I'm P.C., and I have studied food and cooking around the world, mostly by eating, but also through serious study. Coursework at Le Cordon Bleu London and intensive courses in Morocco, Thailand and France have broadened my culinary skill and palate. But my kitchen of choice is at home, cooking like most people, experimenting with unique but practical ideas.

I live, mostly in my kitchen, in my hometown of Memphis, Tennessee.

Sugar Cake with Blueberry Basil Compote

Sugar Cake with Blueberry Basil Compote

I was first drawn to this recipe, because, well, who could resist something called sugar cake. It reminds me of the great classic song “Tea for Two”, the Ella Fitzgerald version is on my kitchen playlist. “Day will break and I will wake, and start to bake a sugar cake, for you to take for all the boys to see.” Recipes for Sugar Cake are scattered through community cookbooks, mostly a version called Moravian Sugar Cake, which involves yeast. But I came across this simple version and had to try it. It is dense and tender and beautifully yellow, with that thick, chewy crust so perfect on a moist loaf cake. I sprinkle the top with sugar to create a crackly sweet bite.

Simple cakes like this are the perfect vehicle for summer’s fresh berries. A simple tumble of blueberries with some lightly sweet whipped cream would be lovely, but I love pulling together the fruit and herbs of summer. This basil-scented blueberry compote is not too sweet, and lets the flavor of the berries really shine.

Sugar Cake with Blueberry Basil Compote
Serves 8
  1. Sugar Cake
  2. 3 large eggs
  3. 1 ½ cups white sugar, plus more for sprinkling
  4. 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  5. 2 teaspoons baking powder
  6. ¾ teaspoon salt
  7. 1 cup heavy cream
  8. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  9. Blueberry Basil Compote
  10. 1 pint of blueberries, washed and stemmed
  11. 2 Tablespoons honey
  12. 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
  13. 5 – 6 basil leaves (attached to the stem is easiest)
For the Sugar Cake
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Grease a 9 by 5 inch loaf pan generously.
  2. Beat the eggs in the bowl of an electric mixer until lemon yellow, then add the sugar and beat until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the flour, baking powder and salt alternately with the cream, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla until you have a smooth, thick batter. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Sprinkle about 1 Tablespoon sugar evenly over the top of the batter.
  3. Bake the cake for 50 minutes to an hour, until a tester inserted in the center comes out with a few crumbs clinging to it. Cover the top loosely with foil when it starts to brown. Cool the cake in the pan.
For the Compote
  1. Place the blueberries, honey and lemon juice in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir well, and cook until the berries are soft, about 5 minutes, stirring often. Mash the berries with a fork and cook until the compote is thickened and reduced. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the basil leaves. Leave to cool, then remove the basil leaves. Refrigerate the compote until ready to use. It will keep for 3 days in the fridge.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/
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Parmesan Zucchini Bites

Parmesan Zucchini Bites

Quick, summery and simple.  This is the perfect passable bite for a party or a wonderful side to a summer meal.  If you tend to end up with a couple of extra zucchini hanging around after a trip to the farmers market, this is a great way to use them up, as a starter or a snack.  Serve these while still warm, but you can make the mayonnaise mix hours ahead and prepare the slices about 20 minutes before broiling.  And of course, you can double or triple the recipe for a crowd.

Parmesan Zucchini Bites
Yields 36
  1. 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  2. 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  3. 1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
  4. generous grinds of black pepper
  5. a pinch of salt
  6. 2 medium zucchini
  1. Preheat the broiler in your oven to high. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or non-stick foil.
  2. Mix the mayonnaise, parmesan and oregano together with a fork. Grind in some pepper and salt to taste (the parmesan can be salty, so go slow with the salt).
  3. Slice the zucchini diagonally into ¼ inch thick slices. Spread each slice with a thin layer of the mayonnaise mixture, making sure to spread to the edges and evenly.
  4. Cook the zucchini under the broiler for 1 -2 minutes until the cheese is bubbly and lightly golden.
  5. Serve immediately.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/
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Asian Inspired Chicken Salad with Sesame Mayonnaise

Asian Inspired Chicken Salad with Sesame Mayonnaise

I do love a good chicken salad, and I am always working on new and different versions. This Asian inspired iteration relies on the wonderful sesame mayonnaise, a recipe I used for years when I first started entertaining, as a dip for asparagus spears or snap peas. I started making it when Asian ingredients like sesame oil and rice vinegar weren’t as readily available as they are now, so it always struck a note of the exotic. I’ve kept that recipe on one of those personalized recipe cards that used to be such popular hostess gifts. I returned to the mayonnaise recipe recently and realized how incredibly versatile it is. I whipped up a little cold chicken supper with leftovers from the fridge, and it was such a good idea, I had to turn it into a summery chicken salad recipe.

Serve this chicken salad  in lettuce cups with lime wedges to squeeze over it. I also like it scooped up with rice crackers.

This will make more mayonnaise than you need. Toss it with cold rice or ramen noodles for a lovely side dish, spread it on a bahn-mi style sandwich. It’s a different twist for a burger or a chicken sandwich. Try it with roasted asparagus or steamed snap peas. I’ve even served this as a dip for grilled shrimp.

Asian Inspired Chicken Salad with Sesame Mayonnaise
Serves 4
  1. Sesame Mayonnaise
  2. 1 whole egg
  3. 2 egg yolks
  4. 2 ½ Tablespoon soy sauce
  5. 2 ½ Tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  6. 1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
  7. ½ teaspoon salt
  8. ¼ cup sesame oil
  9. 1 ¾ cups vegetable oil, like grapeseed or canola
  10. Chicken Salad
  11. 3 bone-in, skin on chicken breasts
  12. 1 cup shredded carrots
  13. 4 green onions, finely chopped
  14. ½ cup roasted and salted peanuts, chopped
  15. ¼ cup finely chopped mint
  16. ¼ cup finely chopped cilantro
For the Mayonnaise
  1. Place the egg, egg yolks, soy sauce, vinegar, mustard and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Process until the ingredients are combined. With the motor running, drizzle in the sesame and vegetable oils in a slow, steady stream. Process until the mixture is creamy, thick and emulsified. You will actually hear the food processor change sounds from smooth blending to a wet slapping sound.
  2. When the mayonnaise is thick, scrape it into a container, cover it tightly and refrigerate for at least two hours to firm up and allow the flavors to meld.
For the Salad
  1. Preheat the oven to 400°. Lightly salt the chicken breasts and place on a baking tray. Roast for about 20 – 25 minutes until the chicken is cooked through (internal temperature of 165°). Let the chicken cool to room temperature, then pull of the skin, pull the meat from the bones and shred into a bowl, either using two forks or your fingers.
  2. Add the carrots, green onions, peanuts, cilantro and mint to the chicken in the bowl and toss to combine. Add 1 cup of the sesame mayonnaise and stir to coat.
  3. The chicken salad will keep, covered, in the fridge for a few days. The mayonnaise will keep, covered, for 4 days.
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Buttery Lemon Dill Stuffed Eggs

Buttery Lemon Dill Stuffed Eggs

I do love a good stuffed egg. They are always stuffed eggs, never devilled eggs in my family. I do, however, like them simple. I push the boat out a little with my fabulous Pimento Cheese Stuffed Eggs, but I really want the primary flavor to be egg. Highlighted by fresh herbs, a little mustard, but never masking rich, lovely, creamy egg yolk. I have recently seen a slew of recipe pages offering 50 devilled egg recipes, everything from buffalo wing to pulled pork to Korean barbecue. Not for me.

This recipe uses softened butter, which highlights the creamy taste and texture of egg yolks. I like to beat this with an electric mixer rather than smashing them with a fork so, with a little touch of mayonnaise, you really get a smooth, velvety filling. A little tang from lemon zest and mustard and mystery from a touch of celery salt all highlight the egg without masking its flavor.

Buttery Lemon Dill Stuffed Eggs
Yields 24
  1. 12 large eggs
  2. ¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter, softened
  3. ¼ cup mayonnaise
  4. 2 teaspoons chopped fresh dill
  5. 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
  6. 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  7. ¼ teaspoon celery salt
  8. salt to taste
  1. Place the eggs in a large pan and cover with water by about an inch. Place over high heat and when the water comes to a boil, cook the eggs for seven minutes. Fill a bowl with ice and cold water and set in the sink. When the seven minutes are up, remove the eggs with a slotted spoon to the ice water. Leave to cool for 45 minutes.
  2. When the eggs are cooled, roll them on the counter to crack the shells all over and peel. Rinse with cool water to remove any stray shell pieces and pat dry.
  3. Cut the eggs in half (wipe your knife on a paper towel before each egg so yolk doesn’t get on the white) and gently scoop the yolks into the bowl of an electric mixer. Place the empty whites on a tray or stuffed egg plate. Add the softened butter and mayonnaise to the yolks and beat until everything is broken up and rough. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the dill, lemon zest, nustard and celery salt and beat until smooth and creamy, scraping down the sides of the bowl frequently. Add salt to taste.
  4. Scoop fill the center indentions of the whites with the filling. Cover and refrigerate the eggs. To avoid plastic wrap touching your beautifully filled eggs, store these in a 9 x 13 storage container with a snap on top or a deep baking dish covered with plastic or foil. These are best made the day you are serving, but can be made a day before and kept covered in the fridge.
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Strawberry Curd and Almond Cookies

Strawberry Curd and Almond Cookies Strawberry season was a bit slow to come this year, but I am now gorging myself on the in-season fruit and finding all sorts of ways to incorporate the ruby gems in my cooking.  And this is a new favorite.  It combines the flavor of beautiful local fruits and memories of England, and anything that can do that makes me happy. Lemon curd has always felt like a luxury food to me.  It was a fancy British import, sold in little jars and not readily available in Memphis.  In fact, when I first started travelling to England, I probably brought jars back for my mother and grandmother as little gifts.  Eventually I learned that lemon curd is pretty easy to make at home, and so much fresher and better, which led to the obvious experimentation with curds of other flavors.  And I think strawberry may be my favorite.  It’s a lovely pink color and bursts with strawberry flavor. Strawberry curd is wonderful spread on toast or good English muffins.  Or the full English, on a tender scone.  It makes a wonderful filling for a cake. I decided to pair it here with these delicate little almond cookies because it makes a lovely and interesting dessert.  I’ve scooped the curd into little 4 ounce Mason jars and placed it on a plate surrounded by cookies as a nifty little individual sweet.  It also works as a dip for a spring shower or brunch.  

Strawberry Curd and Almond Cookies
  1. Strawberry Curd
  2. 8 ¼ ounces strawberries, hulled
  3. 1 ¼ cup sugar
  4. zest and juice of one small orange
  5. zest and juice of one medium lemon
  6. ½ cup (1 stick) butter, cubed and at room temperature
  7. 4 eggs
  8. Almond Cookies
  9. ½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened
  10. ½ cup granulated sugar
  11. 1 large egg
  12. ½ cup almond meal (or very finely ground almonds)
  13. 1 ½ teaspoons pure almond extract
  14. 1 ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  1. Strawberry Curd
  2. Place a wire mesh strainer over a medium bowl and set aside close to the stovetop. Puree the strawberries in a blender until very smooth.
  3. Pour the strawberry puree into a medium sauce pan and add the sugar, citrus zest and juice (about ¼ cup juice). Whisk to blend and add the butter pieces. Beat the eggs well in a small bowl, then whisk them into the strawberry mixture until combined. Place over medium heat and stir constantly until the butter is melted. (it’s best to switch to a heatproof spatula here to be able to scrape the sides and reach the edges of the pan). Continue cooking until the curd is thickened, about 6- 8 minutes., stirring constantly. Scrape the curd immediately into the strainer set over the bowl. Push the curd through the strainer to remove any cooked egg or lumps. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on top of the surface of the curd and refrigerate until cold, at least two hours. Transfer to an airtight container. The curd will keep refrigerated up to a week.
  4. Makes 2 ½ cups
  5. Almond Cookies
  6. Preheat the oven to 400°. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  7. Beat the butter and sugar together in the bowl of a stand mixer until light and fluffy. Add the egg and beat until combined. Beat in the almond meal and almond extract, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Beat in the flour, scraping down the sides of the bowl frequently, until the dough comes together.
  8. Roll the dough into small balls, about the size of a pecan, and place about ½ inch apart on the prepared baking sheets. Lightly dampen your fingers and slightly flatten the cookies. Bake for 6 – 8 minutes, until the bottoms of the cookies are golden and the tops are firm. Remove the cookies to a cooling rack to cool completely.
  9. Makes about 3 dozen
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Artichoke, Goat Cheese and Lemon Spread


Artichoke, Goat Cheese and Lemon Spread

Creamy artichoke dip has long been a staple a parties and gatherings.  Lots of mayonnaise and marinated artichoke hearts and gooey cheese.  It has never been a favorite of mine, because it is so rich and always tastes more of mayonnaise than anything else.  I set out to create a dish everyone would be intrigued by, but surprised to find it veered so from the classic.  I’ve seen recipes pairing artichokes and goat cheese, but wanted to add a lot of tang to complement the artichokes.  Goat cheese, lemon, capers and yogurt give this spread body and zip, with the added herbs for layered flavors.

I prefer using frozen artichoke hearts that have not been marinated or brined to keep their flavor up front.  This spread is so easy to prepare but gives such complex results it’s a real party trick.  It is wonderful spread on toasted baguette slices, but it can be dipped with hearty chips.  It’s good spread on a bagel too.


Artichoke, Goat Cheese and Lemon Spread
Yields 2
  1. 1 (14-ounce) package frozen artichoke hearts
  2. 1 clove garlic
  3. 2 Tablespoons fresh oregano leaves
  4. 2 Tablespoons fresh parsley
  5. 1 Tablespoon capers in brine
  6. zest of 1 medium lemon
  7. 2 – 3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice, to taste
  8. 4 ounces soft goat cheese
  9. 6 ounces Greek yogurt
  10. ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
  11. salt and pepper to taste
  1. Cook the artichoke hearts according to the package directions. Drain and leave to cool.
  2. Place the artichoke hearts, garlic, herbs and capers in the bowl of a food processor and pulse several times to break everything up. Add the remaining ingredients and process until smooth and spreadable. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Scrape the spread into a bowl, cover and refrigerate for several hours to allow the flavors to meld. Serve with toasted baguette slices or crackers.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/


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Buttermilk Bacon Cookies with Bourbon Caramel Frosting

Buttermilk Bacon Cookies with Caramel Frosting

Two of my very favorite Southern ingredients are creamy buttermilk and pig.  So, I just couldn’t resist adding the salty crunch of bacon to a classic, tender buttermilk cookie.  Swirling on a bourbon-y version of classic caramel icing makes this a real Southern overload cookie.

I created this recipe several years ago for a party.  I wanted to combine my favorite flavors for a snazzy, different sweet. And at the time, bacon in dessert was unusual. Since then, bacon has turned up everywhere – in donuts, chocolate, cocktails, potato chips.  I understand there is even an alarm app for your phone and a small attachment that wakes you with the wafting smell of bacon.  Then you can put on some bacon lip balm, grab your bacon – painted purse and meet the world.  So I have had this recipe in my files, thinking maybe I didn’t want to get mixed up with the bacon insanity.  But I had a request and made these again and they are worth sharing.

Buttermilk Bacon Cookies with Bourbon Caramel Frosting

8 strips bacon

½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened

1 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

½ cup buttermilk

For the frosting:

3 Tablespoons butter

¼ cup heavy cream

½ cup light brown sugar, firmly packed

2 Tablespoons bourbon

1 cup confectioners’ sugar

Preheat the oven to 350°.

Cook the bacon on a wire rack over a rimmed baking sheet until very crispy.  Pat dry with paper towels and leave to cool.  Chop 6 strips of the bacon finely with a sturdy knife and set aside. Reserve the remaining bacon for garnish.

Beat the butter and brown sugar together in the bowl of a stand mixer until light and fluffy, a good three minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.  Add the egg and vanilla and beat until thoroughly combined.  Add the flour, baking soda and salt alternately with buttermilk, scraping down the sides of the bowl and ending with a buttermilk addition.  Add the chopped bacon and beat until combined.

Line two rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and scoop mounds of dough an inch apart onto the paper. I use a 1 Tablespoon cookie scoop.  Bake the cookies for 8 – 10 minutes, rotating the baking sheets from top shelf to bottom once, until the cookies are golden around the edges, puffed and firm.  Remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

For the frosting:

Combine the butter, cream, brown sugar and bourbon in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring constantly.  Continue stirring, and cook for 2 minutes.  Set aside to cool, then beat in the confectioners’ sugar until smooth and spreadable.  Spread the frosting on the cooled cookies.  Break the remaining slices of bacon into small pieces and embed them into the frosting if you’d like.

Makes about 4 dozen cookies

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Double Caramel Bars

Double Caramel Brownies

Sweet and rich and decadent – and a wonderful treat in the midst of the dark winter months. These caramel frosted brown sugar bars are a favorite of mine. I tend toward caramel. I love chocolate, of course, but if given the choice I’d choose caramel. So these are a nice deviation from a traditional chocolate brownie, packed with sweet caramel flavor. Share these with friends if you want to earn some brownie points, but make sure you save one or two for your ownself.

Double Caramel Bars

For the Brownies:

½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened

2 cups light brown sugar

2 eggs

¾ cup flour

1 Teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon vanilla

½ teaspoon salt

For the Frosting:

¼ cup butter

½ cup light brown sugar, tightly packed

¼ teaspoon salt

1/3 cup heavy cream

1 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted

For the Brownies:

Preheat the oven to 350°. Line a 8 by 8 inch square pan with non-stick foil or parchment, or spray with cooking spray.

Beat the butter in an electric mixer until light. Add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the flour, baking powder, vanilla and salt until well combined and smooth.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 25 – 30 minutes, just until a tester comes out clean. Cool completely.

For the Frosting:

The brownies must be completely cool, or the frosting won’t set.

Cut the butter into cubes and place in a saucepan with the brown sugar, cream and salt. After everything melts together, bring to a full, rolling boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. When it reaches that boil, count to 60 Mississippi, then pull it off the heat. Leave the pan to cool for about 5 minutes, then vigorously beat in the powdered sugar until smooth.

Spread the glaze over the brownies. Leave the glaze to set, then slice and enjoy. Covered tightly, this cake will last a few days.

Makes 16 bars

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Holiday Spice Bread with Whipped Honey Butter

Holiday Spice Bread with Whipped Honey Butter

I adapted this recipe from an old community cookbook, modernizing and stream lining it a bit, but I can’t imagine its origins.  Maybe Scandinavian? Or a take on a French quatre epices? A Byzantine tradition?  I don’t know, but the unusual spice combination lightly sweetened with honey really sets this bread apart.   I want there to be some story that this is symbolic of the Three Kings riding in from the East, with the whiff of exotic spices.  Though that is just my fanciful imagining, there is something mysterious about the flavor of this alluring loaf.

I love this bread warm with honey butter, on a cold morning, with a cup of warm tea or hot chocolate. But it is also rather intriguing beside a bowl of creamy soup.  The honey butter, of course, has more uses than I can list here.

Holiday Spice Bread with Whipped Honey Butter

¼ cup warm water

1 packet active dry yeast

1 cup milk

8 Tablespoons (1 stick) Tablespoons butter, divided

½ cup honey

1 Tablespoon ground coriander

1 ½ teaspoons salt

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground cloves

4 – 4 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1 egg

Place the warm water in the large bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle over the yeast.  Leave to become foamy and bubbling.

Pour the milk into a 2 cup glass measuring jug or small bowl and add 6 Tablespoons of the butter cut into pieces.  Microwave in 20 second bursts until the milk is just warm and the butter is melted.  Stir well.

When the yeast has foamed up, add the honey, milk mixture spices and salt to the yeast in the bowl.  Beat with the paddle attachment on low speed until everything is just blended.  Add the flour slowly, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.  When you have added 2 cups of flour, beat in the egg, then continue adding the flour until you have a shaggy ball of dough, most of which clings to the paddle in a ball, but all of which you can easily scoop into a ball.

Butter a large bowl well, scoop the dough into a ball and transfer to the bowl.  Turn the dough ball around in the bowl so it is buttered on all sides.  Cover the bowl with a towel and place in  a warm place to rise for about an hour, until doubled in size.

Punch down the dough and knead it 3 – 4 times, then place in a well butttered 9-inch round casserole dish.  Cover and let rise for another hour.

Preheat the oven to 350°. Bake for 1 hour or until golden, firm and it makes a hollow sound when you knock on it.  You can tent the loaf lightly with foil if it starts gets darker than you prefer.

Melt the remaining butter (after using some to grease the bowl and the casserole) and brush over the top of the hot bread. Cover with a tea towel and cook in the pan (covering the bread keeps the crust soft).

Makes on 9 – inch loaf


Whipped Honey Butter

½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened

¼ cup honey

¼ teaspoon vanilla bean paste, vanilla seeds or vanilla extract

Beat the butter in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment to smooth it out.  Add the honey and vanilla and beat on high speed, scraping the sides of the bowl a couple of times, until the butter is light and fluffy.  Scoop into a bowl, cover and refrigerate.

Makes ½ cup

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Cheddar Chutney Spread

Cheddar Chutney Spread

It is always nice to have a simple, quick party recipe in you back pocket during the holidays.  Something you can whip up quickly and without too much pre-planning and take to the party of gathering you forgot about – you know, you volunteered a month ago to bring a snack, but completely let it slip your mind.   And this is it.

Good ingredients make a good recipe, and by using a good bottled chutney and curry powder, you get a sprightly punch of flavor with little effort.  I have always loved this spread and I promise it is a hit at parties.  I always get recipe requests when I take this somewhere.  The unusual and slightly exotic taste makes it seem much more complicated and labor intensive than it is.  And it is easy to make it look elegant by molding it into a nice round dome.  Put it on a pretty holiday platter with some crackers and you are ready to go.  It needs a couple of hours in the frideg to firm up, but can be made days ahead.  And any leftovers are pretty great as a sandwich.

Cheddar Chutney Spread

8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese

4 ounces cream cheese

1 (8-ounce) jar good mango chutney (Major Grey style)

4 green onions, chopped

1 Tablespoon mild curry powder

1 chopped green onion for garnish

1 handful of roasted peanuts for garnish

Use the grating blade on the food processor to grate the cheddar cheese.  Switch to the metal blade, then add the cream cheese, chutney, green onions and curry powder.  Blend until smooth.

Now you can go simply scrape the spread into a serving bowl, cover and refrigerate for several hours until firm and serve sprinkled with green onions and peanuts. Or do what I do to make it a little fancier.  Line a nice round bowl with plastic wrap, smoothing it out as much as possible, then press the spread into the bowl, compacting it as much as possible.  Pull the ends of the plastic wrap to cover the top and refrigerate for several house or overnight until firm.  Unwrap the top of the spread and invert it onto a plate.  Remove the plastic wrap and smooth the top with a knife.  Sprinkle over chopped green onions and peanuts.

Serve with buttery crackers.  Can be made several days ahead.

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