Tuesday 21 May 2013

Two Fine Boys and a Cheeseboard (it was a Dif Juz song... kinda... oh never mind)

Lots of firsts this weekend. First time this year we opened up the patio, Our busiest ever two days: party of eight and then a party of ELEVEN (our first and probably, hopefully, our last). First time  my youngest son has helped. First time I've done a proper split menu (not something I want to encourage) of beef or fish. And the third time I've done a cheeseboard... but the first time I've taken a photograph.

The cheeseboard features (sound like a bloody estate agent! The cheese board benefits from a lump of cheddar...) some of the finest British cheeses and preserves and also some home-made crackers and bread. Cheese from Neal's Yard: Montgomery Cheddar, Childswickbury, Croizier Blue and Tunworth. The preserves were a damson cheese from Neal's Yard and from Richard of the Preservation Collection some quince jam and some red pepper and chilli. I met Richard (@rich_graham) for a coffee last week and talked food at him for an hour or so. He's a patient man and very local so we took a tour of his kitchen too. He was actually nervous of supplying the quince; he wasn't sure it was up to scratch. It was. He'd added some elderflower too. It gave the jam a delicious honeyed aftertaste. I will be getting more.

I made some focaccia (Right) that I chargrilled and some new plain crackers (a mix of spelt, wheat and semolina). This is just flour(s) mixed with salt and water then kneaded until it's very smooth and elastic. Roll out, brush with salt water (not sure why - will investigate) and bake. I wanted a neutral flavour that didn't compete with the cheese and jams. It's a wonderful and social way to finish a meal. It just feels... civilised. For other crackers and for the focaccia recipe, look here

Despite the cost, I've decided only to serve British cheeses (well, and Eire). That's a distinction that's becoming more important to me. I've decided to stick to British food. We can argue about exactly what that means - it's certainly a moveable feast (sorry!). It won't be exclusive and I'll certainly borrow from the French and Italians. But I won't be serving heavily spiced food like curries or tagines. There are simply too many people out there who are far more skilled with those dishes. It's not like I'm sticking to what I know - lots of the recipes are new to me - but I do want to forge (too grand) a modern British flavour. Something like The Hand and Flowers pub, that recently won its second star. Their menu is full of French terms and Italian ingredients but it feels like it has a local integrity. I can only lust after their produce and skill (and prices) but you need a target.

Anyway, back to the weekend.

My two boys both helped on Saturday. And they were superb. Both did what they were told when they were told (I know!) which is essential in a kitchen (as there's only room for one ego) and both were forgiving of my mistakes and vigilant to potential improvements. I'm a proud father. Unfortunately, Fabian is at that stage of adolescence where he hates cameras, so he's rather blurred here.

Etien and Fabian. That's a temperature probe on the fridge. More about that... sometime.

It's also handy having more help as they can take the photos I always forget to. Here's one Fabian took of the Saturday dessert being plated up. Vanilla cheesecake with blackberries in their own coulis.

Dif Juz: Two Fine Days and a Thuderstorm. For me, a highly evocotive song. It's my first year of student life and Cardiff, playing in the band and doing my NCTJ and Eric, Liz and Nick.


  1. Cheese board presented with different kinds of cheese and other delicious snacks can enhance excitement for any event. cupid cheese board also look amazing. your blog is informative. :)