Will Studd reveals all you need to know about making a cheeseboard great.
When it comes to putting together a great cheese board, the [essential] thing is obviously the cheese. That’s the hardest bit and the most fun bit. All the best and most interesting cheeses tend to be influenced by the seasons, and that means going to your local cheese maker or cheese shop and finding out what they recommend.
Find a cheese shop/cheese maker you trust, and find a cheese you trust and know something about.
Where to find your cheese
Sure you can go to the local supermarket, but cheeses there tend to be much more predictable. In Melbourne, in Victoria, I would go to a farmer’s market or any of the markets; there are good cheese retailers in all of the markets in Melbourne. There’s nothing quite like meeting the people producing the cheese to convince you that you’re eating the best cheese of your life!
Will’s top three local cheeses
I love the cheese from Holy Goat, they’re fantastic. If I were to go to
a farmer’s market, I’d go straight for the Holy Goat stand. I love their La Luna because it’s got a beautiful rind on the outside… They’ve mastered the art of growing that very special type of mould, which looks like coral on the outside, and it’s got this wonderful yeasty flavour. It’s a mould that’s normally found in raw milk but it’s possible to create on pasteurised cheese. It’s a pretty special cheese.
I’ve also been enjoying the Venus Bay Blue, which is a cheese from Prom Country Cheese, down near Wilson’s Prom. It’s a ewe’s milk cheese. They’ve got that wonderful balance of salty blue flavours and lovely rich aftertaste that comes from using ewe’s milk.
The third would be the cloth-bound Annie Baxter from Shaw River. That’s a hard buffalo cheese. It’s quite special because it’s cloth-bound which allows it to breathe. Buffalo milk is interesting because it’s rich but it has a slightly mossy aftertaste, grassy, like the pasture.
What to serve it with
If you’re a purist, it’s definitely bread and a French baguette. A sourdough also works really well. But if you’re serving blue cheese, rye bread works really well too.
I’m not against biscuits; I think they’re really convenient, but their texture tends to battle it out with the cheese. If you’re going to have biscuits, I would try an oatmeal biscuit, which is a traditional way to go. I don’t like the very wafer-thin things that crack and break when you put the cheese onto them.
There’s no right and wrong with accompaniments. If quince paste turns you on, then go for it. It’s worth remembering that the idea of serving any sweet jam or quince paste with cheese is to help bad cheese taste better.
Don’t go overboard
Get something between one and five cheeses for your board. Don’t be lured into the idea that you need to have more than that, because one or two great cheeses is better than five or more mediocre ones.
Different types of cheese require different types of wine–for example, blue cheeses really don’t work with a red wine. It can get complicated when really, the joy of a cheese board is that it’s something simple to share with your friends and guests. You don’t want to get into, “Oh, this cheese will go with this sauvignon blanc” or, “This blue cheese will go with this sticky wine” and, “I’ve gotta eat the cheese and drink the wine in this order.”
White wines usually go better with cheese than reds, which surprises many people. Generally speaking, a dry white would go well. Some people really enjoy a sticky dessert wine with cheese. Champagne also goes remarkably well with cheese, a parmigiano reggiano, for example.
Simple is best
I think one wonderful cheese that you can talk about, that you know something about, a cheese you can really appreciate, is far better than a whole bunch of cheeses just put out to impress people.