Transform your cheese board into a Christmas tree
Transform your cheese board into a Christmas tree – and other festive recipes
- Sarah Rainey thrives on deciding which showstopping recipes to make guests
- READ MORE: The cheat’s Christmas dinner guide, inlcuding microwave gravy!
CHEESE BOARD CHRISTMAS TREE
By far my favourite part of Christmas party planning is deciding what showstopping fare to feed my guests.
When it comes to food, I think I’ve tried it all: from decadent butter boards to elaborate grazing tables and once, disastrously, a retro fondue station.
This year, though, the latest entertaining trend in order to be the hostess with the mostess is an edible Christmas tree.
Foodies are now going to spectacular lengths to create a tabletop ‘tree’ made entirely from party nibbles — be it cheese, charcuterie or choux buns.
SARAH RAINEY: By far my favourite part of Christmas party planning is deciding what showstopping fare to feed my guests
The ultimate festive showstopper, with baubles, tinsel and even a star you can eat, these perfect table centrepieces are easy to adapt to your guests’ tastes — and look like they’ve been rustled up by a professional caterer.
Best of all, the idea is that the guests help themselves, leaving you free to mingle.
I decide to try my hand at a cheese tree. After all, a party’s not a party without a cheeseboard.
Armed with the right tools, ingredients and sleight of hand, you can assemble this cheesy treat in around two hours, including time for chilling and chopping. Serve with plenty of crackers, and chutney for dipping — delicious!
- 4 x 165g tubs of cream cheese
- 3 x 150g packets of Boursin soft cheese
- 1 packet of fresh chives, chopped
Handful each of:
- pomegranate seeds
- dried cranberries
- pine nuts
- off-cuts of yellow and red peppers
- 1 tsp of dried chilli flakes (optional)
- Few sprigs of rosemary
- Small piece of cheddar
CHEESE BOARD CHRISTMAS TREE
EQUIPMENT: Cling film, tin foil, star-shaped cookie cutter, metal straw, palette knife, cake stand/platter for serving
BUILDING THE BASE: Millie West, director of grazing table company Graze & Gorge, says the base can be made from a mixture of cream cheese and Boursin. ‘There are so many different flavours on the market, so you can make it your own,’ she adds.
‘I buy four tubs of cream cheese and three packets of Boursin, beat them together in a bowl and refrigerate the mix for an hour to firm up.’
To make the conical ‘tree’ structure, Millie suggests layering a sheet of cling film on top of a sheet of tin foil (for added strength), placing the cheese on top and then rolling it into a tree shape.
The rolling stage is surprisingly stress-free, and the cheese is pliable but not too runny. I use my palette knife to get rid of lumps and smooth out the base. But the moment I take the cling film off to roll my cone in chives, it starts disintegrating. I put the lot back in the fridge: 2-3 hours would help it firm up more.
EDIBLE DECORATIONS: Dried cranberries, pomegranate seeds, red and yellow peppers make great ‘baubles’. I arrange pine nuts in rings to look like tinsel.
To add to the chive ‘needles’, Holly Stacpoole, director of GrazeMe, a luxury grazing company, suggests spearing sprigs of rosemary into the base to give a 3D effect and adding punchiness with chilli flakes.
To save on chopping time, I pierce a metal straw into my peppers to create miniature ‘baubles’. And for the star on top, I use a cookie cutter to make the perfect shape out of a lump of cheddar.
THE BIG REVEAL: It’s packed full of festive colour, with bright pops of yellow and red. Despite the vast quantities of cheese in the base, I might need a few more of them to feed all my guests (one tree will feed around ten people).
But the taste, once I’ve piled a cracker high with cheesy goodness, is delicious. Next time, however, I’d experiment with different flavours such as garlic and herb, truffle or chilli cream cheese.
ANTIPASTI AND CHARCU-TREE
Salami, chorizo and ham are a party food must and ideal for dairy-free guests who can’t tuck into the cheese. This creation is made from symmetrical rows of charcuterie and assorted antipasti on individual cocktail sticks.
I’m serving mine with slices of sourdough bread and ramekins filled with festive paté.
Cocktail sticks are a must for this tree. It’s built on a flat silver platter and you’ll need a polystyrene cone, which acts as the base. ‘You can get these from florists or garden centres,’ explains Holly (they’re also available on amazon.co.uk).
Millie says this tree can be made ahead of time and refrigerated for three hours. Allow around an hour to assemble it.
‘Remove it from the fridge 20-30 minutes before serving so the ingredients reach room temperature, or the flavours will be more muted,’ she adds.
ANTIPASTI AND CHARCU-TREE
- 2 x 200g mixed charcuterie platters
- 2 x 225g chorizo sausages
- 1 x 350g packet of frankfurters
- Approx 400g sliced cooked ham
Handful each of:
- cherry tomatoes
- black olives
- green olives
- marinated artichokes
- Fresh herbs and dried cranberries for decoration
- Small chunk of orange pepper
EQUIPMENT: polystyrene cone, tin foil, sellotape, 200 cocktail sticks, star-shaped cookie cutter, platter for serving
BUILDING THE BASE: Using a pre-made cone might seem like a cheat, but nothing else will withstand the weight of all that meat – unless you want a leaning tower rather than a proud tree.
I cover mine tightly in tin foil to stop it coming into contact with the food and stick it to the base with double-sided sellotape.
EDIBLE DECORATIONS: I clear my local supermarket of ‘mixed salami platters’ and buy a couple of chorizo sausages, frankfurters and hunks of cooked ham from the local butcher.
For antipasti, I use cherry tomatoes, black and green olives and artichokes. ‘You want to ensure plenty of variety and colour,’ says Millie. ‘Bright, butter Nocellara olives are perfect as are sweet peppers, tomatoes, radishes and grapes.
‘Fresh herbs and cranberries – though not to be eaten – are great for filling in any blank spots and creating a more rustic look.’
I clear my local supermarket of ‘mixed salami platters’ and buy a couple of chorizo sausages, frankfurters and hunks of cooked ham from the local butcher
Having chopped everything into bite-sized chunks, I skewer them with cocktail sticks and start assembling. ‘Work in tinsel-like lines, starting from the base, one ingredient at a time,’ says Millie.
I fold the charcuterie into uniform triangles that stick neatly into the gaps.
It’s time-consuming, finger-piercing work: by the end I’ve got sore red welts from all those pointy cocktail sticks. I cut a star from orange pepper for the top.
THE BIG REVEAL: This is certainly an impressive tree; all those spiky cocktail sticks make it look quite formidable!
The ‘lines’ could be neater, but the overall effect is attractive and there’s plenty of food to go around.
FESTIVE FRUIT TREE
A rainbow-coloured cornucopia of fresh fruit, this tree could be guilt-free tree, unless like me you’ve got a sweet tooth and add pots of melted chocolate for dipping. The cleverly-concealed base means the whole thing is edible.
Stock up on cocktail sticks, as that’s how the fruit is attached, and several bamboo skewers to make the base. A flat plate – I’ve used a festive red one – is essential for keeping the structure sturdy, plus a sharp knife to chop the decorations and shape the base.
It’s reasonably quick to assemble – around 45 minutes, including chopping time – and to preserve its freshness prepare it just before your guests arrive.
FESTIVE FRUIT TREE
- 1 large orange
- 1 large carrot
Approx 200g each, chopped, of:
Approx 100g each of:
- Few sprigs of fresh mint
- Icing sugar (for decoration)
EQUIPMENT: Bamboo skewers, 200 cocktail sticks, sharp knife, sieve for icing sugar, flat plate / platter for serving
BUILDING THE BASE: I’ve used a large orange with the bottom sliced off as the base, and a carrot fixed vertically to the top using bamboo skewers.
‘Other base options could be a pineapple carved into the cone shape’ says Holly Stacpoole.
EDIBLE DECORATIONS: Go for any fruit you like. I’ve chopped apples, oranges, pears, kiwi, melon and watermelon into bite-sized chunks and also added blueberries, grapes and any other berries I could get my hands on.
‘Christmassy fruits to include would be oranges, whole cranberries and redcurrants,’ says Holly. In the gaps, I’ve used sprigs of mint and I add watermelon cubes as ‘presents’ under the tree and a star shaped melon for the top.
This is constructed the opposite way to the charcuterie tree: the cocktail sticks go into the base, rather than sticking out, leaving only the colourful fruit on display.
A final dusting of icing sugar ‘snow’ disguises any wonky bits and makes it look delightfully festive.
THE BIG REVEAL: There’s a real wow-factor but its lifespan is short: all that fruit will only last a few hours out of the fridge, so your party guests need to get a move on. Next time I’d mix sweet treats – chunks of brownie, marshmallow and cookies – in too.
Source: Read Full Article