There is something heavenly about a perfect cheese board. Cheese is quite the social food which makes it great for entertaining. Over the years we have entertained a lot so we have developed a formula for putting together a cheese board that satisfies an array of tastes. The fundamentals are simple – you need a good vehicle, something sweet/meaty and a range of different textured/strength cheeses.
Starting with the vehicle, there are no rules about what to use. It all comes down to ensuring that you use a good quality cracker, bread stick or fresh bread. Generally my preference is for a baguette or crusty sourdough however use whatever you fancy.
Next, include something sweet or meaty. I typically always serve our cheese boards with either pate or quince jam as they enhance the flavour of the cheese and help your palette adapt when swapping between delicate and quiet strong cheeses. Other options include the use of a seasonal fruit such as grapes or apple, dried muscatels or figs, candied nuts or charcuterie.
Now on to the star of the show ,the cheese. When you create a cheese board there are two avenues you can take. You can either look at using cheeses from different milk sources (e.g. goat, cow, sheep) or you can base you cheese board on varying textures and flavours (e.g. soft, hard, aged, blue). If it’s a night of wine, cheese and the couch I would lean towards the former however when entertaining large group I tend to use a selection of flavour/textures as this way you have a greater chance of actually having a type of cheese everyone will like.
We purchased many of the cheeses featured in this article ourselves, but are thankful to the French-Australian Chamber of Commerce for providing a selection of French cheese company Ile De France‘s cheeses for us to use too.
To give you an idea of what cheeses fall into each category have a look at the list below:
- Soft: Brie, Camembert, Brillat-savarin, Mozzarella, Goat curd, Washed rind
- Hard: Young Cheddar, Eden, Manchego
- Aged (3+ months): Parmesan, Gruyere, Feta, Monterrey Jack
- Blue: Blue brie, Gorgonzola, Stilton
There are numerous other varieties of cheese which have not been listed however if you are unsure ask your cheese monger and they will point you in the right direction. I would recommend using one from each category if you are serving between 2 to 6 people however if you are catering for a larger group look at 2 to 3 cheese from each. For the cheese board in the photo at the top of this article we served 15 people which included the following cheeses:
Ile De France Mini Brie: mild and creamy
Ile De France Petit Camembret: earthy, full flavoured
Tamar Valley truffled brie: rich, intense, buttery
Chaumes Washed rind: pungent, springy, nutty, creamy. (this is not everyone’s cup of tea however I adore stinky cheese)
Manchego: sweet, nutty ewe’s milk cheese
Sartori Reserve chai Bellavitano : sweet, rich, spicy
Feta: tangy, crumbly, slightly salty
Ile De France Brie au Bleu: creamy, mild blue cheese
Stilton: tangy, crumbly, strong
Just remember to take the cheese out of the fridge an hour before serving as the flavour of the cheese will shine at room temperature. Lastly, I would recommend labeling the cheese as you will be asked through the night questions like “What cheese is this?” “Where did you buy it?” To make this easy cut off the label from the cheese and attach it to a toothpick with some tape. This provides an inexpensive and easy solution.