One of the easiest ways to posh up a gathering is to serve a cheese platter. Level up yours with these expert tips
When entertaining, you can’t really go wrong with serving a cheese board. Rule of thumb is to keep it simple. If you are having a really big party, showcase one really stunning cheese like a whole wheel of ripe triple creme brie with very simple accompaniments. For a smaller gathering, it’s nice to have about three or four interesting varieties, each with a point of difference for your guests to try, like an aged cheddar or creamy brie, a classic Blue and semi-hard Comte.
It’s important to serve cheese at the right temperature to allow the full flavours to be appreciated. Place the cheeses on the board and cover with a clean damp tea towel for up to an hour before serving. This allows the cheese to come to room temperature without drying out. Purchase cheese that is nearing its use-by date, as it will be close to full maturity for enhanced flavour and texture.
There is such a thing as good cheese etiquette when serving yourself from a communal platter. It’s preferable to cut a small wedge or slice from the centre to the rind. When cutting a soft cheese it can be seen as bad manners to take only from the centre and just leave the rind. It’s also a good idea to provide a couple of small cheese knives, especially if you are serving different types, such as a strong blue, cheddar or a soft goat’s cheese.
Ideal accompaniments are simple plain-flavoured crackers or goodquality French bread. Fresh fruit like grapes, figs and pears complement the richness of cheese and offer palate cleansing. Dried fruit such as dates or apricots and nuts or fruit pastes provide textural interest.
To store cheese, wrap each piece in baking paper then in plastic wrap. Store in a covered container in the fridge. If there are leftovers from your cheeseboard, add them to toasties, pasta dishes and omelettes and use within a few days.