cheese for things like Mac’n’Cheese, this is not the time or place. Its usually the texture that is compromised and its not good eating. If you’re having a cheeseboard, you’re not dieting so just don’t bother!


The Meat

Obviously my favourite part!

I like to try and go for a selection of cured meats and sausage. In the case of the below selection, I have included serrano ham, mortadella, milano salami and chunky chorizo. There is also a revelation of a product in Sainsburys called Sobrasada De Mallorca which is basically a soft chorizo which a super porky taste which we loved. Which type of ham and which type of sausage you choose is hugely down to personal preference. I would recommend at least one variety of each however. For a spicy kick and alternative to the Sobrasada, a good n’duja (nuh-jew-ah) would be a delight.

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Where and How to Purchase – In exactly the same way as cheese, cured meats are better procured from the deli counter – Morrisons is my preferred affordable option. The meat in Morrisons is generally the most superior supermarket meat (and all British).  Its best to specify with some serious emphasis that any parma ham/serrano ham/prosciutto is sliced extra thin – “oh but it will fall apart” the assistant will say – clearly having never gnawed on a piece of overly thick ham akin to boot leather.  Insist I tell you!  And also ensure that each slice is separated by a piece of film or you’ll find a giant lump of ham that tears into tiny shreds as you try to pull the slices apart. This isn’t such an issue with the salamis and you can slice them as you prefer – I do again prefer them on the thinner side, mostly to not entirely overpower the cheese. This time I went for a chorizo ring sliced into thick chunks to provide another texture. Obviously an independent neighbourhood deli would be an excellent outlet for this sort of thing but unless for a vary rare treat – my budget does not afford me this luxury.

Presentation – There is something to be said for cheeseboards with fruit and cured meats sexily draped around and about the cheese but the practical reality is that that is a pain to eat. And no good if you have any vegetarian’s coming. So I usually present the meats separately – in this case in a enamel tin with the soft chorizo as a focal point in a glass ramekin. I also like to try and give the flat items a bit of a ‘tszuj’ (this is apparently how you spell the word pronounced something like ‘juyz’ or ‘juj’) by folding the salamis into quarters, pinching the middle point together and then putting them on the plate – they should then fan out a bit. Clearly not necessary but it does increase the visual a bit – the same with draping slices of cured ham – much nicer looking than a flat pack of plastic separated slices!


The Bread

All bread is good. I’m especially a fan of the mass produced sliced white bread much hated by food snobs around the world. Bacon sandwiches any other way are basically a travesty. However, even I have to admit that a cheeseboard situation is a time for something a little more refined. I’m a big fan of a ‘cutty’ granary loaf or roll.

In this case, I decided to try a bit of bread baking. With the exception of my old faithful Sodabread and Garlick Tear’n’Share Loaf, bread is not my forte.

With the delightful help of Catie, my latest new housemate/sous-chef, I whipped up a Focaccia with Infused Oil from Perfect Plates, the latest gorgeous book by Bake off Winner John Whaite. Not my most successful bake ever – the dough is super sticky and is probably best made in a stand mixer as advised in the book! My new vintage Kenwood will be tried and tested with the recipe at some point in the near future.

I also made Dan Lepard‘s Alehouse Rolls from Short and Sweet which were very odd to make! The method starts with boiling oats in a whole bottle of ale then leaving this to macerate  for a while.  The rest of the method involved very little kneading but many stages of brief kneads followed by resting periods. Nothing difficult but I should have started baking them at least one, if not two hours earlier. The result was still pretty damn good and the went down a storm but I thought they needed a little more salt. Another one to definitely try again sometime.


The Condiments

You can get the best cheese, the best meat and the best bread but without some well selected condiments, you may as well not have bothered. Ok a bit harsh maybe, unaccompanied cheese is better than no cheese but still a good condiment can elevate the whole thing to another level.

My absolute mainstay is this Caramelized Red Onion Chutney from M&S. I’m not really a chutney girl – I find them too astringent and overpowering so red onion is the way to go for me. I’ve tried a multitude and settled on the M&S option as my preference. I will make a special trip to M&S for it – much easier now a Foodhall has opened in East Dulwich!

My other new favourite condiment is this Spicy Peach Chutney from Waitrose – delicious. Sadly a Waitrose has yet to open nearby (sort it out people) so I’d run out by this cheeseboard day. Now I have a car, I have frequented a number of Waitroses and I’m once again fully stocked!

Last but not least and a discovery on cheeseboard day itself is this Sticky Fig Chutney from Sainsburys.  No hint of cinnamon as it seems to state and no real hint of the apple that is also apparently in there either but figgy and delicious. And great with cheese.


The Rest

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Mushroom Pâté – Now its not often I choose the vegetarian version of something over the meaty version but pâté is one of them (along with haggis). Waitrose used to do an amazing Mushroom and Arborio Rice Pâté on their counters but they seem to have discontinued this a couple of years ago but I’ve recently discovered Castle MacLellan Oven Roasted Mushroom Pâté which is delicious as heck. I’ve tried a couple of supermarket own brand mushroom pâtés which were considerably cheaper of late and they’ve all gone in the bin. This one is available in a few supermarkets, not just Sainsbos.

Salad – As I mentioned in my intro, I prefer salad with my cheese rather than fruit. I tend to go for a fairly strong leaf such as Wild Rocket or Baby Spinach which will stand up to the other strong flavours.  Don’t go to town with this, a good handful will see through quite a crowd.

Bell Peppers – or ‘capsicums’ as my Aussie housemates insist on calling them despite that having all the equivalent precision of calling lilies, tulips and daisies ‘flowers’ or onions, leeks, garlic and ‘allium’. Anyway. Peppers provide a bit of crunch which is otherwise lacking. You could of course go with something like celery but as I’m convinced that no one actually likes celery, don’t. Also, no one like a bitter green pepper so try and stick with yellow, orange or red varieties.

Red Onions – By the time I’ve done with my red onions, they’re no longer providing any crunch and the biting acidity is toned down but I’d not have a cheeseboard without them. The treatment is the same as with my onion topping on my Carrot, Red Lentil and Satay Meal Soup – basically finely slice 1 small Red Onion and add to a bowl with 1 tsp White Sugar and 1 tsp Lime or Lemon Juice and a pinch of Sea Salt Flakes. Gently mix together to coat the onion and set aside for at least 20 minutes stirring occasionally.

Figs – You know how I said no fruit? Well I make an exception for figs (as I am clearly obsessed by the prevalence of them on my blog! Nothing funky required here – just quarter and serve some good ripe figs (if you can get hold of any).  Saying that, a drizzle of honey would be rather delicious….


Final Thoughts

Let me know what you normally do – have I missed anything? Do you think something I do is weird? Any tips?

I’m off to buy some cheese…..