Creating the perfect cheese board is simple - once you know how. To nail the art of putting together a beautiful platter of delicious cheeses we asked Paul Thompson from The Artisan Cheese Room to share his top tips.
"Getting the right balance can elevate the entire occasion and act as a stunning visual centrepiece as well as creating a unique tasting experience," Paul says.
"Here at The Artisan Cheese Room we regularly prepare and advise on countless cheese boards for our customers and I’ll now share some tried and trusted guidelines."
1 How many cheeses should I serve? What are the best cheeses?
We believe that four cheeses is a perfect number – and recommend a serving a few types of cheese; a hard cheese, a soft cheese, a blue cheese and a goat cheese. Your cheesemonger will be able to help you choose within each type and ideally you will always taste a few different types of cheese before you buy. Choose contrasting styles. Prepare a board that offers a variety of tastes, textures and terroirs (place of origin).
2 How much cheese do I need?
This is an important point. Your cheese board needs balance so try to get approximately the same size of each cheese. Work to about 80-100g of cheese (in total) per person. So if you’ve 6 people, aim for about 500-600g of cheese. Again, a cheesemonger will cut your cheeses to order.
3 What's the best cheese board to use?
Choose your board or serving platter for the occasion and size of cheese - but don’t be too precious. A wooden cutting board works perfectly and looks great, as does a ceramic platter. Dark slates are quite popular and act as a nice colour contrast to the cheese. Cheeses, like wines, are best tasted from mildest to strongest, so serve them in this order on your board.
4 What accompaniments should I serve with cheese?
Crackers or bread? Fresh fruit or dried fruit? Whatever you choose – think texture and keep it simple. Fresh seasonal fruit is always a welcome addition. The sweetness of a strawberry, cherry or peach pair very well with many cheeses whilst adding to the visual appeal. Quince paste is a classic accompaniment as are muscatels (dried grapes) and some fresh herbs. That said, give me a fresh baguette and a glass of wine and I’m happy.
5 When should I take the cheese out of the fridge?
Cheese should be served at room temperature so bring it out in advance – anywhere between 30mins and 2 hours, depending on the season. This will accentuate the true flavours and aroma of these cheeses, while the textures will soften.
6 When should I serve my cheese board?
In Australia, the favoured time for a cheese board is before the meal, but in Europe, the cheese course is generally served after the main meal, but before dessert. However, it’s your party so serve it whenever you fancy!
7 How long will the cheese keep? How do I store cheese?
Here at the Artisan Cheese Room, we wrap all our cheeses in wax paper - which allows the cheese to breath and not sweat. This will ensure that the cheeses last 1-2 weeks from purchase. If you have any cheese remaining after serving, wrap the spare cheese in baking paper (plastic is not a friend of cheese) and keep it in an airtight container in the salad or vegetable drawer.
And finally... the fact that there is no perfect cheeseboard is, well, perfect! So go forth and eat cheese. Assemble a cheeseboard of contrasting flavours, textures, tastes and flavours. Try milk from different animals, countries - French cheeses, Italian cheeses - terroirs, and seasons. Cheese has a vintage every day so rest assured that whatever cheese board you curate, it will be absolutely and totally unique.
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