When it comes to end-of-year drinks and nibbles, an excellent wedge of cheese never fails to impress. Not only will it save you valuable time in preparation but also you and your friends can happily camp beside the cheese platter gushing over how great it is to be eating some crazy-good cheese instead of run-of-the-mill cubed Tasty.
Add some fancy crackers and a ‘haven’t-tried-that-before’ accompaniment and you’re taking an already lovely cheese to a whole other level. Cue more applause from your guests.
The trick is not to get too carried away and buy half a dozen varieties and put them all out on display. Keep it simple. Buy one or two exceptional cheeses and let their simplicity speak volumes. Allow about 50 grams of cheese per person and serve them at room temperature. Sliced green apples or pears are great palate cleanser between different cheeses.
The only other thing you have to keep in mind is the best wine to partner with the cheese. It sounds stuffy, but it really does make a difference to the taste of the cheese and the wine.
Don’t fret, here’s a little ready reckoner.
These cheeses are most simply the drained curd from milk. They do not have a rind, are spreadable and their shelf life is short. Think summer holiday on The Mediterranean.
Varieties: Goat cheese, ricotta, bocconcini, feta
Wine: Whites including sparkling, Semillon, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Gewürztraminer
Accompaniments: Prosciutto, figs, olives, almonds
Edible, white rind cheeses, sometimes described as ‘bloomy’, gorgeously soft inside on the inside. Think spring in a French village bistro.
Varieties: Brie, Camembert
Wine: Whites including sparkling, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Gewürztraminer
Accompaniments: Dates, muscatels
Cheeses washed in brine, cider, wine or even beer. Think autumn in The Alps.
Varieties: Edam, Havarti, Morbier (below left – that’s ash through the middle, not mould)
Wine: Pinot noir, sparkling red, beer
Accompaniments: pickles, gherkins, fruit chutneys, dates
Cooked, washed and pressed cheeses. Think winter in an English pub.
Varieties: Cheddar and Colby
Wine: Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz or Chardonnay
Accompaniments: green apples, raisins, dates, quince paste
Can range from creamy, soft such as St Agur (top pic) through to hard and crumbly. Think dessert.
Wine: Dessert wine like sauternes, Muscat or botrytis Semillon, Port
Accompaniments: walnuts and honey, fruit pastes, fresh or dried figs, oatcakes