Ahead of her Evening of Cheese demonstration, Paula McIntyre shares her tips on the perfect cheeseboard pairings, and making the most of leftovers
According to the American food writer MFK Fisher, cheese “has always been a food that both sophisticated and simple humans love”. The same logic can be applied when serving it—it’s equally pleasurable whether it’s a breathtaking array of cheeses on a board with a multitude of accompaniments or a solitary, perfectly ripe cheese with some grapes on a plate.
At the Evening of Cheese on the 12th December, I’ll be pairing cheese with different complements to jazz up your selection and cooking some dishes with any remainders.
With your cheese carefully sourced, you can turn your attention to the addition of different textures and flavours to bring the best out of it. Creamy cheese with nuts is a divine combination—the savoury sultriness of the kernels is perfect with rich, silky dairy. Add some spice to the nuts to take this match to an even more opulent level. Crunchy crackers are classic with cheese, as is warm, soft bread. Market trader nibs etc. ethically produces crackers from juice waste. Their fruity tang is pitch perfect with any cheese.
Sweet and smooth
Pickling raw fruit and vegetables and then pairing them with something sweet and smooth will add texture, and myriad flavours go along with this. I’ll be accompanying Cashel Blue cheese from Tipperary in Ireland with a traditional soft Northern Irish treacle griddle bread, pickled apple and a sweet spicy apple butter. In the same vein, nutty, crystalline Quicke’s cheddar will be served with a brown butter date dressing and pickled celery. My personal philosophy with cheese purchasing is to have three big pieces of something special rather than a vast array of different smaller types. Add something crunchy, sweet and sharp and you have the key ingredients for a delicious board of delights.
Christmas is an exuberant time of year and inevitably, we all over shoot the runway when it comes to buying this savoury after dinner treat. Perish the thought of skimping on the last course. An alternative to constant nibbling until the cheese is finished is to create something with the remainders. A soft oozing cheese is one thing, but hot bubbling cheese is quite another sublime experience. Robert Louis Stevenson once said: “Many’s the long night I’ve dreamed of cheese—toasted mostly.” It seems like a universal truth. Melted, grilled, golden cheese is one of the most tantalising of smells and tastes. Baking leftover cheese with onions and leeks ticks every umami box in the book. Encasing this mixture in crisp, golden, buttery pastry in a galette would make a perfect showcase centrepiece for any table.
Double the pleasure
Parmesan rinds are something we tend to throw away but in Italy, they’re an integral part of classic soups like ribollita and minestrone. Adding them to a cheese soup simply doubles the pleasure. Cheese soup is a very sensible way of using up remainders at this time of year—a silky, smooth elixir. Gougeres, cheesy choux pastry buns, are a sumptuous and light change to bread with soup. Add any remainders to the bun mix and fill the middle with more cheese. A veritable cheese fest.
Blue cheese dip made with leftovers may have a 1980s vibe but substituting labneh for the ubiquitous sour cream makes an even tangier version. And with parmesan crisps and hot buttered radishes to dip, it’s bang up to date. Not a buffalo wing in sight…
Blessed are the cheesemakers—they’ve done all the hard work. Serving it with respect is the least we can do to honour their heaven-sent skill.
Join Paula for tips, tastings and recipes Wednesday 12th December at the Evening of Cheese, 6:30-7:10pm and 7:30-8:10pm