How to curate a Christmas cheese board
For easy, impressive entertaining, a fabulous cheese board is hard to beat. Self-confessed ‘curd nerd’ Penny Lawson shares her tips on choosing beautiful cheeses, and suggests three of her favourites from Australian makers.
Christmas 2020 is getting close, and catering for a group of friends and family can be tricky. There’s the planning, the prep, the dietary requirements to think about, and then when everyone has gone home, the dishes to get through. Let me make this easy for you. Save time (and emotional meltdown) by putting together a fabulous cheese platter. This makes sense in so many ways, but here’s the main one: a well selected bunch of cheeses on a platter will always be noticed and devoured.
My key suggestion is get to know your local cheesemonger. Give them a brief: the number of people you’re expecting, the other food or drinks you’ll be serving, and your budget if you have one. But if you don’t have a local cheesemonger? The main thing is to buy cheeses that you like (hint: don’t buy a blue if you yourself don’t eat it). If you squirm at the idea of a goat cheese, leave it in the fridge. If you’ve enjoyed a particular cheese at a restaurant or on your travels, seek it out.
A good guide for quantities is to allow between 50g and 100g of cheese per person. This allows for cheese guzzlers and those who are cheese-shy. Then choose accompaniments that go with the cheeses you have selected – I’ve suggested some flavour combos below.
Odd numbers work best on a platter. I’m a big fan of putting one big cheese on the board – say a triple cream – and watching the crowd go wild. Serve it with gorgeous summer cherries and some fresh bread.
For presentation, cut some slices from your hard cheeses but leave a part of each one uncut. This way the platter looks inviting and your guests won’t feel nervous about trying to slice the cheese.
Penny’s top picks for Christmas
La Luna, from Holy Goat
Goat milk, Sutton Grange, Victoria
This surface-ripened goat cheese has a distinctive wrinkly rind. When young, the cheese is bright, light and lemony fresh, and as it matures it becomes stronger, softer and oozy – lush! Goes with olives and focaccia.
Extravagant, from L’Artisan
Cow milk, Western District, Victoria
The most smashable cheese in the fridge. A triple cream brie, Extravagant is rich and buttery with a light mineral finish, perfect with Champagne and fizzy things. Serve it with bread and honeycomb or a load of bright red cherries.
Mont Priscilla, from Section 28
Cow milk, Adelaide Hills, South Australia
This is an alpine style cheese; the texture is smooth and not too hard. Sweet, milky and nutty flavours give way to a lovely honey finish on the rind, and the distinctive stripe of ash through the semi-soft centre will make your cheese board stand out. Pairs perfectly with caramelised onion jam.
By Penny Lawson, Penny’s Cheese Shop.