A cheese board might just be the perfect minimal effort meal solution. It’s great for a quiet evening in for two but is also an ideal casual-yet-smart option when entertaining a group of friends. The trick to pulling off a brilliant platter is picking your cheeses with care and putting them together with a bit of flair. Here’s how..
First up: quantities. Now you don’t need to go overboard with your portion sizes, but at the same time, neither do you want your guests to leave hungry. With that in mind, if the cheeseboard is going to act as the main part of the meal opt for four-six different varieties, allowing a total of 150-200g per person (work on the basis of around 90g per person if the cheese is being presented before or after dessert).
It’s always nice to offer a range of flavour profiles, from sweet, mild and nutty to sharp and strong. Soft, rich Brie or Camembert are always popular, as is creamy goats’ cheese or labneh. Mild, hard cheeses such as Maasdam, Emmental or Gouda meanwhile work well alongside stronger aged Cheddar, grainy, salty Parmesan grana padano and manchego. Finally, add a blue cheese: crumbly Stilton, Danish Blue and piquant Roquefort are all reliably delicious; you can add a drizzle of honey to counter their more pungent taste if you like.
Take your cheese out of the fridge an hour or so before serving to allow the flavours to fully develop and try to serve them at room temperature. When eating your cheese, start with the milder flavoured options and work your way up to the strongest; that way, your taste buds will be able to really appreciate each one.
Accompaniments and garnishes are important too: think olives, sun-dried tomatoes and stuffed peppers from the deli counter, as well as chutneys and pickles galore (gherkins, onions, hot and mild relishes). Add colour with crudités (carrot, cucumber and celery sticks and strips of red pepper) and a mix of fresh and dried fruit, along with an array of nuts and seeds.
Soft, crusty fresh bread is a must (check out the Vienna Bakery range of artisan loaves) and crackers provide a lovely add crunch: try classic water biscuits, luxurious flavoured bites and breadsticks.
And if you still want to make the board more substantial, you could always include a selection of cured meats – bresaola works particularly well – and additional dips from the deli.
Last but not least, enjoy.