The Holiday Cheese Board

Thursday 5 December 2013

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Sometimes the nicest things drop through my mailbox, and certain times of the year it gets more exciting than ever.  I was especially excited the other day when I opened a box to find this tasty treat inside!

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It was a personalized stocking, just for me and filled with lots of little packages . . . but what could they be.  Why cheese of course and a very timely arrival as well!  As we all know there is nothing tastier or more welcome during the holidays than a deliciously appointed cheeseboard to share with your guests!

I am no stranger to the wonderful cheeses which are produced by Castello Cheese.  I often buy their Danish Blue, which is one of my favourites when it comes to blue cheeses.  Here is what I found inside all of those lovely little festive packages . . .

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Not one, but two packages of their lovely Danish Blue . .  the Traditional and the Extra Creamy.  A creamy blue cheese, bursting with flavour and thick with blue veins.  This has always been my choice when making my homemade Blue Cheese Salad Dressings . . . and an absolute favourite with my Baby Gems Salad.

*Little Gems With a Blue Cheese Dressing*
Serves 4
Printable Recipe

This is one of my favourite salads. Simple ingredients, complex flavours. It all adds up to a truly delicious salad. Just perfect for these warmer days.

2 TBS cider vinegar
2 TBS heavy cream
3 1/2 ounces extra virgin olive oil
2 ounces blue cheese
2 fat little gem lettuces
2 spring onions, thinly sliced on the diagonal
1 TBS sugar
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Whisk the vinegar and cream together with a little seasoning. Whisk in the sugar until it dissolves. Gradually whisk in the olive oil. Fold in the cheese.

Wash the lettuces and dry them really well. Cut the lettuces into wedges lengthwise and fan them out on 4 chilled salad plates. Drizzle over the dressing, dividing it equally amongst the salads. Sprinkle evenly with the spring onions. Serve immediately.

*Blue Cheese Salad Dressing*
Makes 10 servings
Printable Recipe

One of my favourite salad dressings is Blue Cheese.  You can't get a decent one in the shops and so I prefer to make my own.  Marks and Spencer used to do a really good one, but you can't buy it anymore, well, at least not around here anyways!  Plan ahead as this tastes better upon sitting overnight.

1 cup good quality Mayonnaise
1 cup sour cream
1/2 to 3/4 cup buttermilk
1/2 tsp ground white pepper
2 TBS grated onion
4-5 drops of Tabasco sauce
1 TBS lemon juice
1 tsp Worcestershire Sauce
1/2 tsp salt
a dash of cayenne pepper
1 clove of garlic, peeled and minced
2 tsp white sugar
6 ounces blue cheese, crumbled

Whisk together the mayonnaise, sour cream and buttermilk, adding as much of the buttermilk as you need to give it a good consistency.  You want it to be pourable.  Whisk in the remaining ingredients.  Mix thoroughly.  Cover and chill for 24 hours before serving.  You may need to add a bit of regular milk if it is too thick.  Taste and adjust seasoning before serving.

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Castello Creamy Blue . . . Sharp and salty this blue is perfect with salty nuts, crisp digetives and sweet fruits such as sweet cherries, figs,  juicy grapes . . .

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Castello Creamy White . . . a cheese which has a wonderfully creamy texture and buttery taste, not unlike that of Brie, but unlike a traditional Brie, it has a consistently soft texture.  Oh so good . . .

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Included as well a lovely little Castello Pineapple Halo.  Filled with alluring chunks of pineapple and chopped papaya and rolled in toasted almonds, this is lucious and almost incredibly impossible to resist, spread upon a crisp cracker, or onto sticks of crisp celery.  Delicious!

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The Toddster insists that no good cheeseboard would be complete without a nice slab of cheddar, and I would have to agree.   Included in my lovely stocking was a nice package of the newest member of the Castello family . . . Tickler Cheddar!    This is an award winning extra mature cheddar with a sweet, strong and tangy taste which is bound to impress any cheese connoisseur.  With it's distinctive taste and slightly crumbly texture  this was the real prize in my stocking!  Produced at the Taw Valley creamery, Devon and matured for up to 18 months, this was fabulously tasty and the one I find myself slicing a little sliver off of each time I pass the refrigerator.   It's a good-un!

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I prepared and served a lot of cheeseboards during my stint as a personal Chef down South.  Every dinner party ended with a delicious cheeseboard after their dessert.   Here is what I learned through my experiences and my top tips for you to have the best cheese board ever.

1.  Make sure your board includes a nice variety of cheeses.  A good cheddar is a must, as is something creamy for spreading . . . a nice blue, something fruity, something sharp, something smelly and covered in ash for interest.  Just don't over do it.   Three or four different cheeses is a perfect balance.

2.  Allow all of your cheeses to come to room temperature before serving.   This helps to bring out the very best of their flavours.

3.  A bit of fruit is always welcome . . .  quartered figs and sliced crisp apples and ripe pears,  sweet grapes in more than one colour.  (Be sure not to forget your grape scissors to your guests can clip off their own little clusters.)

4.  Something salty . . . smoked almonds, roasted cashews, toasted walnut halves . . . all great.

5.  Something different to jazz things up . . . crystalized ginger, some honey comb, pickled walnuts.

6.  A nice variety of crisp breads and crackers.  There are so many nice ones out there today to choose from.  Don't forget the Digestives either . . . these are usually the ones which disappear the fastest!  You can get then in finger shapes, which are a really good size and not as crumbly as the big round ones.

7.  Have fun!

Many thanks to Castello Cheese for sending me this lovely assortment of cheeses in it's fun stocking!  To find out more about them and see their whole range and to find out more about stockists, be sure to check out the Castello Home Page.   

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