A cheese board should not be a competition to show off food knowledge or wealth or social status (though it sometimes feels like that). Rather, it should feel like a luxurious generous end to a meal rather than a burden on the digestive system.
– If you are entertaining a small group, choose just one or two perfectly ripened cheeses instead of building a heaving cheese board. A salty piece of Cashel Blue or a round of runny Epoisse will make any cheese lover’s heart beat faster. When it is in season, try a Vacherin Mont d’Or which is a cow’s milk cheese made in France or Switzerland. It is seasonal and only on sale between September 10 and May 10 the following year so it is really special.
– For a larger group, you can afford to be indulgent and build a fuller cheese board. Choose a minimum of three cheeses for a small dinner and if you have a large party of dinner guests, ramp it up to include up to 8 different types of cheeses.
– Always offer the creamy lighter cheeses first and finish with the richer spicier ones – serve them on a wooden board or plate in the correct order so your guests can take a piece of the milder cheese, and when they go back for more, move in a clockwise direction towards the stronger flavoured cheeses.
– Always offer something to eat the cheese on, for example, a water biscuit or cracker. Add some fresh fruit – choose grapes, juicy peaches, slices of ripe pear or fresh lychees if you can find them. If not, serve membrillo (quince paste), fruit chutney or conserve or even a prune or fig jam. For texture if you are not using fruit, add chilled celery sticks and plump golden sultanas. If you have time, make a quick chutney by cooking golden sultanas with sugar and water and a splash of vodka or gin until thick, add vanilla extract and a squeeze of lemon juice at the end – leave to cool.
– If you store the cheeses in the fridge, leave them out for a few hours at room temperature to allow their flavours to develop.
– Serve cheese after dinner like the French do, either instead of dessert or before it, so your guests eat something savoury, after a savoury dinner, instead of after dessert, when they have ruined their palate.
– Wrap leftover cheese in parchment paper and use for gratins, macaroni cheese, toasted sandwiches, fondue, cheese sauce, omelettes and to grate over soup.
– A table cheese is a single cheese that is left on the kitchen table so everyone can cut a piece when they get hungry.
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