A cheeseboard is an elegant way to round off a meal. However, the pitfalls of etiquette, selection and presentation have left more than one brave host to sigh and reach instead for the profiteroles.
So how do you serve a cheeseboard?
The worst thing to do is under-cater. There is no sadder sight than a group of friends, carefully rationing out the brie like some middle-class castaways on some dessert island.
Go for about 150g of cheese per person. I know this seems excessive compared to some other guides – but there are worse problems to have than leftover cheese.
We’ve touched on quantity, now for the fun part; buying your cheese! When picking your cheeses, remember – you’re not opening a deli. Pick a few interesting cheeses you think your guests will enjoy. If you know one of your guests is especially partial to goats cheese, it’s a nice gesture to pick them up a wedge.
Pick at least one type of cheese from each category. As a rule, a minimum of four and a maximum of six cheeses will do the job well.
Familiar – These are the classics. Ones your friend’s boring partner will still enjoy. Cheddar, Red Leicester, Edam – you know the drill.
Soft – Your spreadable cheeses. Goats cheese if you’re feeling adventurous, Brie as a more conservative offering. Wensleydale isn’t a soft cheese as such but I feel it is well worth a mention. Particularly the cranberry and the apricot offerings.
Blue – Ah! Mouldy cheese – one of life’s great acquired tastes. Stilton is a classic. Like Cheddar, it’s a cheese where it’s well worth spending the extra money on quality. Other options include Shropshire blue or my own personal favourite, Roquefort.
The Wild Card – This is your chance to show some flare and creativity. Pick something you haven’t tried before. It’s a great conversation starter and a smashing way to find a new favourite. Try ewe’s cheese or something herby for a bit of excitement.
Take the cheese out the fridge and let it rest on the board for about an hour before serving. This will give the cheese some time to breathe and to let the flavours manifest properly. Cheese straight from the fridge loses a lot of flavour, so do your guests a favour and let it sit for a while.
A proper cheese slate is ideal, but failing that, your nicest bread board will do. Make sure you have separate knives for each of the cheeses.
Pair the cheeses with fruit, chutneys, and biscuits of complimenting flavours. If you don’t know which biscuits to buy, go for the box that says “biscuits for cheese” on it.
When eating cheese, go from mildest to strongest. Build your way up to the eye wateringly veiny stilton. Talk and share your views on the cheese – it’s part of the fun. Don’t be afraid to pair fruit and savouries with the cheese to discover new flavour combinations. Try some stilton spread on half a grape, or a sliver of cheddar on a piece of apple.
Happy cheese eating!
Written By Jack Shannon