A classic cheese board

The classic approach in putting together a cheese board is to aim for a contrast of textures, tastes and shapes. Mild to strong, rounds and wedges, light against dark, soft and hard – it's about making an aesthetic impact as much as a gustatory one.

A classic cheese board will contain a cheese from one of each of the main styles. You can obviously leave out any you don't like or which you think will not go down well with your guests (washed-rind cheeses being the most likely candidates) but you should try to make sure there's something for everyone.

A classic selection

Serve a young, fresh-tasting goats' cheese; a white or bloomy-rinded cheese, such as a brie or a camembert; a hard cheese like a cheddar; and a blue, such as a stilton. You could also add a washed-rind cheese; a sheep's cheese; or a cheese flavoured with herbs.

Traditionally, this choice would have been drawn predominantly from Britain and France but there are now so many exciting new cheeses from elsewhere in the world that there are many alternative countries from which to find them. You could include cheeses from your own neighbourhood and from halfway across the globe.

The picture above shows a classic board with something for everyone – clockwise from top left, a classic camembert, tymsboro (an ash-coated goats' cheese from Somerset), Colston Bassett stilton, Montgomery's cheddar (also from Somerset), epoisses (a washed-rind cheese from Burgundy), and sarriette de banon from Provence.

The classic way to present them would be clockwise in order of flavour intensity (tymsboro, sarriette, camembert, cheddar, epoisses and stilton) but I much prefer to arrange the board to show off the cheeses' different shapes, colours and textures. You could, however, eat them in this order, sticking to the more easy-going cheeses (tymsboro, sarriette, cheddar and stilton) if you were drinking red wine, which can cause problems with cheese. Overall I think the best match for this particular selection would be a vintage tawny port or, you might be surprised to hear, a good Sauternes. Remember the more mature a cheese is, the more difficult it can be to find a precise wine match so do consider other drinks.

An Irish cheese board

I suggest an adrahan (washed-rind cheese), a St Tola (a soft goats' cheese), a coolea (gouda-style cheese), a Gabriel (hard cows' cheese) and a cashel blue.

An Italian cheese board

This might include a gorgonzola, a semi-soft taleggio, pecorino sardo (hard sheep's cheese) and a caprini tartufo (truffle-infused goats' cheese).

An animal-led cheese board

While it is traditional to mix cheeses from different animals – goat, cow and sheep – it's possible with the multitude of new cheeses that are being produced to base a board purely on sheep's or goats' cheeses, or a mixture of the two – a boon to those who find themselves intolerant of cows' milk.

A modern British example of a non-cows' milk cheese board might include Little Wallop (the 'celebrity' goats' cheese produced by former Blur guitarist Alex James), tunworth (a camembert-style goats' cheese), a berkswell (an excellent hard English sheep's cheese) and Lanark blue (a fine sheep's cheese from Scotland).

A surprise selection

As you become more knowledgeable about cheese, it's fun to mix the familiar and the unfamiliar. Try serving a new discovery from the farmers' market or a rare Spanish or Portuguese cheese alongside an old favourite that you know everyone loves (a great cheddar or a creamy brie, for example).

• This extract is taken from Fiona Beckett's Cheese Course by Fiona Beckett (Ryland, Peters & Small, £19.99)

Thanks to guardian.co.uk who have provided this article. View the original here.


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