Festive Cheeseboards & Wine Pairings with M&S

I love the festive season, which for me starts right after Halloween as Thanksgiving is a few weeks later followed by Christmas just a month after. For Thanksgiving this year, we celebrated it for the first time in London and had some family come around. We typically always have appetisers and nibbles throughout the day and this year I decided to put out a lovely holiday cheeseboard paired with my favourite wines from Marks & Spencer, because no cheeseboard is as good without the wine!

A few months ago, I was invited by M&S to go on a food and wine pairing course and had the wonderful opportunity to try a variety of incredible wines from their Wines of the World Range, which showcases a huge range of international wines from the world’s top wine producing countries – England, France, Spain, Argentina and South Africa. All of the wines in the range are outstanding and pair very well with a variety of different foods and they’re super affordable.

ms-018201 When you host a party, I am a firm believer that you always need a great red and white along with a champagne or prosecco. My two favourite wines from the M&S Wines of the World Range is this Domino del Plata Terrior Malbec Cabernet Franc from Argentina. It’s medium-bodied and has flavours of ripe berries and toasted spices and pairs wonderfully with mature cheeses and roasts and steaks. It’s also a great red for those who are still acquiring a taste for it, as it’s not too heavy. My choice of white for the evening was this Viré Clessé Florent Rouve 2014. This delicious oaky chardonnay from France was buttery and full of flavour. It tastes great with salty cheeses, turkey, chicken and is a superb wine to sip on throughout the evening as it’s not too heavy. My choice of bubbles, which is not pictured here, is the Ridgeview Marksman Sparkling Wine from England. I have really grown to love English sparkling wine since I moved here and this one in particular has undertones of brioche flavour that pairs exceptionally well with light seafood starters and is also a wonderful aperitif to kick the holiday festivities off!

ms-018131I have definitely had my fair share of lame cheeseboards. I am American, but American Cheese should never make its way on to an elegant cheeseboard. A fantastic cheeseboard includes a variety of breads, biscuits, fruit, nuts, charcuterie and chutney – something for everyone! In terms of the cheeses itself. I would go for sharp, smoked, funky, sweet, soft, hard, fresh or aged cheeses. Also, I will say that you don’t have to spend an arm and a leg on creating a beautiful cheeseboard – there’s cheeses out there for every budget.

ms-018116For our funky cheese, we went for this festive Wensleydale with Cranberry, orange and cointreau – it’s a sweet and fruity cheese that pairs really well with the English sparkling wine alongside grapes and biscuits.

ms-018184This delicious Yorkshire Blue cheese is soft and creamy, made with milk from Yorkshire cows. I loved this cheese with fresh bread and it goes fantastic with a sweet Riesling  or the English sparkling wine.

ms-018179I love Goats Cheese – it’s my favourite of all cheeses and pairs the best with one of my favourite wines – Chardonnay. We bought this Kidderton Ash goats cheese from M&S and it tasted great with the French Florent Rouve Viré Clessé.

ms-018195This Special Reserve Gruyre from M&S is the cheese of dreams – it’s nutty cheese tastes delicious with a medium bodied wine that’s not overly intense like the Domino del Plata Terrior Malbec Cabernet Franc. It doesn’t overpower the flavours of the Gruyre.

ms-018175My final cheese was this indulgent, melting French Camembert from M&S. The most luxurious and delicious of all cheeses that again, goes superb with any sparkling wine, chardonnay or even the Malbec. Be careful, as it can clash with super heavy wines, so my suggestion would be to pair it with lighter bodied wines.

ms-018170Make sure you take your cheese out of the fridge about an hour before serving, as cheese is best served at room temperature. When you assemble your cheeseboard, it’s good to separate the funky cheeses from the others so they don’t come in contact with each other. I also like to put little cheese knives for each and place different biscuits, nuts and fruit in between.

Now that you’ve got your wine and cheese pairings down – let’s have a think about all the other festive things you need to make this a fantastic cheeseboard.

Fresh fruit, honey, olives and nuts are my usual choices. I love the sweet and salty combination and think it is very fit for the holidays!

Honey goes fantastic with brie and goats cheese, as does, olives, chutney (for Thanksgiving, I bought the Damson Port Chutney from M&S), fresh grapes, biscuits, and parmesan breadsticks.

I also love charcuterie with mine – we are huge fans of the truffle Salami from M&S!

Other fruits that go great with a cheeseboard are clementines, figs, oranges, berries and apples. Some dried fruits also work particuarly well such as apricots, dried cranberries and dates.

Any type of fruit jam will work great with these cheeses! You can either go with the honey or the jam, but I like to add both because… well… go big or go home, right?

No matter what type of cheeseboard you plan to create this holiday season, make it sparkle with Marks & Spencers.

Thank you Marks & Spencer for sponsoring this post. 

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Easy Halloumi Salad Recipe

_R014918 I’ve expressed my love for halloumi on here before – I love it. It’s one of my favourite cheeses and super versatile. Truth be told, I am not a fan of cooking. I love food, but I loathe coming home from work and figuring out what to cook (thank god for Ciaran). In comes halloumi – It is so easy to throw on the grill and in a mere matter of minutes it’s cooked. One of my favourite ways to use this delicious salty cheese is in a salad and this roasted pepper salad is the most simple thing to make, perfect if you’re like me and aren’t a fan of cooking.

Ingredients: 

  • 1 block of halloumi (any brand you like)
  • 1 pack of rocket
  • 3 peppers – red, orange and yellow (we use the Sainsbury’s basic pack)
  • Pine Nuts
  • Paprika
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • Nice bottle of balsamic

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Directions: 

  • Heat up a non-stick pan on high with a bit of olive oil
  • Heat up a small sauce pan on medium
  • While the pans are heating up, cut the halloumi into thin slices (it cooks better and quicker when sliced thin)
  • Chop the peppers into small chunks
  • Prepare two bowls with equal amounts of rocket
  • Once the non-stick pan is heated up, throw on the peppers first and season with salt and pepper, let them simmer for 3-4 minutes
  • Throw on the halloumi at the same time and season with paprika
  • Toss the pine nuts into the small sauce pan and allow to toast for 10 minutes
  • Continue to turn the peppers until they are nicely charred on the outside
  • Once the halloumi is golden brown on one side, flip all pieces over and leave to cook for 3-5 minutes or until golden
  • Once fully cooked, remove the peppers and halloumi from the pan
  • Toss the peppers in a bit of balsamic and place evenly into the bowls on top of the rocket
  • Dice up the cooked halloumi and evenly place into the bowls
  • Remove the sauce pan from heat and toss the toasted pine nuts on top
  • Serve whilst the halloumi is still hot – pairs great with a glass of Sauvignon blanc

And voila – in 20 minutes you have a super healthy, delicious and hearty dinner! 

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Scallops & Chorizo Recipe

Scallops have always been a favourite of mine, especially combined with chorizo or pancetta (because any variation of bacon makes everything better). For those who want an easy, quick and delicious dinner to cook up after work or the perfect starter when hosting a dinner party, this one is a winner…

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Ingredients (serves 4 for a starter or 2 for a main):

1 bunch of spring onions

2 large red chilis

2 cups Scallops

1.5 cups of diced chorizo

Honey to drizzle

Salt & pepper to taste

Any type of bread (we recommend olive ciabatta or focaccia)

Directions:

Pour a tiny bit of olive oil in a pan and let the pan get searing hot.

Chop the spring onions and the chilis finely.

Once the pan is hot enough, pour the mixture in and leave to simmer for about 5-7 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

After the spring onions and chilis have finished cooking, pour into a bowl and set aside.

Pour the chorizo into the same pan and let it simmer. The rendering from the chilis, spring onion and chorizo will help flavour the scallops.

After about five minutes, toss the scallops in with the chorizo and continue to stir with a wooden spoon until the scallops are entirely seared. This takes no longer than 5-7 minutes at the very most.

*Important tip: You do not want to overcook or undercook the scallops. The way to tell if a scallop is overcooked is if it tastes too rubbery. The way to tell if a scallop is undercooked is if it is cold in the middle.

The scallops should have a nice light brown sear on the outside, indicating they are well-cooked throughout.

I would recommend testing one out to be sure they are completely cooked.

Turn the heat down, and pour the scallops and chorizo in a separate bowl.

Slice up the bread on a cutting board and serve in the centre of the table to accompany your dish.

Pull out some your plates or for a party – find some beautiful half shells to present the dish on.

Place the spring onion and chili mixture onto the plate or shell, followed by the scallops and chorizo on top. Drizzle with honey, salt and pepper, and voila!

Enjoy!