Charcuterie (pronounced: char-cue-ter-rie)

As promised in my post on cheese, I said I would follow up with some important points on creating an awesome charcuterie platter. Shelby from Fino Food and Wine also took us through the creation of a charcuterie plate for large parties and small occasions.

Before this session, I was already familiar with Fino Food and Wine, after a session my friend Mel Kettle organised in their warehouse. I’ve never eaten so much cheese and charcuterie in one sitting. Not to mention, Pepe Saya himself was there and did a couple of demonstrations. (If you’ve never had Pepe Saya butter, you need to correct that immediately!)

Although, I’d tried sobrassada at Ortiga, it was also the first time I really understood what I was eating. Sobrassada – now one of my favourite things – is a spreadable sausage from Majorca. It’s delicious served straight from the pack or it could be warmed through. My engagement party last year featured much sobrassada and there was some left over. We may have eaten a small portion heated through, with a fried egg and a slice of homemade sourdough for breakfast on a few mornings following. It’s very rich, so you don’t need a lot, but that won’t stop you going back for more!

Now, on to awesome charcuterie plates your friends will talk about for days.

300charcuterieWhat should go on the platter?
According to Shelby, there is no rule for how many different meats you can have on a platter, but as with cheese, less is more. The rule of three comes up again, “I would stick to a minimum of three high-quality cured meats per platter; smallgoods that vary in texture, flavour and are derived from different animals,” she said.

This is where (my favourite) spreadable sausage comes into to play. Your mix of delectable meats should include a spreadable sausage like sobrassada or nduja (warning, aduja is very hot). Shelby recommends serving either at room temperature with a little honey.

What should you drink?
Shelby recommends dry sherry, Lambrusco or beer (pale ales, stouts and lagers match well). She said that Fino always recommends “firstly drinking something that you like and secondly something that will help reset your palate against the richness of the meats”.

What to eat with charcuterie?
To counter the richness of the meats, Shelby tends to accompany her charcuterie with “bright, acidic pickles, punchy mustards, old school chutney and pastes”. So, fill your basket with baby cornichons (one of my favourites, that go well with spreadable sausage or pate), caperberries or dill pickles (Shelby said her favourite at the moment are the pickles from Westmont Picklery, Australian made and grown; I’ve never heard of of pickles described as bad-ass, but these were!). Pop a dijon mustard or a horseradish seeded mustard on there along with a rich honey.

300charcuterie2At what point should I throw out the platter?
IF there is anything left (and if I had anything to do with it, there wouldn’t be!), throwing out leftovers depends on how long the platter has been out and whether it has been inside or outside. Importantly, Shelby pointed out that “curing and fermenting of meats as a means of preservation has been around for a very long time, yet it’s so new to people”. So, in saying that, use your ‘common sense’, because that salami might very well be perfect tomorrow night too.

I asked Shelby what’ she is loving at the moment, too. Her response:
“I am a sucker for Salumi Australia’s Cacciatorini. ¬†Traditionally, these small salamis were carried around by Italian hunters and are derived from the word cacciatore meaning ‘hunter’. Sliced thin, they are mild in flavour, perfectly seasoned and just an all round delight to eat. Love them.”

Thanks again for sharing your wisdom, Shelby!

Fino Food and Wine has an online store where you can buy amazing (and super tasty) charcuterie packs for your next shindig.

I hope your next charcuterie platter will only be in existence for a very short time!

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A good ol’ comforting family favourite

You know those meals you have that just make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside? The ones that, even though you may make it a thousand times, still tastes better when someone else makes it? Well, insert my Dads chips’n’chops.

To be completely honest (sorry Dad), its actually my late Grandmother’s recipe, which has gone down through the generations. It’s one of those dishes everyone loves, and there is almost never any leftovers. It’s so warm and hearty that I’ve never met anyone that doesn’t love it!

You may think its a bit of a strange combination of sauces, but don’t knock it until you try it! I was lucky enough to have this the other night, as one of the first dishes my dad cooked for us in his new house.

Ingredients

  • 6 Lamb fore-quarter chops
  • 1 onion roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup Soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/3 cup Barbeque sauce
  • 1 packet of frozen chips (Healthy Choice is my favourite to use)


Method

  1. Put lamb chops in a large baking dish in a single layer.
  2. Add all sauces, and cover with water.
  3. Bake in a moderate oven for approximately 2.5 hours, turning occasionally.
  4. For the last 30 minutes, top with frozen chips and bake until cooked through. The sauce will thicken up and the chips will soak up half the sauce, while still being crunchy on top.

Note: If you prefer crunchier chips, cook them separately and serve together. If you want thicker gravy, add a tablespoon of cornflour mixed with enough water and add to the sauce when adding the chips!

Serves six (or three hungry men).

Enjoy!

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Pesto scrolls

One of the easiest things you could make for a party are these super tasty pesto scrolls.

While I was at uni, I worked at the Casino in Brisbane. In my first two weeks there, I accidentally said yes to a shift in the fine dining restaurant, even though I’d never done fine dining before. I wasn’t very good at anything they got me to do, so I ended up polishing cutlery all night. It wasn’t so bad, repetitious things can be calming. There’s a reason for this story, I promise.

When guests were seated at the tables, instead of bread rolls, I noticed the waiters delivering scrolls from a hotbox and I spent the entire night wondering what they were. I worked up the courage to ask one of the waiters and she mumbled “pesto scrolls” before running off. Because I didn’t get a good look at the scrolls I was so curious about, I went home thinking about them.

A couple of weeks later I went to a party and had to take something with me. I had a moment of (what I like to call) genius and decided I was going to make pesto scrolls. I bought some frozen puff pastry, pesto and grated Parmesan (fresh, not long-life) and experimented. Well, I say experimented, but really the first thing I tried worked so well I didn’t try anything else.

The recipe below makes about 30 small scrolls, but each sheet of pastry you use will make between 16 and 20 scrolls depending how thin you cut them.

Ingredients

  • 2 sheets of frozen puff pastry
  • 4 heaped tablespoons of pesto
  • 2 small handfuls of grated Parmesan cheese

Method

  1. Pull the pastry sheets out of the freezer and let them thaw a bit. Don’t let them thaw completely or it will be hard to roll.
  2. Slather two heaped tablespoons of pesto the sheet, leaving about three centimetres free on one side of the square.
  3. Sprinkle the cheese as evenly as you can on the pesto.

BFWE - pesto Step-1and2

  • Roll the pastry up, starting the opposite side to the one you left a gap. Much like a sushi roll, you can use the plastic the sheet came on like a sushi mat.
  • When you get close to the end, brush a little water on the pastry to help it stay closed.
  • Wrap the roll in the plastic the pastry sheet came on.
  • Repeat.

BFWE - pesto Step-3and4

  • Wrap the two rolls of filled pastry in cling wrap so the ends of the rolls don’t burn in the freezer and freeze.
  • When you’re ready to cook the scrolls, pull the rolls out of the freezer and let them thaw slightly – just enough so you can cut through the pastry without shattering it (if they shatter, they won’t look very nice when cooked).
  • Preheat the oven to 200 degrees.
  • Line baking trays with grease proof paper.

BFWE - pesto Step-5

  • Using a sharp knife, cut the roll up in to even slices.
  • Lay the slices out on the trays with plenty of space between them (because they do expand as they cook).
  • Put them in the oven for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown. Keep an eye on these the first time you cook them because every oven is different.

You can serve these warm or, let them cool and serve cold and crunchy!

These are so easy you can prepare a few rolls in advance and pull them out whenever you need them.

You can make changes to suit you!

  • Add grated mozzarella cheese to bulk them up a bit.
  • Use some of those delicious chunky dips instead of pesto.
  • Sweet versions are good too! Recently, I made nutella and white chocolate scrolls. Yum!

Nutella-scrolls

Let me know how you go!

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Improve your salad – vinaigrette

I was reading this article over at Stone Soup about (the author) Jules’ trick for eating more salad. It was a simple trick – a nice dressing, made in bulk so you don’t have to make something each time you make a salad. It inspired me to write an article about dressing too, because I’m a big fan of dressed salads.

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned it before, but I really don’t like lettuce. I find it bitter, often limp, and most definitely overused in a lot of places because it’s cheap. I remember going to one cafe and ordering a salad – it was three-quarters lettuce and the rest of it was a sprinkle of other salad items and a few bits of chicken. Super disappointing!

If I HAVE to eat lettuce, it needs to be liberally coated in vinaigrette to counter the bitterness. If there is no dressing (how do people do it?!) or some pre-made dressing out of a bottle has been drizzled over the top, I’ll only eat the non-lettuce items.

Anywho, that’s enough about my fussy eating habits.

The Stone Soup article made me think of the bulk dressing I keep in my fridge, a simple vinaigrette. It usually lives in a mustard jar because I’ve used the almost finished mustard to get things going…

Ingredients:

  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 1 clove garlic, minced/chopped very fine (or more if you’re a garlic fiend like me!)
  • 1 tsp of mustard (if you’re using an almost empty mustard jar, the mustard will already be taken care of)
  • 3 parts olive oil
  • 2 parts white wine vinegar

Method: Put ingredients in a jar and give it a good shake. Voila, vinaigrette!

Keep in the fridge.

This is just the version my father taught me; you can really do anything you like with yours. Try different combinations of spices, oils and vinegars until you find a flavour you like. Give the Stone Soup recipe a go too, it’s quite tasty and very simple.

Do you have a bulk recipe you keep in the fridge?

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Creating a top notch cheese platter

Taste on James Street (heaven on earth if you’re a foodie) recently celebrated their 10th birthday and invited foodies from all over to participate in their festivities, which included cooking classes.

We were lucky enough to join in on both a cheese class and a charcuterie class with Fino Fine Food, a Brisbane-based wholesaler of specialty foods (read: totally delicious).

Fino Fine Food’s food stylist, Shelby Chalmers took us through setting up a top notch large cheese platter and breaking it down into smaller plates. While I knew most of what Shelby took us through, I had a lightbulb moment when one lady at our table said she had learned so much. I spoke to Shelby when it was all over and asked if she wouldn’t mind me writing up a post about both sessions. I grabbed her email address and here we are, with the top 5 keys to making an awesome cheese plate:

The mix
When I do up a cheese platter, I usually have a mix of cheese textures on the plate (a hard, a soft and often a blue) because generally that means there is something for everyone. Shelby believes less is more, so you’re better off having three really amazing cheeses than trying to fill a platter with a heap of ‘so-so’ cheeses. Her top tip: “I like to stick to three good things and have a cheese that hails from each of the following categories: a hard or semi-hard, a blue and a soft mould”.

The accompaniments
Whenever you see a cheese platter, it’s usually cluttered with a bunch of different accompaniments, but you don’t have to go all out. Shelby recommends honey, fresh fruits and marmalades. During this class, we had some amazing fruit pastes and baby figs. Yum!

If you like nuts on your platter, Shelby urges to avoid walnuts, unless you can get them fresh. Most often, walnuts are already rancid and impart a horrible bitter flavour.

No wonder I’m not keen on walnuts!

The bottom
I say ‘the bottom’ because I wanted all my sub-headings to match.

Here, I’m referring to what to eat the cheese with. This one is pretty easy though, fresh crusty sourdough, crackers, fresh fruit, lavosh, the list really goes on.

The match
It would be crazy to have an amazing cheese platter and nothing to drink! Shelby recommends some cold craft beer, because it just goes so well with cheese. Chardonnay also works well, and light-bodied reds like Pinot Noir.

The presentation
This is last for a reason, there’s plenty to say!

  • I’m a big fan of serving whole cheese wheels and blocks. Not only does it look better, but people can also decide for themselves how big of a slice they would like (I may or may not like eating slices of cheese bigger than the bread I’m eating it with).
  • As per the above point, please don’t chop cheeses into squares! In fact, I loved Shelby’s presentation of her hard cheese – using a knife to ‘crumble’ large pieces of cheese off the block to encourage people to do the same. Sometimes it’s the worst, waiting for someone else to start a untouched piece of cheese.
  • For a big platter, get yourself some nice ramekins or other containers for your accompaniments. For smaller platters (for maybe 3-4 people), a spoon or two of the accompaniments directly on the plate will work well.
  • As mentioned above, you don’t have to get as much as you can on the platter. If you have three cheeses, you only need three accompaniments and a couple of different crackers/breads. I totally agree with Shelby’s words, “all killer, no filler”.
  • You can serve it on whatever you like, you don’t to use a wooden chopping board just because everyone else is. A ceramic platter, or as I’ve done before, a whole table!
  • When you’re laying out your items, spread them out nicely, so people can get to everything.

What’s good right now? Shelby said she can’t get enough of their 24-month-old Comt√©, a semi-hard french cheese. Drool.

Fino Food & Wine has an online store where you can buy amazing cheese packs for your next shindig.

I hope your cheese platters will be amazing! Keep your eye out for charcuterie platter tips next!

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