When creating a cheeseboard, it’s best to have a mixture of styles. So says Hero Hirsh, head of retail at Paxton & Whitfield, the 223-year-old cheesemonger that has shops in London, Bath and Stratford-upon-Avon. Hero believes it’s best to choose a variety of hard, blue, washed rind and soft cheeses, covering a range of milks — cow’s, goat’s, ewe’s, buffalo’s — and age profiles. The cheeses should ideally be served simply, alongside plain crackers. If you want to be creative, you can put together themed boards, based on a country of origin or milk type. Always remember that cheeses should be served at room temperature rather than fridge-cold, as they’ll be at their most expressive this way.
UK: Westcombe Cheddar
A raw milk farmhouse cheddar produced in Somerset by Tom Carver. The West Country is cheddar’s historic home and this flavourful example shows what a fine cheese it can be. While not the strongest or tangiest, it has a pleasing complexity — buttery and earthy, with a great length of flavour. westcombedairy.com
A washed rind, soft cheese, langres is produced in the Champagne region using milk from Montbeliarde cows, as per Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) rules. Made using a small amount of rennet, it has a fresh, citrussy core, while the mould on the rind creates savoury, meaty flavours. It’s strikingly textured, with a distinctive dip on the top.
ITALY: Moliterno with truffle
A rich-tasting ewe’s milk cheese from Sardinia, a region noted for its pecorino (sheep’s milk) cheeses, moliterno is aged for two months before being marbled with black truffle paste and further aged. The texture is supple and the paste is nutty and fruity, contrasting with the luxurious truffle veining.
Produced in the Valdeón valley, in the Picos de Europa mountains, this characterful blue is wrapped in sycamore leaves. It’s made using both cow’s and goat’s milk, the ratio of milks used varying with the seasons. Aged for two to four months, it has a bold, spicy flavour and a yielding texture.
UK: Baron Bigod
This is a bloomy rind farmhouse cheese made with raw milk in the style of brie. It’s best when it retains a textured core, surrounded by a silky ooziness. The combination of textures and flavours — the buttery paste and the mushroom-y rind — is part of Baron Bigod’s appeal. fenfarmdairy.co.uk
SWITZERLAND: Gruyère Premier Cru
While gruyère is often sold young, the Premier Cru variety is matured for at least a year. The higher age profile delivers an intensity and complexity of flavours, with both a meatiness and a sweet nuttiness. Tyrosine crystals add an appealing texture.
IRELAND: Crozier Blue
This fabulously complex blue cheese is made from Friesland ewe’s milk in Tipperary by the producers of Cashel Blue. Similar to roquefort, it has a soft, creamy, almost spreadable texture, with a touch of crumbliness. The butterscotch sweetness of the paste contrasts with the feisty savouriness of the blue veining.
This is a fresh goat’s milk cheese from the Loire Valley, the epicentre of French goat cheese production. The local hay has a distinct flavour that’s imparted to the cheese through the milk, while the ash coating encourages a natural rind to form. Fine-textured and fudgy, the cheese has bright lemon peel notes when young and walnut notes when older.
Published in Issue 10 (winter 2020) of National Geographic Traveller Food
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