The key elements to putting together a great cheese platter – every time

The first step to any great platter – choose your cheese.

The first step to any great platter – choose your cheese. Photo: Dairy Australia

Putting a cheese platter together should be one of the simplest entertaining tools we have on hand, but a recent survey by Dairy Australia reveals only 20 per cent of Aussies feel confident in their ability to curate a cheeseboard.

Australians are eating more cheese than ever before – imports have increased by 44 per cent over the past decade – but many people feel uneasy when it comes to a crowd-pleasing grazing platter.

Food stylist and recipe writer Amanda Menegazzo, a culinary consultant with Dairy Australia, has some infallible tips on how to find the wow factor and up your cheeseboard game.

She says – as with many things – it can be easy to be intimidated by the pressure of social media.

“There are so many beautiful Instagram-worthy grazing boards coming through your feed all the time, so the pressure to live up to that can get a bit much.

“I want to say there are no real rules when it comes to serving anything really, but I do believe there are a few key rules or elements you can follow.

“Sometimes it’s easier to have a few guiding principles to follow to help pull together a really aesthetically pleasing board.”

The rule of threes

“For a crowd, choose three cheeses,” Menegazzo advises.

“In saying that, one cheese … there’s something really great about just one beautiful cheese and one accompaniment that’s lovely too, especially if it’s a smaller group of people.

“If you’re on a bit of a budget, I’d rather get one really beautiful, locally-made Australian cheese that has a bit of a story about it and serve that to my guests with confidence than have a whole array of cheeses that are average.

“If you’re serving a few extra people, as many of us are this time of year, choose three cheeses – a soft, a semi hard and a stinky, so something like a brie, a semi-hard cheddar or mountain cheese, and a stinky could be a blue or a washed-rind cheese or something a little more out of the box. It’s about reading your crowd and knowing how crazy you go on that third cheese.”

The other rule of three Menegazzo stands by is the three Rs.

When cheese is ripe and at room temperature it’s ready to serve – you are going to get the very best flavour and texture from your cheese.

This is where your cheesemonger or local deli is your friend.

“It’s a really good idea if you can to visit the cheesemonger or deli and just ask them – what is ripe, what’s the best cheese you’ve got, and that’s when you get that really beautiful unctuous brie with this oozy centre that is just perfectly ripened.

“Then I like to move on to my crackers next, so this is where I think you can lift the game really quickly and easily.

“You can make a really bougie-looking board with some great crackers – so think about colours and textures and flavours.

“Have a neutral cracker on the board, something nice and crisp and natural flavoured, or some baguettes. Then go for a bit of a fruit and nut biscuit, which goes really well with some of those stinkier cheeses.

“And then I really like to put something long and tall on the platter – some grissini or lavosh you can prop them up in a glass to create some height or drape them alongside.

Don’t be afraid to try something a little out of the box – like mince tarts and blue cheese. Photo: Getty

“Then the third step is accompaniments, so this is about adding that balance of texture, flavour, so again, in threes.

“Think about having a fresh accompaniment, a fruit – beautiful at this time of year is stone fruit, cherries, you cannot go past it.

“Then you want a bit of crunch – something like a nut or some caramelised seeds to add the crisp factor. And then a paste or a pickle – quince paste or chutney.”

Lastly, Menegazzo says, don’t be afraid to try some more daring pairings. Embrace the festive season and add some Chistmas cheer.

“Christmas cake actually goes really nicely with cheddar, so if you’ve got a bit of Christmas cake hanging around, pop that on. Mince tarts go nicely as well.. And gingerbread is great with blue cheese and washed rind cheese too.”

Getting the party started

  • For sharp or aged cheeses with a rind, leave the back edge of the rind on the cheese to show it’s a cloth-aged or waxed cheese, and slice off the rest of the rind so it’s easy for guests to slice
  • Cut a wedge into a large cheese or a wheel of brie to get it started. People won’t be so intimidated about diving in
  • Don’t overwhelm the board with everything at once. Arrange crackers in clusters, or stacks or rows. You can always add extra crackers alongside the board in a bowl
  • One knife per cheese. There’s nothing worse than someone smooshing the blue cheese knife into the brie. They don’t have to be cheese knives – use a butter knife for a brie, pate knife for some softer cheeses or a paring knife for harder cheeses.
Topics: Food
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