Feed Your Happy: Late Summer Soft Cheeseboard
Trying to throw a dinner party in a house that only has a partial kitchen and barely other rooms suitable for guests, let alone finished is a challenge. So, while I accepted that we would have to eat inside for the main course (even though most of the food was cooked on the barbecue) for my summer party this year, I was adamant that if the weather held we’d at least have our starters in the sun trap by my parents pond. Last year at my Road to Rio themed dinner I’d had such a success with an interactive starter before we all sat down, so I settled on a soft cheeseboard everyone could help themselves to served with lots of pink champagne.
I kept things simple with a vaguely Middle Eastern theme, sourcing most of my items from either what I already had in the cupboard or the deli section in Waitrose, instead focusing on good, British organic cheeses. I’ve spoken before about how I like to focus on buying good quality organic meats, and when I do buy cheese (this is a soft cheeseboard made with sheep, goat and buffalo cheeses because I am not supposed to eat cheese made with cows milk) I also think that organic cheeses taste much better (they tend to be richer, creamier and have more nuanced flavours), buying British where possible to support our British dairy farmers.
The current campaign that the Organic Trade Board are focusing on for Organic September is called Feed Your Happy, exploring different ways dishes we feed to family and friends make us happy. I’m a compulsive feeder, and while it is a lot of work each summer making food for everyone, it has to be one of my highlights every year. You can find out more about the Feed Your Happy campaign in this video with Sara Cox.
While I let the beautiful, ashy goats cheese rounds I found do all the talking by themselves (it was simply delicious with a bite of ripe fig or a sable grape or two), I dressed the barrel aged feta slabs with a bit of lemon infused extra virgin olive oil and a generous sprinkling of Aleppo chilli (my absolute favourite way to eat feta) and I made my usual recipe for mini marinated mozzarella. I always look at the ends of cheese boards where a lot has been leftover thinking what a waste, so I just decided to stick with three, and think about how much people would eat if I had served up nine individual plates rather than one big board.
The measurements and items below I have listed are just a rough guide only if you were putting this board together for 9-10 people, but of course adapt it to your personal tastes and what ingredients you can find and are in season, or to give it more of a French, Italian or Greek theme.
- 2 Small Organic Goats Cheeses (approximately 100g/ 3.5 oz each)
- 1 Large or 2 Small Slabs Organic Feta (approximately 200g/ 5 oz)
- Lemon Infused Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Aleppo Chilli Flakes (Pul Biber)
- 1 Portion Mini Marinated Mozzarella
- 6 Large Handfuls Artisan Crackers
- Marinated Olives (approximately 200g/ 5 oz)
- Small Handful Pickled Caperberries
- 6 Small Ripe Figs
- 3-4 Large Handfuls Sable Grapes
A few tips: always serve your cheeses at room temperature where their flavours are at their best. Do the same for your figs. For cheeses that are stored in water or whey like mozzarella and feta, drain them on a piece of kitchen paper first so you don’t get pools of water on your cheeseboard, pickled items like caperberries, too. To that end, serve anything runny or drippy in pretty dishes on the board, like olives and marinated cheeses. Also, do things like olive oil drizzles that may pool once your cheeseboard is in situ, rather than doing it before you’ve carried it from the kitchen. Make sure there are enough knives for cutting the cheese, plates, napkins and tiny forks for everyone.
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