Putting together a cheeseboard is a bit of a balancing act. Follow our tips and tricks for cheesey success...
What types of cheese do your guests like or dislike?
Some cheeses are almost universally popular - Cheddar or Alpine styles are surefire winners and a good, perfectly ripe Brie or camembert type is a must have. A really good Territorial like Kirkham's Lancashire or Appelby's Cheshire adds a welcome sharpness to a board too, and will be a pleasant surprise to many!
Blue cheeses are a favourite with most people, but not everyone will enjoy tucking into a powerful, salty one. If you're unsure about your guests tastes, stick with more gentle blues - Burts Blue, Blacksticks or Montagnolo are good examples.
Similarly, Goat's or Ewe's milk cheeses can be divisive. Super farmyardy flavours can be off-putting, but some of the fresher or more subtle cheeses (Cerney Ash, Goat's Gouda, Ossau Iraty or Brebirousse) are good all-rounders for most palates.
Washed-rind cheeses are the wild cards of the cheese world. Examples like Epoisses or local superstar Renegade Monk tend towards powerfully funky and can easily overpower the rest of the cheeses on the board, but can be a great talking point. There are more gentle washed cheeses available too though, which can be a wonderful addition - seek out the amusingly named Minger or C'est Bon for a gooey treat, or Morbier-inspired Ashcombe or young Aarewasser for a semi-hard style.
How many cheeses do you need?
Consider having a few larger pieces, rather than a lot of smaller ones. It's easier to balance three or four flavours than six or seven and too many flavours can be overwhelming.
Start with your crowd-pleaser - a slab of good Cheddar or an Alpine - then add a flavour that will contrast with it - a sharp, lactic Territorial like Old Roan Wensleydale or Gorwydd Caerfilli.
Then look for a different texture - a soft, gooey Rollright or Gert Lush add a wonderfully rich ooziness to the board.
Something Blue next - a really good Stilton is hard to beat (our favourite is always Colston Bassett) but for a change, something a little more creamy like Cashel Blue or Beauvale is great.
If you're entertaining a larger number of guests, add a non-cow - Killeen Goat's Gouda or more piquant ewe's milk Spenwood work well - and something more funky, like cider-washed Yarlington.
What to serve with your cheese?
Trying to serve a drink with every cheese is a road to ruin (as enjoyableas it may be st the time!)
Whilst convention would dictate serving red wine or lbv port with your cheese, in truth these only suit very few cheeses. Instead, try a light dessert wine like Sauternes or Montbazillac, a tawny port or a dessert cider. White wines, ales and ciders work well with specific cheeses and can be a fun evening if you have enough guests to serve smaller glasses (no quaffing!).
It's often a good idea to serve up some simple, good apple juice or water as well.
A couple of simple biscuits - something plain and something fruity, nutty or seedy - will give your guests something to scoop up crumbly or gooey cheeses with, but avoid lots of heavily flavoured crackers.
With all the richness of cheese, drinks and biscuits, a Pickle or chutney adds welcome acidity. It's hard to beat a proper pickled onion, but we also love a great Piccalilli or pickled fruit. Not-too-heavily spiced chutneys are a good contrast - savoury, fruity and aromatic Fig & Olive is an unusual choice, or Real Ale for something more traditional.
Fresh fruit such as figs, grapes, sliced pears or apples are a great finishing touch, or salted, roasted nuts (walnuts, pecans or hazelnuts are best) for a more savoury touch.
How much cheese do you need?
If you're serving your cheeseboard as a main course, we usually recommend between 50g and 70g of each cheese per person.
For a cheeseboard at the end of the meal, allow around 30g - 50g of each.
The all-round favourites will always go quicker, so go for the more generous portion size for these.
Remember that some of your guests may not eat cheese!
Wait, where's Gorgonzola?!
Don't worry, we haven't forgotten about everyone's all-time favourite. Some cheeses are best served up all on their own - a single magnificent slab (or dollop!), letting you match drinks and accompaniments to it. Check out the rest of the blog for specific pairing ideas.