Patricia Michelson: how to prepare a cheeseboard

Date:25-01-2014 08:58:37 read:3

Patricia Michelson: how to prepare a cheeseboard

The cheese expert and owner of La Fromagerie shares her tips on styling a seasonal board

"Choose five or six varieties for your board so your taste buds are not muddled by too many flavours" 

Build up flavour
Choose five or six varieties for your board – eight maximum – so your taste buds are not muddled by too many flavours. Buy about 30g per cheese, per person. Your first taste from the board should be a goat’s cheese: they’re fresh and acidic and will neutralise your palette. Second, taste a medium-strength crumbly or creamy cheese. Then try something with a white bloomy rind such as Camembert, which tastes a bit richer. Next try a hard cheese that has a nice sting to it, such as Beaufort, Cantal or Cheshire, followed by a washed-rind cheese that is strong in odour but creamy and sweet, for example Livarot or Irish cheeses such as Milleens and Durrus. Finish off with a blue, as the slightly aggressive taste will round off the wheel of flavours.

Select seasonally
In autumn serve cheddars, gruyères and strong blues with slices of fruit, nuts and a fruity wine. In winter, for a blanket of warmth, heat vacherin or raclette and eat it as a fondue. Choose buttery cheeses, crumbly cheeses and lighter-style blues in spring to complement a menu of spring lamb and the season’s vegetables. In summer avoid blue cheeses and stick to stretched curds, such as mozzarella, and fresh goat’s- or ewe’s-milk cheeses served with chilled white wine from southern Italy.

Choose flattering accompaniments
Almonds and walnuts complement the milky taste of hard, cooked cheeses such as gruyère and Comté. Pears work brilliantly with blue cheeses, and apples with rich hard cheeses such as Isle of Man Creamery cheddar. Raisins are lovely with sharp-tasting varieties such as pecorino or ewe’s-milk cheese. Serve European cheeses before dessert, as their sharp acidity complements sweet puddings. British cheeses are best served with a digestif because they are suited to big wines, port and Madeira. Avoid using chutneys as an accompaniment, as vinegar kills the taste of both cheese and wine.

Little Colonel Cheese, made by James's Cheese in Dorset (PHOTO: James's Cheese)

Buy British
For something soft try St Jude from Hampshire or Little Colonel, a new cheese from Dorset. For a goat’s cheese I like Chilcote from Staffordshire. Nothing beats Stilton, but more and more beautiful blues are being produced in Devon, for example Harbourne blue; or try Cote Hill from Lincolnshire for a taste very different from any other English blue. If I had to pick just one cheese, it would be Lincolnshire poacher: it’s nutty, rich and crumbly, and a big crowd-pleaser. The robust tastes of British offerings are best suited to being served with thin oatcakes or biscuits, rather than bread.

Store in a humid fridge
Take off any plastic wrapping and rewrap your cheese in greaseproof paper. Keep it in a dedicated drawer of your fridge or a separate Tupperware box. Prevent your cheeses from drying out by lining the box with a dampened J-cloth and adding a couple of sugar cubes to create some humidity. Store blue cheese in a separate box, as it can interfere with the tastes of other cheeses. The only time that you should be concerned about mould is when it has infiltrated past the rind into the curd; otherwise scrape it off with the back of a knife. Cheeses taste best eaten at room temperature, so take them out of the fridge an hour before serving.

“Cheese”, by Patricia Michelson, is available from Telegraph Books

    Ever For Health Copy Rights 2013