Mini Cheese Balls

These are individual bite-sized versions of the classic retro cheese ball and are the perfect finger food for a party or buffet. Skewered with a salted pretzel stick, the whole thing is edible and delicious too.

Bitesized cheeseballs

I used Five Counties cheese for mine, so there is a real mixture of cheese going on, but any sharp tasting cheese combination works well if it has good flavour.

5 counties cheese

This is a really quick recipe to knock up and just the thing to serve with drinks. The cheese balls are coated in pistachios and dried cranberries for a festive touch, so they would be perfect for a Christmas party.

If you do use use pretzel sticks, just make sure you spear the cheese balls just before serving as the ends will get soft if you leave them. Alternatively, a pretty toothpick or cocktail fork would work well here, or you could just serve the sticks separately for people to spear their own.

Bitesized cheeseball

Ingredients:
1 x 280g pack of cream cheese – at room temperature (but not essential if in a hurry)
280g of grated cheese – I used Five Counties – a cheese made up of layers of Cheddar, Derby, Double Gloucester, Cheshire and Red Leicester
1 roasted red pepper – I used some ready roasted from a jar for quickness
0.5tsp salt
0.5tsp black pepper
100g shelled pistachios
50g dried cranberries (craisins)
Extra black pepper for the coating
Salted pretzel sticks for serving

Method:
Very simply, mix together the cream cheese, grated cheese, chopped roasted red peppers and seasoning. I did this by hand with a fork, but if you are making a large batch, a mixer would make things much quicker. It is easier if the cream cheese is room temperature, but I have made this with fridge cold cream cheese and it worked just fine.

Chill for 30 minutes so that the mixture firms up and then roll into bite-sized balls.

Bitesized cheeseball1

Finely chop the pistachios and cranberries and spread over a board or large plate. Sprinkle over freshly ground black pepper and roll each ball in the mixture until coated.

Bitesized cheeseball2

Refrigerate the cheese balls until you want to serve and skewer each one with a pretzel stick just before serving.

Just the thing for a last minute Christmas drinks party.

You can make mini versions of my goats cheese ball and my smoky and spicy cheese ball too, check them out.

Sage Derby and Onion Buttermilk Scones

Using buttermilk in scones results in a really moist, tender and flaky texture that makes these a really delicious treat.  So often, scones can be dry and crumby – especially ones that you buy and even with butter, they really aren’t very good. Home made ones are always better and they are so easy to make.

Sage Derby Scones

These are filled with sweet caramelised onions, cubes of Sage Derby cheese and topped with a little Gruyere cheese and a crispy sage leaf.

Sage Derby Scones2

I decided to leave the cheese in cubes, rather than grate it as I wanted there to be little pockets of the Sage Derby inside the individual scones.

Ingredients:
2-3 onions, finely chopped
knob of butter and a splash of olive oil for frying
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
250g Self-raising flour
70g cold butter, cut into cubes
1 egg, beaten
100ml buttermilk, plus extra for brushing the scones
1 (heaped) tsp of English mustard
100g Sage Derby cheese, I used Fowlers – cut into little dice
A little gruyere or cheddar to sprinkle on top of the scones – around 50g
Six sage leaves

Sage Derby Scones1

Method:
Start by cooking the onions.  Heat a small knob of butter and a splash of oil in a non-stick pan and gently cook the onions with a pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Cook them low and slow until the have reduced, become sticky and caramelised.  Set aside on some kitchen paper to absorb excess oil and leave to cool completely.

Sage Derby Scones4

Pre-heat the oven to 220ºC/425°F and line a baking sheet with parchment or a non-stick liner

Sage Derby Scones3

Rub the butter into the flour, either by hand or in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  The mixture should look like rough breadcrumbs.

Sage Derby Scones7

Mix the mustard in with the buttermilk and then add to the egg.

Stir the wet ingredients into the dry and mix briefly, to just combine.  Add the onions and mix again, just so they are incorporated and then stir through the cheese cubes.

Sprinkle a little flour on the parchment or baking liner.  Bring the dough together and place directly onto the liner. Pat the dough out into a disc that is around 1.5 inches/3.5cm thick.

Use a pizza cutter and cut the dough into six wedges and move them away from each other to give them room to expand a little.

Sage Derby Scones5

Brush the tops with a little buttermilk and sprinkle with a small amount of grated cheese.

Rub the sage leaves with a tiny amount of olive oil and press onto the top of each scone.

Bake for 12-15 minutes until they have become golden, well risen and sound hollow if you turn them over and give them a little tap.

Sage Derby Scones6

Best enjoyed warm with real butter and I like to serve them with chutney.  This one was an apple, date and stout one which worked very well.  Perfect for afternoon tea or an after school treat.

Spicy Halloumi Fries

This is a really quick recipe for Cajun spiced halloumi fries.  Crunchy on the outside, but soft and slightly melting on the inside, they are rather moreish and should probably come with a warning.

Halloumi Fries

I don’t have a deep fat fryer, these are shallow fried in batches and then finished off in the oven so they are all ready at the same time.

Halloumi Fries3

I bought some halloumi with chilli in as we like things hot and I served the fries with a spicy salsa too, but plain halloumi, served with yoghurt is a milder alternative.

Ingredients:
2 packs of halloumi cheese – I used halloumi with chilli
3tbs plain/all-purpose flour
1-2tbs Cajun seasoning
2-3tbs sunflower oil for frying
Handful of coriander
1-2 chillies, thinly sliced
Salsa for serving

Halloumi Fries2

Method:
Pre-heat the oven to 220°C/430°F and line a baking sheet with foil.

Mix the flour and Cajun seasoning together in a dish.

Slice the halloumi lengthways then again down the middle to cut them into fries and turn in the seasoned flour. Tap off any excess coating back into the dish.

Heat the oil and fry the cheese for 2-3 minutes, turning until each side is crisp and golden.  Place on the lined baking sheet and continue until all the fries are ready.

Bake for 5-7 minutes in the hot oven while you chop the coriander and slice the chillies.  They are ready when they are sizzling, piping hot and crisp.  Place onto paper towels to absorb any excess oil before sprinkling over the chopped herbs and chilli.

Halloumi Fries1

Serve immediately with spicy salsa for dipping and enjoy with drinks