An often ordered appetiser at many restaurants here in Coimbatore is undoubtedly the cheese ball.This deep fried snack with it’s golden crunchy exterior and melting stringy cheese on the inside,sometimes with the addition of corn ,jalapenos, onions etc is popular at parties as well.
There is however another version of the cheese ball which is eaten cold or at room temperature.It’s called the ‘classic cheese ball’. The month of December is when the holiday cheer sets in.It’s also a time when we like to feast on the kind of food which is influenced by other cultures.A holiday cheese platter is one of my all time favourite dishes to put out when we get together with friends and family. Usually a cheese platter would comprise of a variety of hard and soft cheeses, some sweet and tangy preserves, nuts,crackers and a variety of meaty cold cuts.
Inspired by food gifts from friends which comprised of a cranberry and tomato relish, cinnamon and honey walnuts as well as a delicious orange preserve,we decided to put together a vegetarian cheese platter this year.While thinking up of interesting options to add,the fresh dill plant out in the verandah caught my eye.Dill , sour cream and cheese is a wonderful combination.So it straight away brought to mind a cold cheese ball coated with delicate dill fronds.
Eager to experiment with that idea,we made a trip to the Nilgiris Departmental store in our neighbourhood. As we walked up to the cheese section I was happy to find that it was well stocked with cheese varieties from Kodaikanal. We picked up packets of smoked cheddar,regular cheddar,feta and cream cheese (also made in India).As I was picking out the cheeses,I couldn’t help but think up of more options in addition to the dill flavoured cheese ball.
Laden with the choicest ingredients we returned home to raid the pantry to see what else can be added to make a scrumptious cheese platter .It also occurred to me that fresh dill might not appeal to all.We then decided on 3 kinds of classic cheese balls to complement the preserves.The dill went into the mixing process instead and chilli flakes ,nuts and pumpkin seeds (pantry must haves) were set aside for coating the outer surface of the cheese ball. I couldn’t wait for my guests to taste!
Millet crackers from the Monsoon Harvest’s range and thin slices of baguette from Café Gluttony not only made for the ideal accompaniments but added a local swag to the cheese platter festooned with international flavours.
What is fun about making a dish of this kind is that the tastes can be adapted to suit individual preferences.So a recipe developer like me can allow the creative culinary ideas to be stretched to heart’s content.Onions ,garlic, mustard,chillies,fresh herbs,olives, capers,crushed peppercorns all add their own unique taste sensations depending on the quantity of each ingredient used.
Once all the hard cheeses were grated in and flavourings added,it was time to blend in the soft cream cheese.While some recipes suggest using an electric blender,it’s not really necessary bringing out extra equipment to wash unless of course you are making a huge batch for a big party.A little bit of elbow action was all it needed to bring the cheeses together.The next step is to shape the mixture into a sphere and roll it in the ingredient of choice.Not only is it really simple to make,it ends up looking quite spectacular. After all no host wants to miss out on the fun by slaving over a hot stove the entire evening!
The best reward for any cook is to observe the delighted reactions of the people they cook for.The smoked cheddar imparted a lovely toasty flavour and it was picked up by everyone (children included)who tasted it.
Place a few small butter knives so guests can easily help themselves to bite sized servings.If you look up a recipe online for a classic cheese ball,most sites will mention that it’s a dish which is perfect for the holidays.So go ahead,try your hand at making your own version of this classic party favourite.