Cheese bored? Style up your cheese platter with some luscious, local cheeses and advance Australian fare says renowned cheese educator Sonia Cousins.
Whether your cheese selection is part of an elaborate dinner party, or just a casual picnic platter, the golden rule is this: less is more. It’s far more impressive to offer two or three generous pieces of perfectly ripe cheese, than a random assortment of little bits and pieces. Keep the accompaniments simple too – you want them to enhance, not overpower, the cheese. Think whole triple cream piled with fresh strawberries, or a bold blue drizzled with local honey.
Choose a board or platter large enough to allow space around each cheese, so your guests aren’t awkwardly navigating a pile of cramped wedges and rounds. And it’s a good idea to provide a separate knife for each cheese; no one wants bits of blue on their creamy camembert.
Whether you’re looking for a chevre from Western Australia, or a creamy cow’s milk creation from New South Wales, a sheep’s milk cheese from Tasmania, or a buffalo milk beauty from Victoria, here’s our guide to creating the perfect Australian cheese platter. Just choose one, two or three of the following options, and be sure to serve the cheeses at room temperature.
The fresh, mild flavours of young goat’s milk cheeses are like a blank canvas for other flavours. Scatter with fresh herbs and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, or create your own masterpiece with edible flowers and Reserve Gourmande syrups. Lavosh or Rosemary and Sea Salt Flatbread provide a crunchy contrast to the smooth-textured cheese, and a fruity, zesty white wine is the perfect partner. Try a crisp Sauvignon Blanc, young Semillon, or SSB blend – the combination will sing in your mouth.
Australian blue cheese ranges from mild and creamy to sharp and spicy, so you’re bound to find the right blue for you. With blue cheese, opposites attract. Sweet accompaniments like quince compote, muscatels and honey provide the perfect foil for their salty, spicy notes, and a drizzle of aged balsamic vinegar adds another dimension of deliciousness. Stickies or fortified wines are an excellent match, as are dark beers such as Porter and Stout.
Who doesn’t love a creamy camembert or a luscious triple cream slathered on fresh crusty bread? The appeal of these cheeses is all about the texture, so choose accompaniments that don’t overpower their relatively mild flavours. Think candied pears or figs, or some not-too-sweet mustard fruits. And to counteract all of that mouth-cloyingly rich creaminess, pair with a glass of sparkling wine or a light, effervescent Pilsner.
For a step up in flavour from brie and camembert styles, look for Australian washed rind cheeses with “gold” or “red” in the name. The flavours are usually milder than the aroma suggests, with notes of cured meats, smoked ham or vegemite. They’re delicious with rye bread and cornichons, or smeared on Rosemary and Sea Salt Flatbread. And to drink? Try a Pinot Gris or Grigio, fruity Grenache or vintage sparkling wine, or a medium-bodied Pale Ale.
Something sharp or nutty
The nutty notes in a gruyere or the savoury characters of an aged sheep’s milk cheese pair perfectly with cured meats and duck rillettes, with some cornichons or pickled walnuts on the side. And there’s nothing better than a thick slice of vintage cheddar on oatmeal crackers, topped with onion jam or tomato chutney. These rich, savoury cheeses call for fuller-bodied wines like Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon or Shiraz, or Brown and Amber Ales at the heavier end of the beer flavour spectrum.
Find cheese boards, cheese knives and a wide selection of Australian and international cheese accompaniments at your nearest The Essential Ingredient store. Selected The Essential Ingredient stores also feature a comprehensively stocked cheese room, with an ever-changing selection of the finest cheeses available.
About Sonia Cousins:
Sonia Cousins has been a cheesemonger for more than ten years, and now works as a cheese educator. Through her own business, Cheese the Day, she presents cheese appreciation events for the public, and cheese sensory workshops for industry professionals, across Australia. She also judges cheese in Australia and overseas, and contributes cheese-related articles to various consumer and industry publications. Follow Sonia on Twitter: @SoniaCousins