From sprout-flavoured ketchup to mince pie gin, ’tis the season of silly food trends.
But none is quirkier than the latest festive fad: the charcuterie chalet.
A savoury take on the traditional gingerbread house, these have been popping up across the country, with inventive home cooks using crackers and cream cheese to build walls, cooked meat as roof tiles and even carving trees out of cucumbers.
Surrounded by mozzarella snowmen, olive penguins and a Santa sleigh made from pepper and asparagus, the intricacy of these constructions knows no bounds.
Some even feature grated parmesan snow, chopped nut vegetable patches and curtains made of ham — perfect for the carnivore in your life!
But with all that fresh produce, and a fridge packed full with Christmas food, you’ll need to eat it fast.
So how easy is it to make a meaty mansion? SARAH RAINEY put her cooking — and construction — skills to the ultimate festive test . . .
CRUDITÉ CABIN WITH FOCACCIA FOUNDATIONS
Fear not, veggies! Here’s a savoury cabin just for you, made with raw vegetable roof tiles, olive penguins, a wasabi pea path and a nutty cabbage patch.
CRUDITÉ CABIN WITH FOCACCIA FOUNDATIONS: Here’s a savoury cabin just for you, made with raw vegetable roof tiles, olive penguins, a wasabi pea path and a nutty cabbage patch
Ingredients: 4 large loaves of speciality bread (focaccia, ciabatta, sourdough — anything sturdier than a sandwich loaf); 100g butter, packet of rectangular crackers (I used Ryvita); 3 packs (150g each) of Boursin cheese; 3 small logs (125g each) of goat’s cheese; 2 carrots; 2 bags of radishes; 1 large cucumber; and other assorted vegetables, nuts and fruit for decoration.
Building tools: Bread knife; butter knife; paring knife; cocktail sticks; large palette knife; piping bag; scissors; and tweezers.
Foundations and walls: I slice the bread into rectangular chunks 2cm thick and 10cm to 12cm long to form the chalet walls. Using butter as glue, I stick them together in an alternating pattern to look like different colours of wood.
Once I have a row of three or four slices, I thread a couple of cocktail sticks through them to hold them in place. I use ten slices in total for the front and back, and four for each side wall.
Once constructed, I put it in the fridge to chill for an hour.
Roof tiles: For the roof, I cut three triangular slices from the leftover bread and stick these on top of the walls using softened butter; one in the middle and one at either end to form the eaves.
I then arrange crackers, glued at the top edges with more butter, on top of the bread to firm up the roof. Once solid, I pipe goat’s cheese in zig-zag patterns across the crackers.
I use a sharp paring knife to slice the carrots, cucumber and radishes into ultra-thin pieces and stick these, in alternating colours, to the goat’s cheese to form the tiles. I stick a celery stick on top to finish the roof.
Doors and windows: I cut squares of orange pepper to make the windows, and glue on with more goat’s cheese. The door is made from thin slices of celery (snipped with scissors), with a pomegranate seed knocker.
I set the completed veggie chalet on a wooden board and use a palette knife to spread Boursin cheese all around it; this must be thick enough to support the trees and foliage.
Finally, I make a path out of wasabi peas (you could also use chopped grapes or nuts) lined with tiny mushrooms to look like wild toadstools.
Finishing touches: The three penguins are each made of two olives, one hollowed out and filled with soft cheese, with carrot pieces for the feet and beaks.
I make a vegetable patch from chopped pecan nuts, surrounded by cranberries, and planted with miniature cabbages and broccoli florets. Then I add purple broccoli edging to the house.
The tree is made from a sliver of cucumber, curled around a cocktail stick with an orange pepper star on top. This will certainly brighten up your festive table.
MEATY MANSION WITH BREADSTICK WALLS
This traditional take on the savoury chalet trend is a meat-lover’s dream, with ham and salami roof tiles, a chorizo path and sausage chimney.
MEATY MANSION WITH BREADSTICK WALLS: This traditional take on the savoury chalet trend is a meat-lover’s dream, with ham and salami roof tiles, a chorizo path and sausage chimney
Ingredients: 2 packets of breadsticks; 2 packets of large rectangular crackers; 250g butter; large loaf of bread; pack of cheese twists, large crackers; large tub (500g) of cream cheese; at least 500g of cooked meat; vegetable off-cuts, crackers and cheese for decoration.
Building tools: Butter knife; large palette knife; piping bag; large board; tweezers; cocktail sticks.
Foundations and walls: I start by ‘gluing’ rows of large crackers together with slightly softened butter to make the walls of the house. Then, I slather butter over the front of each wall and stick on rows of breadsticks, cutting them to leave a space for the door.
Next, I slice the rounded top off a large loaf and cover the sides of the loaf in butter, then stick a wall on to each side. Once they’re in place, I fill in the cracks with more butter and then chill the structure for an hour.
Roof tiles: I make the roof from six large crackers, glued at the top with butter. For the eaves, I use triangularshaped crackers and ‘glue’ in place.
Once the roof is secure, I cover it in cream cheese and stick down rows of ham, salami and chorizo, and use a thick slice of chorizo for the chimney. I then sprinkle parmesan on top.
Door and windows: I use a small cracker surrounded by Twiglets to make the door and round, latticeshaped crisps to make the windows, all glued on with piped cream cheese. I stick cheese pastry twists at either end to look like pillars.
Next, I cover a large board with cream cheese and stick down the entire chalet. I scatter chorizo to make a path and line edges with gherkins.
Finishing touches: Plant pots, made by filling tiny bell peppers and mushrooms with goat’s cheese and ‘planting’ a sprig of fresh herbs in the cheese, line the front of the house.
I make a Christmas tree out of rosemary and a fence out of pretzels. The snowmen are mini mozzarella balls, with an olive hat, clove eyes and a carrot nose, all held in place with cocktail sticks.
Finally, I hollow out half a pepper and set it on asparagus spears to make a sleigh for ‘Santa’, made from partially peeled Babybel cheeses with a goat’s cheese beard.
CHEESY COTTAGE CRAFTED FROM CRACKERS
Fancy an alternative to a cheeseboard? Why not craft a chalet out of cheese and bread? This one comes with ham roses, cucumber trees and a mozzarella snowman.
CHEESY COTTAGE CRAFTED FROM CRACKERS: Fancy an alternative to a cheeseboard? Why not craft a chalet out of cheese and bread? This one comes with ham roses, cucumber trees and a mozzarella snowman
Ingredients: 2 large loaves of bread; 100g butter; 3 large tubs (500g each) of cream cheese or goat’s cheese; 800g assorted hard cheese (red Leicester, cheddar, smoked cheese, etc); small packet of lattice-shaped crackers; 1 block of parmesan and several packets of charcuterie; nuts and smaller crackers for decoration.
Building tools: Slotted pasta spoon for hollowing out the bread, a bread knife, a small serrated knife, a butter knife, a large palette knife for covering the chalet in cream cheese, cocktail sticks, tweezers, scissors and a wooden board to assemble it all on.
Foundations and walls: There’s much less construction involved in this chalet; all I have to do is slice the top quarter off a loaf and hollow it out. I use a slotted pasta spoon for this; it catches the soft bread easily without weakening the structure.
Next, I use the serrated knife to cut holes for the windows and doors. To make the roof, I take the second loaf of bread and slice down diagonally on each side from a midpoint on the top, creating a roof-like triangular shape.
Both loaves then go in a low oven (120c) for around an hour to completely dry out. Once the bread is cool, I use butter to stick the two halves together and cover the outside in a thin layer of butter, before putting it in the fridge for an hour to chill. This will give it a tacky coating for the tiles to stick to.
Roof tiles: I take the buttered chalet out of the fridge and cover the whole structure in a thick layer of cream cheese. Then I cut the hard cheese into small diamond shapes and stick them in rows, in alternating colours, along the roof, starting from the bottom so they overlap. I use a row of green olives to add colour to the top of the roof, and line the edges with salami.
Door, windows and path: I stick square, lattice-shaped crackers in the gaps I made for the doors and windows, using goat’s cheese piped for precision to fill in any gaps.
Twiglets make the doorframe, and I thread slices of folded ham on to either end of two cocktail sticks to create an edible set of ‘curtains’, which stick to the cream cheese walls.
For the path, I use a row of small square crackers to look like paving stones, lined with pistachio nuts, and then plant lines of ham ‘roses’, made by twisting slices of bresaola (air-dried beef) into spiral shapes.
Finishing touches: I grate plenty of parmesan cheese and sprinkle this around the chalet to look like snow. In the garden, I cut fir trees out of cucumber and make a snowman by threading two large mozzarella balls onto a cocktail stick, and add Twiglet arms, clove buttons and the tip of a miniature carrot for a nose.