Holiday Cheese

Kris Lloyd shares three sumptuous recipes to take a holiday cheese platter to new heights.

I’m not sure about you, but food always seems to be centre stage as I settle into a much-deserved holiday period (even before the bubbles, beer and wine).

Our holidays typically involve frequent catch-ups with family and friends with one simple theme – bring a plate to share. An excellent idea, as it allows everyone to contribute something different, injecting variety and excitement into the gathering.

No prizes for guessing what will be on my plates. I have a few brunch recipe ideas using delicious cheese and seasonal produce. I want to get that ‘wow’ factor. I normally choose large plates or rustic wooden boards lined with fresh leaves, sheets of brown paper (or baking paper) for a little restaurant-style touch. But remember – first impressions are important, so keep presentation in mind if you want to get that ‘wow’ factor.

I normally choose large plates or rustic wooden boards lined with fresh leaves, sheets of brown paper (or baking paper) for a little restaurant-style touch. Cheese I adore this delicious twist on serving Camembert. To begin, find a very ripe Camembert.

A little cheesemonger’s secret – the ones closest to the best before dates are often the best picks and you may be lucky enough to catch them on special. Source some local, seasonal berries – I prefer blueberries, as they aren’t too tart – but raspberries or blackberries will work just as well.

Place a generous handful into a saucepan with a few tablespoons of sugar and a squeeze or two of lemon. Gently heat on medium to low until the sugar is dissolved and allow this to simmer until slightly reduced. Set aside to cool while you arrange your Camembert on a large platter. Be sure the cheese is at room temperature and the berry mixture is cooled. Carefully spoon your berries over the top, letting some run down the edges for effect. Serve with good quality, crusty fruit bread or freshly made pikelets.

A glass of sparkling is superb with this little combo. I have fond childhood memories of sitting under our backyard peach and apricot trees during the long hot summer holidays and, along with my brothers, gorging on the ripe, golden and succulent fruits. I yearn to do this again but unfortunately it wouldn’t be nearly as acceptable as I’d like. Luckily, when experimenting with blue cheese, I discovered a recipe that brought me back to those days. I call it the Blue Peach and it works best using a flatter peach called the doughnut peach, although I have done it with regular peaches.

Simply slice the peaches horizontally, remove the pits, and place them (sliced side up) on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Top each half with a generous slice of blue cheese and freshly crushed walnuts.

If you’re not keen on walnuts crush a couple of digestive style biscuits and sprinkle on top instead. Bake the topped peaches in a hot oven for around five minutes. Finish under the griller until they are golden and emerge looking a bit like a peach crumble. To finish, generously drizzle with maple syrup and serve immediately. A super simple recipe, but one can’t underestimate the combination of a creamy blue, crunchy nuts and soft, sweet peach flesh.

This is a great alternative way to enjoy peaches while they are in season, which sadly is not for very long. Finally, I have a decadent variation on baked Brie that is sure to turn heads and excite tastebuds at any gathering. To begin, prepare a simple praline – any will do. As the praline sauce cools you can begin on the cheese.

Fit ripe Brie into a ramekin and place in a moderately heated oven. It should take roughly 15 minutes to cook perfectly, but the best test is to press down lightly on the top – it should feel soft. Remove from oven and place on your serving board, arranging half a cup of pecans or walnuts (or both) on top of the cheese.

To finish, pour around one cup of the cooled praline sauce over the top of your still-warm Brie, covering the entire cheese. Fabulous served with crisp almond bread. Whether you are at home entertaining or away over the holiday season I hope you will enjoy some cheese with your friends.

Choose local to support our great cheese-making industry here in South Australia and if you are feeling a little adventurous try these simple variations. Happy holidays!

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