Over the last few months, one of the ways I have kept myself occupied has been visiting the cheesemonger in Grainger Market and trying out the new, exciting cheeses. This is not ‘sad’ or ‘lame’, it is a delicious and entertaining hobby. Little did I know, all that time, through a thorough method of trial and error, I had been refining The Perfect Christmas Cheeseboard...
These guys are making up the bulk of your cheeseboard. A nice, mature cheddar; a bit of brie; stilton for the hardcore cheese fans; maybe some edam or emmental: the people pleasers. I must confess, I personally don’t like brie (too soft) or edam (too bland) much, but Christmas is a time for thinking about others, so we’ll give them what they want.
Now for a few of my favourite cheeses which are often overlooked, but which really make the cheeseboard special. Crumbly Lancashire is a tasty choice which reminds me of home, and is delicious on crackers or melts well when grilled on toast. I like the nutty boys too, so I’d go for some Pecorino Romano or Manchego (both sheep’s cheeses) and some Swiss Gruyère as well.
This is the option that gets people talking. “Wensleydale with ginger? That’s insane!” or “Ooh, that’s unexpectedly spicy… I don’t mind it though!” or “Let me guess, it’s cheddar with rum and, erm, figs in.” are just some of the riveting conversations you could be having round the table, over a controversial, statement cheese. Don’t be afraid to take a risk - even if it’s a failure, it’s all about the sheer, exhilarating thrill of trying a new cheese.
Chutney is the classic for a reason. I’d personally go for a caramelised onion chutney, which is going to go nicely with most things. For fruit, I actually like a few pieces of apple, which is delicious with cheddar, cutting through the salt with a sweet, tart taste and giving it a bit of crunch. The cheeseboard is also a perfect time to use up some leftover cranberry sauce from your main course.
Some people will pair their cheeseboard with fancy bread, and while this is a delicious vehicle for that sweet, sweet dairy, I’m a cream crackers man all the way. After a big Christmas dinner, no one has room for a load of bread, but crackers minimise the amount of carbs needed. They give you a much better cheese-to-vehicle ratio for maximum flavour, and you can imagine you’re in Wallace and Gromit, which is always a bonus.