How to build the ultimate cheese board
The dessert is cleared and round three is complete, but you know your guests are wanting more. It is time. You have reached adult level #100 and at last you are qualified to take out that weird flat plate your aunt Gladys left you in her will. It is time for the cheese board. Unfortunately, putting one together can be harder than it looks. There is a bit of an art to it and G&T is here to show how it’s done.
The proof is in the buying, the biggest skill is choosing the right cheeses and from the right stores. Supermarkets like Aldi should not be snubbed, they are jammed full of continental cheeses that are pretty decent. Two of our cheeses are from Aldi, believe it or not. They are a great place to start, but if you are curious you can always sniff out a local cheese chop, luckily the smell of these particular establishments has a two-mile radius. Our other two cheeses are from local gem The Cheese Hamlet in East Didsbury. Their produce is both locally and continentally sourced and fairly priced, goes down a treat with G&T. A great cheese board totally relies on your own personal taste, so get down to a deli and get sampling.
Cheese is great at the end of a meal, but you can make an entire evening from it if you so wish. Host a cheese and wine tasting evening and put your guests palates to the test. We have provided some wine watches to go with the cheeses we used to lend a hand. We have tried to use a wide price scope to suit all budgets.
Start with your base. A wooden chopping board is a great way to start, as it might be something that’s hiding in the back of your kitchen cupboard. Wood gives a relaxed, no-fuss feel to the whole thing and makes it seem effortlessly thrown together…the illusion we are attempting to upkeep, of course the reality is much sweatier and with considerably more tears. If you would like something a little more en vogue, then we would suggest a big chunk of slate. They are terribly stylish and it makes any food look fantastic when served on it. Be prepared to see a lot of it here on G&T. We picked ours up from The Cheese Hamlet and they start at about £28, but the one we use in the photographs set us back £48 – well worth the investment in our books.
Now you have somewhere to start the rest is simple. A perfect cheese board can be divided into various blocks which are outlined below with some suggestions. You are basically after something with sharpness, something nutty, something strong and something creamy. Just mix and match about two from each section and you will be blowing minds quicker than you can say stinking bishop.
Ease yourself and your guests in with something simple like a cheddar. Luckily the UK is swimming with some amazing hard cheeses, particularly cheddar and Cheshire cheese. Go for something crunchy and mature and full of flavour to start you off. Hard cheese should provide the sharp element to the board. Next add another hard or semi hard cheese like manchego, gruyere, or gouda. These slightly softer cheeses should bring a nutty sweetness. We went for a P’tit Basque manchego, a semi-hard sheep milk cheese from Spain.
Wine Recommendation: Curatro Pasos Mencia Beirzo, 2012 (£11.50)
Notes of toasted wood and forest flavours which match the nutty earthiness of the Manchego.
Depending on what you buy, blue cheeses are exceptionally strong and they aren’t for everyone, so in this case we would just put one on the board. This family of cheeses bring something pungent, strong and salty, but there are plenty of blues that are relatively mild if you are dipping your toe in to the proverbial pool. Remember, the more mould (blue) the stronger the cheese, it’s been aged longer. Danish Blue and is on the milder side, while some British Stilton’s will blow your socks off. We went Picos Blue, a powerful Spanish cheese wrapped in maple leaves. It was rich with a creamy texture and begging to be enjoyed with a lovely glass of Port.
Wine Recommendation: Porto Neiportland: Tawny Dee (£16.00)
Port and blue cheese go together like Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee, this Port’s playful namesake. Sweet, fruity with a perfumed aroma, you will find it goes down far too easily.
Cheese boards are all about texture so your next challenge is to pair a couple of soft cheeses. Some examples would be buratta, soft goats cheese, brie, camembert etc. These cheeses should cut through the strength of the blue and hard elements. Soft cheese should be creamy, buttery and mild. Brie is so easy to get hold of and you can find a nice one in most good supermarkets nowadays. It’s such a winner. We also went for a goat’s milk brie which had a completely different personality. It was a lot firmer compared to its gooey cousin and had that gorgeous nutty tang of goat’s milk. It comes highly recommended.
Nigel at Reserve Wines in West Didsbury recommended all of the wines & port to us this week. Reserve Wines is a hidden gem in West Didsbury; a treasure trove of everything your heart could desire. From wines, to ports & gins too! Nigel suggested that the Arvine below would compliment your cheese feast on a whole, if you were looking to just stick to the one wine; but where’s the fun in that? Were you as surprised as we were that he suggested two whites as well as a red? We were confounded! But he assured us that with the time of year and types of cheeses we were serving that the two whites below would really blow us away. He wasn’t wrong.
Wine recommendation (Goats cheese): Domain de la Rabbais Touraine Sauvignon Blanc 2015 (£9.99)
Wine recommendation (Brie): John et Mike Favre Petite Arvine 2015 (£18.99)
What is a gorgeous selection of cheeses without a vehicle in which to enjoy them? We are talking about crackers of course. Crusty bread is always a great choice, and if you can be bothered to toast it, even better. Thin crispy spelt crackers are gorgeous too as are thicker crispbreads (basically ryvita), although we understand that plasterboard isn’t for everyone. If you aren’t sure, your local deli or cheese shop will have loads of fancy cheese biscuits and crackers to choose from.
It is traditional to have things like grapes and celery make an appearance on your cheeseboard. Sweetness goes exceptionally well with cheese, in fact it isn’t even unheard of to eat a slab of fruit cake simultaneously with a chunk of cheddar cheese. We can almost hear you all recoiling in horror, but it’s actually pretty darn nice. Plums and figs are a nice addition to any cheese board, as are other sweet treats such as various relishes or even honey. Honey goes exceptionally well with manchego particularly, as the earthy sweetness of the honey balances out the salt and draws attention to its nutty notes. Give it a try, you won’t regret it.
Want to hear a joke? Of course, you do. What cheese can disguise a horse?
Well, we laughed…
Hope you enjoyed that as much as we did. See you next Thursday,