You can't forget about the cheese course at Christmas. But how many cheeses should you have, and what types? We speak to the experts about how to build a perfect cheese board...
Build the perfect cheese board
‘I recommend that three to five cheeses make for an interesting and well-balanced selection,’ says Dan Bliss, retail manager at cheesemonger Paxton & Whitfield.
‘More than that and there will be too many flavours to experience.’
‘You need to work with the seasons,’ explains Anthony Schepper, the in-house ‘frommelier’ at Marylebone restaurant, Orrery. ‘In winter you could have some lovely hard alpine cheeses or some light, fresh, nutty goat cheeses in spring.’
‘If you can, shop at a good cheesemonger, who can talk through what they have and give you a chance to taste,’ asserts Bliss. ‘Also, when buying cheese for your cheeseboard , I’d say buy less cheese but bigger pieces. By buying fewer types but selecting larger pieces you have a great selection that will keep better.’
Main cheese types
‘The five most important families of cheese are, hard or semi-hard, soft and creamy, goat, washed-rind cheeses and blue vein,’ says Schepper. ‘I’d say make sure you always have a hard aged cheese, like an 18-24 months Comte (one of the most popular), a blue-veined cheese like a Roquefort, Stilton or even a Gorgonzola, as well as a washed-rind cheese like an Epoisses de Bourgogne.’
‘A classic creamy cheese like a brie provides more mellow, earthy flavours.’
‘I always think that the traditional hard, soft and blue combination works extremely well,’ summarises Bliss.
What to avoid
Bliss warns against overcrowding the cheeseboard.
‘For example, when it comes to accompaniments there are many things that go with cheese; bread, fresh fruit, dried fruits, chutney, honey – the list goes on. My advice here though would be to keep it very simple. Don’t have too many accompaniments that then overpower the flavours of the cheese.’
Schepper advocates using cheeses from a number of regions, ‘Variety is key for a cheese board, so the main thing to avoid is including two cheeses from the same region on the same board.’
‘It’s also essential that the cheeses are stored at the correct temperature to maximise their quality, and are never served too cold.’