Cheese Platter 101
When I think of putting together a ‘cheese platter’ a myriad of combinations come to mind. It can be as simple as one cheese on a board, with nothing other than the cheese itself, or it can be one cheese served with some perfect condiments that go so well together, or it can be an all-out feast – lots of cheese and lots of nibbles. What I serve depends on several things: my hunger factor, the weather, what is in my fridge, what goes together and what is ripe.
In determining what goes together – your pallet will tell you if it works or not. I remember about 18 years ago I was in the middle of making cheese and being absolutely starving. I went to the cool room to see what I could rustle up for lunch. I found a perfectly ripe goat camembert and a perfectly chilled bottle of local orange juice. Individually delicious, but I soon learned when served together an absolute fail.
Here a few of my favourite things…
ADELAIDE HILLS BRIE PLATTER
The main thing to keep in mind with Brie, or any white mould variety of cheese – is to eat it when its ripe. They are like bananas in their ripening – meaning young is hard and ripe is soft. You can tell if a Brie is ready by squeezing it – you want it to be quite soft. The softer it is, the riper it is.
I love to serve Brie with figs and prosciutto. Being Autumn we’re in the fig season right now. Willabrand Figs offer a pick your own fig service, and my local Hahndorf Fruit and Veg market grow and sell their own in store.
We’re lucky to have Skara smallgoods in the Adelaide Hills – and I serve their prosciutto with the Brie and Figs. If you have not had these three flavours all in your mouth at once then its time to remedy that!
In terms of wine pairings – over the years I’ve experienced some great wine matches. Bird in Hand Sparkling wine goes so well with our Brie as it is a great pallet cleanser for the creaminess, Shaw and Smith Chardonnay is a great match for the buttery-ness, Henschke Pinot Noir is a great match for the earthiness, and Chain of Ponds Barbera is great match for the smoothness.
HEYSEN BLUE PLATTER
Blue cheese can be quite polarising – people see the mould and freak out. However, brie and camembert just have white mould on the outside, and blue cheese just has blue mould on the inside. At Udder Delights we aim to make a blue cheese that is full flavoured but not overpowering – so that you never just want one bite.
When matching food to Blue you need to find condiments that can stand up to the strength of flavour – my absolute go-to is honeycomb. Think salty strong cheese with sweet strong honeycomb. Match made in heaven. Buzz Honey are in Hahndorf and make a great honeycomb.
You also need a strong wine to serve with it too – think Chain of Ponds Cabernet Sauvignon or a Honeymoon Vineyard fortified wine like their classic tawny. Both are delicious, and when served with the blue and honeycomb in front of the fire to finish a meal, there is no need for a dessert (although some would argue there is always need for a dessert and the cheese platter could be the encore after dessert).
UDDER DELIGHTS PERSIAN FETA OR CHEVRE PLATTER
I like to serve fresh cheese in a more Mediterranean or Middle Eastern influenced style. The fresh flavours and creamy textures really suit salty olives, dried fruit, roasted crunchy nuts, spicy dukkah, and acidic pickled onions or cornichons. You can even add some cooked haloumi or Harris Smoked Salmon. If it’s warm weather then I love to drink a Hahndorf Hill Rose or Goldings Sauvignon Blanc with this, otherwise a medium bodied Red Wine blend is a bit of fun. I really love Paracombe Rueben red wine for this.
OR JUST GO ALL OUT…
And serve it all together.
Serve with crunchy fresh crackers from Baylies Epicurean Delights or fresh artisanal sourdough from the Mylor Bakery. Fresh pears always work in my opinion, especially when figs aren’t in season – we always have pears up here in the Hills.
Just remember to serve all cheese, except fresh cheese (this means it has no mould or maturation) at room temperature for the best mouth feel and full flavour. If you’ve forgotten to get the cheese out of the fridge a few hours earlier, then just zap it in the microwave on low … very carefully.
To summarise, there are no rules except that your tastebuds are your monarch, and perhaps that you should always include at least one cheese from Udder Delights.