Cheese Lover? Me too. These little yellow wedges are my not-so-secret weakness (and chocolate, but that’s another story). My insatiable appetite developed about 15 years ago when I leapt from despising the smell of blue cheese to sampling it and eventually eating a whole wedge in one sitting.
Today, you’ll find every style in my fridge from Swiss Emmental to King Island brie, French camembert, Danish blue, Italian gorgonzola and crumbly Gippsland cheddar. I eat from all corners of the globe! No, it’s not the healthiest of food options – but it’s my truly indulgent treat to myself, along with a glass of wine, on the weekend. And admittedly, I feel pretty chuffed when I serve up a delicious cheese board to family and friends (being a hostess is not my specialty, but a cheese board I can do!).
Cheese artisans from around the globe will all have their winning formula, but a fail-safe and general rule I follow is to include cheeses from the five different groups – goats cheese, soft, hard, washed rind, blue. The idea behind this formula is that there is something for everyone’s palette, from lighter styles to rich and full bodied blues or washed rinds. The goal, if you can, is to eat them in this order, from lightest to most flavoursome. I have a gigantic wooden cheese board because I like to include everything on it – the cheeses and a quince paste or grapes, used the cleanse the palette between cheese, salty, thinly sliced prosciutto, Mediterranean olives, crackers (my favourite are Kurrajong Kitchen Lavosh Bites) and Italian bread sticks. If there’s a lot of guests, I’ll also make mini wooden cheese boards to share the love around the table and bring out the light white wines or Pinot Noir, craft beers or spritzers! Don’t be afraid to buy up your cheeses close to the ‘best before’ date, because this is often when chesses are most mature, like Camembert and blue, and the tastiest! Here’s my five winning ingredients for a sumptuous cheese board…
Goat cheese is fresh and light, slightly salty and a bit tangy and rich in texture. Goat’s cheese feta (feta can also be made from sheep’s milk) is excellent cubed and served on a cheese board with little tooth picks and olives.
Not surprisingly, soft cheeses are soft and creamy and characterised by a white exterior, with Brie and Camembert my go-to for a crowd-pleasers. Brie, named after the French region where it originated, is a soft cow’s milk cheese that is usually mild but can be rich, depending on the cheese maker and maturing process. It’s most flavourful when served at room temperature, so take it out of the refrigerator 45 minutes before serving. (I also like to coat and crumb Brie in Kellogg’s Cornflake crumbs then shallow fry it until golden brown and serve it with cranberry sauce for special occasions). Camembert cheese, which originated in the Normandy region of France, is another crowd favourite, thanks to its creamy and soft-texture.
A dry, crumbly, full bodied cheddar rich in flavour is usually matured for longer, whereas lighter styles are usually matured for less time. I love a rich, matured hard cheese alongside a medium Emmental Swiss cheese, complete with its trademark holes! Swiss Emmental cheese is typically mild, creamy and very moorish, and is traditionally made from unpasteurised cows’ milk. I’ve been known to gorge on it as a snack! Italian hard cheeses like Pecorino are another great pick to add some tasty flair to your cheese board.
Washed Rinds generally have an orange colour, strong aroma and robust flavour. These cheeses are washed with alcohol repeatedly, such as beer, wine, cider or brandy, which creates the strong aroma and flavoursome varieties.
The strongest of the cheeses, blue is not for the faint-hearted! Ask your fromagerie or cheese expert for guidance if you’re choosing new flavours, as the intensity can range from sweet to tangy or very strong, like French Roquefort and English Stilton.
Want more? If you’re a cheese lover like me, pack your picnic set and head to the Hunter Valley Cheese Lovers Festival, Saturday 25 June from 10-4pm, for an awesome day filled with flavoursome cheeses, perfect match foods, wine, craft beer and other beverages, and loads of entertainment for the whole family. Yep, the kids will be entertained with jumping castles and other activities so you can enjoy the tasty treats. For the serious cheese fans, there will be a cheese and cooking class with Lyndey Milan, or sign up to learn wine appreciation with Bruce Tyrrell from Tyrells Wines. Visit Kurrajong Kitchen Cheese Lovers Festival for more info.