No Christmas lunch is complete without a cheesy finale
The key to cheeseboard success is to serve three to five quite different cheeses. Include a hard cheese such as Cheddar or Wensleydale, something soft like brie, and a blue-veined cheese like Stilton. You could also add a goats’ or sheep’s milk cheese (good for lactose-intolerant guests) and a regional speciality.
1. The hard cheese
A really good Cheddar makes a great cheeseboard centrepiece. Go for something extra-mature, gutsy and tangy, like Keen’s. Other hard cheeses worth their place on the board are grana padano, which is fruity and slightly grainy, and gruyère, which has a richly nutty, sweet flavour.
2. The soft cheese
Full-flavoured, creamy camembert and a milder, runnier mature brie are great cheeseboard standards, but if you’re looking for something more adventurous, try Pié d’Angloys, which is creamy and full-bodied with a hint of honey, or taleggio, a mild, tangy, rinded cheese. Any of these is a great foil to hard cheese.
3. The blue-veined cheese
Blue Stilton is a Christmas cheeseboard classic. It’s creamy, complex and slightly acidic without being sharp, with a texture similar to chilled butter. A great alternative is St. Agur, which is rich and very moist; or Roquefort, which is strongly tangy. A good blue brings a note of acidity that complements milder-flavoured cheeses.
4. The goats’ or sheep's milk cheese
Spanish manchego is a hard ewe’s milk cheese with a buttery, nutty flavour; chèvre is a soft, goat’s milk cheese, and Kidderton Ash is a soft-mould, ripened goat’s cheese with the interesting addition of charcoal. Any of these would be great as an extra.
5. The speciality cheese
Sage Derby is slightly softer and paler than cheddar, and is marbled with sage leaves for a really distinctive flavour. Cornish Yarg, coated in nettle leaves, is semi-soft, mild and creamy with a gentle acidity. Wensleydale is classified as a hard cheese, but has a wonderfully crumbly, milky texture.
Pickles of all sorts are a predictable standby to accompany cheese, but as it’s Christmas, why not shake it up?
Ripe, luscious figs go beautifully with tangy cheese; celery is great with strong cheddar (serve it in a glass of iced water to keep it crisp); pickled walnuts make a change from onions and have a sweet-sour flavour and beetrooty texture; quince paste goes well with all cheese, or serve a Christmassy chutney.
There’s no need to go overboard with your biscuit choices – and it can be more cost-effective to buy two different types instead of an assortment. Stick to something sweet, like digestives, for blue cheese and something light and crisp, like water biscuits, for everything else.
Two steps to perfection
1. Bring cheese out of the fridge half an hour to an hour before serving to allow it to come to room temperature – this will maximise the flavour.
2. Keep cheese covered with a damp cloth until you serve it, to stop it drying out.
Don't fancy making your own?
Well don't worry, we've done all the hard work for you with our Taste The Difference Cheese Selection Board.