Cultured Cheese Plate
As the Australian palate has become considerably more sophisticated over the past 10 years so has the range of food products available at our fingertips. Like or dislike the celebrity cooking shows have significantly impacted the way we cook at home, our confidence to explore unchartered dishes and the way we equip our kitchens to allow us to be host or hostesses with the most!
The cheese platter has come a long way over the past ten years also. If I cast my mind back ( just a little way) I can remember an orange resembling a porcupine. With masses of toothpicks coming out of it which were adorned with chunks of Coon cheese and a colourful baby pickled onion, this was generally served with a packet of Jatz Biscuits and a bowl of Philadelphia Cream Cheese which had been blended with a packet of French Onion Soup.
Everything has its place....
Today we have available an amazing selection of cheeses to put on a cheese plate. Local, imported, soft, hard, blue in cow, goat sheep and buffalo milks. So perhaps the cheese plate is not as simple as we once thought with so many choices at our fingertips.
I have some tips and ideas that may help next time you are serving a cheese plate and remember cheese doesn't have to come at the end of a meal - I tend to serve cheese at the beginning of a dinner or luncheon.
Choosing what cheese to put on a cheese plate can be done in a few ways. My golden rule is never more than 3 cheeses and always allow a minimum of 30 - 60 min at room temperature for full flavour depending on style and size of cheese. Accompaniments should be simple to allow you to enjoy the full flavour of the cheese. It is also worthwhile noting what other dishes you will serve if you are going to be serious about your cheese plate. I tend to make sure the dishes are simple and a little on the lighter side so my guests can enjoy the entire gastronomic experience.
Theme a style:
This is where I would choose washed rind for example as the theme. Use a soft gooey washed rind cheese perhaps with a semi hard washed rind and then possibly also include a firm washed rind. I always like to use Australian cheeses on my cheese plates to support the industry as much as possible so I would choose the following cheeses in this case:
- Soft gooey : Jindi Cheese, Old Telegraph Road Fire Engine Red
- Semi hard: Woodside Cheese Wrights, Pompeii
- Firm: Heidi Farm, Tilsit
Choosing a theme works well if you are planning on drinking one wine varietal. I would match theses cheeses up with a Pinot Gris, fabulous Australian Chardonnay or a Sparkling Red can work well with the more robust washed rinds. Accompaniments could be plain crackers, muscatels, fresh seasonal fruit given the flavour profile of washed rind cheeses tends to be robust and complex I would keep the accompaniments quite simple. The wonderful part of choosing the same style or family of cheeses is enjoying the differences in flavour and textures.
Other varieties which can be themed would be blues and bloomy rind cheeses - try blue from cow milk, one from goat milk and one from sheep milk - be sure your guests are blue cheeses lovers because that would be one serious cheese plate!
This would be the more traditional cheese plate where you would choose a bloomy rind ( Camembert or Brie ), a blue, and a wedge of cheddar. Here's my choices
- King Island Dairy, Endeavour Blue
- Pyengana, Aged Cloth wrapped cheddar
- Woodside Cheese Wrights, Charleston Jersey Brie
Serve with seasonal fruit, muscatels and quince paste which goes brilliantly with aged cheddar. Have some fun choosing the wines to match and don't forget BEER and CIDER they can work amazingly with these cheeses.
We have looked at a blue cheese plate using different milks, now let's have a look at different milks and different styles. I would choose
- Grandvewe Dairy, - Sheep milk pecorino
- Woodside Cheese Wrights - Edith goat milk cheese
- Milawa - Milawa Gold cow milk washed rind
Have some fun with accompaniments with these cheese by introducing a small wedge of honeycomb to go with the Edith and quince paste or jelly will be perfect for the other 2 cheeses.
Serve with bread or crackers and a cool climate Pinot Noir would work exceptionally well.
One cheese only:
I like the simplicity of doing this and I am finding more and more I am enjoying serving cheese like this. There are several cheeses that will work well solo.
Brie, camembert, wedge of good parmesan, wedge of cheddar or a wedge of blue. The one cheese you choose needs to be in peak condition this is where your Cheesemonger can play an important role. I also like to give some simple clues on choosing the perfect cheeses - which I will cover in subsequent articles.
If you choose a Brie or Camembert, make sure it is in a larger format given you will only have one cheese, it should be ripe and soft to touch over the entire body of the cheese with perhaps a small core in the centre which will feel slightly firmer.
Choose large wedges of all cheeses, arrange on your cheese plate with bread, crackers, pastes, dried fruit or seasonal fresh fruits.
If choosing Cheddar or Parmesan try with a full bodied red wine.
I do also like to serve just one blue cheese at the end of the meal with a sticky wine, now that is a match made in heaven which in reality is all about contrasts being complimentary. The sweetness of the wine contrasts and compliments the salty pungency of the cheese.
Cheese Kris Lloyd