Cheese melts party guest hearts
Need to host a party feast? No worries. Robyn Timson shows you how to cream it
WHY not usher in the silly season with a cheese and wine party? A beautifully styled table and perfect balance of texture, shapes, sizes and flavours is a feast for the eyes and palate. Here are some great party dishes for a cheesy feast.
SPICY CARAMELISED COCKTAIL NUTS
200g (1 cup) light brown sugar
10ml (2 tsp) salt
10ml (2 tsp) mixed spice
10ml (2 tsp) ground ginger
10ml (2 tsp) ground cinnamon
10ml (2 tsp) ground cumin
1kg raw mixed nuts
125ml ( cup) water
30ml (2 tbsp) olive oil
Combine the sugar, salt and spices and mix well. Spread the nuts on a baking tray and sprinkle with the spice mixture. Mix the water and oil and pour over the nuts, shaking to make sure they are all well coated. Bake at 160°C for about 10 minutes and keep an eye on them as they burn quickly. Remove the tray and turn off the oven. Shake the nuts to separate and coat them, then return them to the oven for 10 minutes. Remove and shake again. Leave them in the switched-off oven as it cools, shaking occasionally, until you have crunchy, sweet, salty, spicy nuts.
PRETTY PLAITED PUFF PASTRY CHEESE STRAWS
2 x 400g rolls ready-made puff pastry
120g (1 cup) cake flour, for dusting
4 large eggs, beaten, for brushing
Salt and pepper, to taste
100g (1 cup) freshly grated parmesan
Roll the thawed pastry out on a floured work surface and give it one or two rolls in each direction with a rolling pin just to smooth it out. Sprinkle with flour on both sides and cut lengthways into 3cm-wide strips. Cut each strip into 3 equal sections and braid them together to form a long pastry plait. Pinch the ends neatly and set aside on a greased baking tray while you do the rest. Once you've plaited all your pastry, brush the braids with beaten egg, season and sprinkle with parmesan. You can also add herbs such as thyme or rosemary, seeds, use different cheeses or even crushed nuts and honey for a sweet treat. Bake at 180°C for 15 minutes or until puffy and golden. Allow to cool completely and store in an airtight container.
PECORINO AND POPPY-SEED SHORTBREAD HEARTS
180g butter, chopped into cubes
200g (2 cups) pecorino, parmesan or other good hard cheese, freshly grated
240g (2 cups) cake flour
90g poppy seeds
90g mixed seeds
5ml (1 tsp) smoked paprika
10ml (2 tsp) salt
Combine all the ingredients in a food processor and blend on high speed to form a crumbly dough. Knead the dough for a few seconds until it forms a smooth ball. Don't overdo it or the biscuits will lose their light, crumbly texture. Rest the dough in the fridge for 10 minutes before rolling it out on a floured surface to a thickness of about 5mm. Cut out shapes with a cookie cutter, place on a greased baking tray and bake at 200°C for 8-10 minutes.
GRAND BRIE WHEEL TOPPED WITH GRILLED PEACHES FLAMBÉED IN SHERRY AND ANISE
This recipe is delicious with lots of different cheeses and so if you can't find a large brie wheel it will also work beautifully with blue cheese or camembert. Easily accessible producers of lovely big bries are Dalewood and Fairview. For added theatrics, you can pour some brandy over your creation at the last minute and set it alight.
8-10 firm peaches, washed
12 star anise
30ml (2 tbsp) sugar
125ml (½ cup) brandy
250ml (1 cup) sherry
1 large brie wheel (as big as you can find)
Give your peaches a good wash and then slice the cheeks off of them by cutting just to the sides of the centre-line, avoiding the pip . Heat a griddle pan and cook the peaches flesh side down until char marks appear. Remove and cool .
Heat a saucepan on high heat and throw in the star anise, followed immediately by the peaches, sugar and brandy. Ignite the brandy, with a match or gas flame. Once it has burnt off, repeat this process with the sherry. Once all the alcohol has burnt off, quickly remove the peaches from the pan and allow the syrup to cool and infuse with the star anise. What will result is lovely syrup packed with peachy flavour.
Arrange the peaches on top of the brie wheel, scatter with the star anise, drizzle with syrup and serve with biscuits and torn baguette.
Cheeses, breads and preserves from Cheese Gourmet in Linden, Johannesburg, (011) 888-5384. Jars and labels from Santos in Parkhurst, Johannesburg, (011) 880-6259.