As the old proverb goes, cheese is for life, not just for Christmas. And as an early millennial, who am I to argue with a Pinterest-worthy statement? Especially one that’s about a brilliant cheese board which is, as we all know, the godliest of foods.
There are few things more decadent than making a meal, or indeed a snack, out of your favourite cheeses. The need for cheese has been something that’s been present in my life for as long as I can remember, perhaps ever since cheese and Carr’s water crackers were the food my mum would give to me whenever I was off school poorly. Back then a brilliant cheese board meant comfort and cuddles, sneakily eaten on the sofa wrapped up in a blanket in front of daytime TV.
For me it’s still a comfort food, one of happy bellies and red wines. I’ve eaten cheese in some of the most amazing places – Brooklyn Winery, Puente Romano Marbella, Le Manoir Aux Quat’Saisons, 30,000 feet up in Virgin Upper Class – but it’s never quite as good as at home on the sofa. And I can’t believe it’s taken me 33 years of my life to realise that you can (and so totally should) eat cheese at times other than either after a meal or Christmas. ALL HAIL THE CHEESE.
Of course, my ultimate cheese board (or should I say cheese table? Cheese heaven? Cheese nirvana?) would always be from Grape and Fig. Their Instagram account is absolute snacking goals and, though it may make my own cheeseboard look paltry in comparison, I must take a moment to reflect on the incredibleness I was presented with when I attended a Hobbycraft event they catered last summer:
I mean, yes. A thousand times yes. If I was given the choice between giving up sex and being able to feast on this for the rest of my life… well, let’s just say I’d have a very happy tummy and would probably never bother getting a bikini wax ever again.
For me a cheese board has always been such a special treat thing, a meal, an event. But when I went to stay with my friend Carlina recently and she presented me with one just to nibble on while we chatted before dinner I was even more in love with her.
The way to my heart is, evidently, cheese. And here’s the best way to do it:
How To Build a Brilliant Cheese Board
Get a Great Cheese Board
This one that I have in the photos is 35cm in diameter and is a good size for two people (or, ok then, one): here’s one at 50cm for bigger parties. I prefer wood but would NOT say no to this beautiful 30cm Terrazzo board, which I may well purchase and plan my future kitchen around because I love it that much.
…And Load It With Cheese
I could speak for hours about the kind of cheese one should load on to their cheeseboard but we only have 800 words so I will say this: for 2-4 people buy 4-5 cheeses, including blue, hard, goats and runny (and if you read ‘blue, hard, goats and runny’ without snickering then you’re a better person than me.
Don’t include more than two varieties of a particular kind of cheese, and allow me to suggest some of my favourites:
- Chaorce – a runny cheese from France that WILL give you a party in your mouth. Disco ball included.
- English Brie – I like the mild version from Somerset
- Cheddar – duh! Black Bomber is excellent
- Blue cheese – Colston Bassett and Stichelton are wonderful
- Goat’s cheese – Alex James’s is fabulous
Not if you’re a vegetarian, obviously ;) When it comes to a cheese board, cured meats are often second-best and I can totally see why. They’re more expensive – you get less for your money – and are often trickier to eat on a little cracker. But I challenge you to not want to chow down on an entire packet of Natoora Proscuitto, the ultimate in cured meat, and it’s a must on a brilliant cheese board (if only for your salami-mad daughter).
Include Dried and Fresh Fruits
Grapes are a given when it comes to a cheese board, but you really need to include dried fruits, too. My preference are dried pears or figs but apricots and dates are good, too. As long as your fruits are sticky and sweet you’ll be winning.
Pick Your Crackers
The third-best part of your cheese board after the cheese itself and cured meats? The crackers! Water biscuits are a classic but are nowhere near the top of the cracker tree: for that I’d like to point you in the direction of Miller’s Cranberry and Raisin toast, gorgeous with softer cheeses. Aesthetically a charcoal cracker always look fantastic and I love something with rosemary alongside a biscuit with added parmesan (did I tell you I like cheese?).
Add In Some Snacks
There’s no point in being conservative when it comes to your brilliant cheese board: chuck in some snacks, too! I like olive palmiers and those long pastry twist things (bonus points if you make your own with marmite).
Serve Gorgeous Chutneys
OK, so I haven’t yet worked out how to serve chutneys on a cheese board without looking like they’re plopped on there in an undignified mess (yes, condiments can be undignified), but chutneys are a must-have when it comes to a cheese board. The old classic is of course red onion, and I really love quince jelly too. For something a little different you can also give bacon or chilli jam a go.
More from a cheese plate influencer who calls cheese self-care? I’m in.