Cheese platters - what is better than a plate of cheese put in front of you decorated with additional edible delights? The answer is very simply nothing! But how do you choose cheeses that complement each other and how do you pick from such a huge variety?
Growing up at home, at the end of the Sunday roast there was always a call for cheese. A beautiful old wooden cheese board was pulled out of the bottom draw and room temperature cheese unwrapped to finish off our meal. Inevitably there was a farmhouse cheddar or piece of Red Leicester, some brie ready to run off the plate and potentially something Dutch like Maasdam or Edam. So what makes the perfect cheese board? It all comes down to the people you are serving it to. If you know that people don’t like blue or strong cheeses, don’t bother putting it on the plate. Similarly if you have had a rich meal, super rich cheeses like camembert will not be a great fit to finish the meal.
Put together cheeses that will complement each other but with contrasting textures. The rule of thumb is one hard, one soft and one blue. Personally I love an aged Dutch style (the addictive Mahoe Very Old Edam is the perfect example), something soft like a goats cheese or runny french brie and a strong piece of blue (Mt Eliza’s Blue Monkey or English Stilton).
You could take it to the extreme and leave cow's milk cheeses off the board all together. A classic sheep's milk pecorino, like the stunning Tenara goats cheese from Kaikoura Cheeses or another ash rolled goats cheese, and if you’re lucky enough to have good buffalo cheese around you add that! In New Zealand we have the fabulous Whangaripo Buffalo cheese company and their Marin Blue is simply delicious.
Personally, I love cheese with very fresh bread, but after a heavy meal, that’s just too much. There are so many varieties of crackers on offer but don’t go with anything overly powerful as it will change the flavours of the cheese. A couple of simple pieces of fruit to go with the cheese and you’re sorted.
If your platter is for a group of friends before a meal or with some drinks, bulk it out with up to 5 cheeses, some delicious fruit pastes or a simple jar of plum jam, some grapes and both fresh bread and crackers.
Time to pour that glass of wine and enjoy your platter!