What to serve on a cheeseboard
Whether you're rounding off a festive feast or dinner party, we've got the perfect suggestions for your best-ever cheeseboard, along with cheese cutting and tasting tips.
Looking to deck out your cheeseboard with the best varieties available? We asked two experts for their advice on which cheeses to pick and the best accompaniments for them, as well as what to look for when tasting cheese.
What cheese do you use on a cheeseboard?
Patricia Michelson, expert and founder of La Fromagerie, gives her top five tips for what types of cheese work well on a cheeseboard, and their best pairings. Follow her recommendations across a wide range from soft to hard, including goat's cheeses and blue cheeses. And for the best dining experience, she also suggests you eat them in the following order...
1. Fresh goat's cheese
The lively acidity and bright appearance of a young goat’s cheese is perfect for refreshing the palate. Look out for lighter, crumbly styles, like the truncated pyramid Sinodun Hill from Norton & Yarrow cheesemakers in Oxford with its fresh, lemony zing and fudgy texture, or the classic French log Sainte Maure de Touraine with its charcoal coat speckled with white moulds, and fresh walnut flavour.
2. Soft style
Try a bloomy white-coated brie, camembert or Hampshire Tunworth with its earthy wild mushroom aromas and rich grassy flavours. Another British soft cheese for this time of year is Rollright from King Stone Dairy in Oxford, with a mellow yeasty flavour and peachy hued rind from washing in brine. It’s now made in a smaller size, so it's perfect for a family cheeseboard.
3. Hard cheeses
To give body and bite, there’s nothing to beat a Somerset cheddar like Keens, or Montgomery, which has elegant raisin and nut flavours. If you want to try something new, then Comte d’Estive from the Franche-Comté, a region that hugs the Swiss borders, has the style of a gruyère but with the bittersweet flavour of dark chocolate.
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4. Blue cheese
Stilton and the raw milk Stichelton cheeses are perfect around winter – mature with big bursts of metallic sharp blue notes running through the richness. Another blue is Roquefort, made from ewe’s milk with intense powerful flavours and gritty texture. All great to relish with port or a full-bodied red wine.
5. Wild card
For something different, look at Spanish cheeses like the spicy Picos de Europa blue which is wrapped in vine leaves to add fruity flavours, or the Sao Jorge cheddar-style hard cheese from the Azores with its sharp edge and persistent finish. There’s also the Mont d’Or cheese from Haut-Doubs in the Jura, which can be baked in its box to turn it into a fondue.
What to serve as an accompaniment on your cheeseboard?
Now take a look at Patricia's recommendations for easy accompaniments to serve alongside your cheeses, for optimum flavour and texture contrasts.
Cheese tasting tips
Charlie Turnbull, founding director of Academy of Cheese, gives his professional advice on what characteristics to look for when choosing the best cheese for your board.
- Outer: The wrapping or covering that encases the cheese.
- Rind: The hard outer part of the cheese.
- Paste: The inside portion of the cheese, below the rind.
- Inspect the rind: Is there an inorganic outer, such as wax or cloth, or an organic outer, for instance charcoal, leaves or grape must?
- Inspect the interior: The paste will have a certain consistency and texture – it could be soft, like brie de meaux, or very hard, like aged gouda. Parmesan might be crystalline, while camembert could be dual textured or even. Note the colour and presence of blueing.
- Smell the cheese: To identify its level of intensity. You might also pick up some specific aromas – spice, mushroom, smoke etc.
Chew the cheese slowly and breathe through your nose. There are two main stages to tasting. Initially, we’re aiming to pick up the five simple flavours on the tongue – bittersweet, acid, salty and savoury. These give way to more complex flavours, which are registered through the nose and tongue. Complex flavours vary enormously, from meaty and nutty to fruity, via the allotment, farmyard or hedgerow! There are levels of subtlety that you’ll be able to identify as you become more practised.
The Academy of Cheese have created five flavour categories:
- Fruity and floral
- Vegetable and herbaceous
- Mineral and chemical
- Animal, fungal and fermented
As you taste more, it will become easier to build up your vocabulary to benchmark cheeses. However, everyone’s palate is different, so taste with others to gauge the flavours that you are, or are not, sensitive to.
Wondering what crackers to pair with your cheddar? Or what will balance out a strong blue? Take a look at what to serve on a cheeseboard for more fabulous fromage tips.
If you're looking for even more recipes to dazzle your guests, check out our entertaining hub for all your party needs. We've got inventive cocktails you can make in minutes, decadent desserts and simple sharing platters.
How to cut cheese
Give your cheese a professional finish this year by following our infographic for the perfect cheese cutting techniques according to size, shape and type.
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