There’s nothing quite like a cheese party to get people together. My speciality is cheese and prosecco. People usually ask what happened to cheese and wine? And to those I say, have some imagination! Surely the sound of a cork popping is one of the happiest noises in the world. Now think of yourself enjoying a crisp glass of bubbly in one hand and a salty cracked topped with a creamy wedge of deliciousness in the other.
My place is infamously tiny so it can be a bit like a cheese rave. Everyone brings a cheese and a bottle and it’s just darling, darling!
But with everyone bringing a different cheese, it can be a bit of a mixed bag. Softs mixing with strongs, goats next to cheddar, cheesy chaos reigns! So there are a few classic rules when putting together a cheese plate.
1. Talk to your local cheesemonger, they can always recommend something fabulously in season.
2. Avoid flavoured cheeses, there’s no place for crazy herbs or weird additions on a good cheese plate. Nothing should distract you from the pure beauty of la fromage.
3. The French recommend a minimum of cheeses not to overload the senses. Three to five incorporating a soft, bloomy rind, a semi-hard and a harder, aged one. Personally I love all the softies and especially the blues, but don’t listen to me.
Soft: you can go for the classics, brie, camembert, or my favourite, a triple créme like chaource.
Blue: gorgonzola, stilton, bleu d’auvergne, cashel blue.
Firm: manchego, parmigiano-reggiano.
Aged: an aged gouda, comté, cheddar.
In fact, our cheese expert Yee Gan has just posted a tour of his favourite cheesey purveyors at Borough Market and you can find his list here.
4. Avoid the real stinkers. Trust me, your fridge will thank you the next day.
5. Accompaniments: What’s even better than just cheese? Cheese and meats! Try adding some cured meats like prosciutto, salami, maybe a paté.
6. You know what else the French do really well? A good baguette. So get up all in there with some of that crusty good stuff, sliced into bite-ready pieces. You can see in the photo below I’ve added some crackers and a really good fig and hazelnut loaf to vary the taste and textures.
7. Salty snacks are key to adding a bit of excitement and breaking up the dairy overload. I’ve gone for wasabi peanuts, olives and spicy crackers. You can also go down the classic route and add some marcona almonds or cornichons.
8. Keep chutneys and accompaniments to a minimum, the cheese should shine. Personally I love honey so you can’t go wrong with a saucy little drizzle.
9. Make sure you take your lovely cheeses out of the fridge before you serve. Room temperaturing is key!
10. Arrange in a clockwise direction from mildest to strongest. I’d recommend you cutting it before serving to the shape of the wedge so that it is easier for guests and you don’t end up with a mess. For softer cheeses, use a wire, for harder cheese, a clean sharp knife for each one.
Enjoy, my cheese loving little friends.