What’s on your cheeseboard for Christmas?

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It’s that time when the planning for the Christmas meals are in full swing, and in this household thoughts always turn to what cheese we’ll have. Living in amongst so many Stilton producing villages, then that’s always going to be there, but there are a few others that MGG and I are considering:

 

Wodehill Blue

 

I like the look of Wodehill Blue, as something different as our blue cheese selection. It’s described as rich, buttery, creamy and complex, and so could be different to our Stilton (always Colston Basset here). Sounds like it could be a winner.

 

Rachel

 

I’ve not come across a cheese called Rachel before, but this is it. A semi hard goats cheese with a washed rind, this is a nutty rich flavour that would be perfect with crackers.

 

Cote Hill Reserve

 

I like lots of the cheese from Cote Hill, which is fairly close to us here. For Christmas then I would go with the Cote Hill Reserve, which is washed in beer giving it an elegant and complex flavour. That said, the Cote Hill Red would feel appropriate for the holiday season!

 

Quickes Cheddar with Herbs

 

I really like cheddar on the cheeseboard, but it’s going to need to be something a bit different for Christmas. I would choose Quicke’s Cheddar wtih Herbs, and there’s plenty of them going on with chives, parsley, oregano, marjoram and thyme. Like a herb garden meets the cheesemaker!

Of course, there’s no guesswork required on what we serve our cheese on, as I’ve written several times about how much I like Peter’s Yard crispbreads. There are some new flavours around, so I think there’s likely to be some original ones as well as the fig ones. Perfect to work with any of these, or even if you’ve only got some Philadelphia, will definitely be an improvement!

Roll on the cheeseboard!

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Time to get a brew on and plan

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I love this time of year, the anticipation of Christmas almost as good as the day itself. Planning the gifts, the decorations, the Christmas book off with English Mum and of course the food. I look forward to the moment each year when I get the recipe books down, the notebook out and the planning starts.

My other companion for this exercise is always a good mug of tea. Or two, depending on how many days I’m planning for. In order to brew great tea, and have a refill to hand, then I think I need a new teapot. And I’d like a Zero Japan one.

 

Zero Japan 2 Cup teapot - great gift for a food lover who really loves their tea

 

I really fell in love with these during a couple of happy times sitting in the Peter’s Yard Cafe in Edinburgh during our trip this summer. The display was really eye-catching, as is the design of these pots. These are not style over substance though, absolutely brilliant for loose-leaf tea.

 

Zero Japan at Peter's Yard - great place for any food lover to visit

 

I don’t know why I didn’t buy one at the time, as really the only decision to make is which colour! These aren’t available online from Peter’s Yard, but Pekoe Tea of Edinburgh have a great range on offer. Now, just to find the recipe books!

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Our Edinburgh food fun & finds

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If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll probably know that MGG and I have been in Edinburgh, enjoying lots of Fringe shows, a night at the Tattoo and some great food in great places. These were some of our favourites:

 

Exploring Stockbridge

 

Stockbridge Farmers’ Market – I have Lea Harris to thank for this one, as she suggested we went on the Sunday when we had no shows planned. We had gyoza for breakfast from Harajuku Kitchen, great coffee from Steampunk Coffee, and smoked salmon from Dunkeld. Not a bad start to the morning.

 

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Peter’s Yard Cafe – I’ve written before about how much I like Peter’s Yard crispbreads. Well, now we can add that we love their cafe too. So much, we went twice. I loved my sweet potato hummus with roasted peppers on walnut bread the first time, and a cardamom bun and good coffee the next time. I’d move to Edinburgh just for this being my local caff!

 

Starting our walking tour

 

Eat Walk Edinburgh – we did a great walking tour, combining food tastings and a bit of a history lesson of the lower part of the Royal Mile. MGG tried haggis for the first time, and liked it. I had Edinburgh Gin, but I knew already I liked that. We stopped in at Cranachan & Crowdie, which I thought was a great store. We came back to buy the venison chorizo that had been in the tasting, and added a few more things too. Very tempting store!

 

Beetroot Bacon & Blue Cheese

 

Tin Tin in a Tea Pot

 

The Crafter’s Barn – we had a late but relaxed lunch here, as we were both a bit footsore and a bit tired from dashing between shows. We were both well revived by the beetroot, bacon and blue cheese pizza (now added to our Friday night make at home pizza repertoire). I was well revived by my first ever beer cocktail, a Tin Tin. Which also had more Edinburgh Gin in it. And arrived in a teapot. Which you drank it from. Looked dodgy, tasted great! (UPDATE: Sadly, this place has now changed hands, such a shame)

One final one that I don’t have any photos from but definitely deserves a mention is Social Bite on Rose Street. If I lived in Edinburgh I would have to split my coffee time between Peter’s Yard and here, because this is social enterprise at its best and serves darn good coffee, not to mention great porridge. Go, buy your breakfast, buy your lunch, and suspend a purchase or two for someone else.

We loved our time in Edinburgh, and certainly ate really well, with great variety. I’d go back tomorrow, but think my waistline and bank account need a few weeks off first!

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Cheese for Christmas and beyond

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I had a request for some help with a cheese gift for Christmas, I like people who are organised and thinking early! So whilst it might be too early to buy the cheese, these are some of the ones I’d be looking at.

 

Pong Explorer Box - great gift for a cheese loving food lover

 

I really like Pong for cheese gifts, and I really like the Explorer Box, which works its way around some interesting cheese across hard, soft and blue. I love the Cropwell Bishop Shropshire Blue, but then I’m biased as that’s local to me. You can add in some lovely crackers too, and the recipient may not surface until almost New Year!

 

The Big Softy - great gift for a cheese loving food lover

 

The Cheese Shed is award winning, and rightly so. Amazing selection of artisanal cheeses, with a particular West Country bias. Plenty to choose from, I like the idea of The Big Softy, partly for delivering quite dramatic looking cheeses! Or you could put your own selection together, just with choices this good may be paralysed by the choices!

 

The Cheshire Cheese Gift Box - great gift for a cheese loving food lover

 

I often see The Cheshire Cheese Company at shows, and their cheese is certainly tasty, particularly if you like unusual combinations! I can’t say I would love the Sticky Toffee Heaven Cheddar, but some might, and I would suggest skipping the Old Hag if friendly relations are to be maintained. But the Best Sellers Cheese & Chutneys Gift Box would seem a safe and tasty bet.

 

Delilah - perfect for browsing & shopping

 

Now as the Nails who made this request could easily pop into Nottingham, she has two great choices for shopping for cheese. The Cheese Shop in Flying Horse Walk are definite specialists in this area, and would be able to provide everything from great cheese to crackers and chutney. And not far away is Delilah, where you could ponder the choices whilst enjoying a good lunch or just coffee.

 

Peter's Yard crispbreads

 

For some seriously good crackers then for me it has to be Peter’s Yard crispbreads. I love these, and have to hide them from MGG when she’s here as she is rather fond of them too. Perfect with every cheese I’ve paired with them yet, they look great as a gift, but could start an ongoing addiction.

To be honest, the Nails is also spoilt for choice around here with some great farm shops so could have a trip out and track down some tasty treats at the same time. Top of my list would be Welbeck, Gonalston and Harkers, or for the full day out then Chatsworth is not a million miles away.

Who said Christmas shopping isn’t fun? Probably Mr Nails.

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What will you eat your cheese on?

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You might know we are in British Cheese Week at the moment, and there’s been lots written about those cheeses that won at the British Cheese Awards. But great cheese deserves to be served on top of something great, and these are what I’d choose:

Peter's Yard Crispbreads - my very favourite thing to have cheese on

 

* I have to hide these whenever they are in the house. I love Peter’s Yard crispbreads, and so it seems does MGG. From the little mini ones, to the big frisbee ones, I haven’t found a cheese yet that I don’t like better on these. For home I just buy the basic packaging, but I love to give the big ones in their lovely tin as a gift. Buy direct from Peter’s Yard, from good delis around the country, or try Selfridges.

 

Cracotti for Cheese

 

* I am also very partial to the Cracotti from the Cracking Good Food Company. Hard for me to choose between the flavours, but if push came to shove then it would be the Cranberry and Hazelnut, with a nice creamy goats cheese on the side.

 

Walnut Wafers from Fortnum & Mason

 

* If I’m taking gifts to lovely friends in the US, then I tend to have a trip to Fortnums. Which is how I probably got a taste for their Walnut Wafers. I like these with some good Wensleydale, MGG would have hers with some Colston Basset Stilton.

So, get out and support great British cheeses with some great crackers. You’d be nuts not too!

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Coming round to the smoked salmon cause

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Fabulous smoked salmon from Forman and Field - great gift for a food lover

I’ve always wanted to love smoked salmon, as there are so many great dishes and rituals I associate with it. The muslin covered lemon half. Slapped between the two halves of a bagel with cream cheese. Paper thin on crust-less brown bread with good butter.

But I’ve just never really enjoyed it, particularly the texture, which I’ve always found a bit slimy. Fine if it was cooked through in something like scrambled eggs but not going for the simpler servings. Until now.

The people at Forman & Field offered to send me a sample of their London Cure smoked salmon, and of course I said yes, always game to try most things. According to their information, this cure was created by their founder, Harry Forman, and was designed to show off the fish, rather than disguise it (you can imagine this may have been the aim at some point of unscrupulous fishmongers!). He wanted to be able to taste the fish, not the smoke.

Now, I really like salmon, even if I’ve never loved the smoked stuff before. What I loved about this was that it was most definitely not slimy in texture, it was firm, mildly smokey flavoured and tasted of salmon but not fishy. It was as delicious on its own as it was stirred through a pasta sauce. It does say on the site that this is low in salt, and I can believe this, as we had to season quite heavily when cooking with it.

If you wanted to give a smoked salmon lover a real treat, then you could treat them to a whole unsliced side, perfect for a big party or special occasion. All those things I love about it, the ceremony and ritual, could be amplified by bringing this to the table and slicing it yourself. Make sure the recipient is confident about handling it though, as a whole side would come untrimmed and in need of pin boning. Worth the effort though I imagine!

You can treat someone to the London Cure from £9.95, with a whole side being £42.50, but they do reckon you could feed 12 to 14 from that. You could also add in black bread with caraway or Peter’s Yard crispbreads to a gift, so that they can tuck into this straight away. I also thought their gravadlax selection looked both interesting, with cures including beetroot and a wasabi and ginger cure, as well as good value at £7.50.

Forman & Field have never struck me as the cheapest place to hunt for a gift for a food lover, but if everything comes up to this standard then they’re definitely delivering quality for the money. Which makes it a good source for the future to me.

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