Put Together the Perfect Cheese Board with Luke Williams of Culture Club Cheese
There is nothing as satisfying as sitting down to a well-prepared, perfect cheese board and a glass of wine. It’s the ultimate no-cook dinner, as well the most sophisticated way to end a meal. But building the perfect cheese board can be a little intimidating.
What cheeses do we choose? What accompaniments do we need to serve alongside them? Do the cheeses need to complement one another at all? Well, in times like these, we think it’s best to turn to the professionals, so we sat down with the cheese king, Luke Williams of Culture Club Cheese, who gave us the lowdown on what makes the perfect cheese board.
Putting Together the Perfect Cheese Board
As with most things in life, you need to understand the rules so that you can break them, and according to Luke, with cheese, it’s no different.
There are 5 broad families of cheese, namely goat’s, soft bloomy (your Camembert-style), hard cheeses, washed rind (like epoisses) and blue cheese. If you’re one to play by the rules, and want to put together a simple cheeseboard, a good guideline to follow is placing one of each of these on your board. Generally, the flavours work well together and the intensities won’t overpower one another.
Choosing your Goat’s Cheese
For our introduction board, Luke has stuck to the general cheeseboard guidelines, while using all local cheeses.
This board begins with a Tanglewood, a mild goat’s cheese that has a similar texture and structure to a Gouda. While mild, it is certainly not bland, and has a rich, buttery and nutty flavour.
This is what Luke describes as the gateway to goat’s cheese, as it’s often the goat’s cheese he gives to people who swear they don’t like goat’s cheese, as it’s so easy eating.
Choosing your Bloomy Cheese
Next up, representing the soft bloomy cheeses, is a Goukambert, which is a local version of the famed French Camembert.
At the moment, it’s not overly pungent and in your face, so is perfect for our introductory board. It’s mild and delicate, and deliciously creamy.
Choosing your Hard Cheese
The hard cheese on this board is the younger De Pekelaar Boerenkaas, which is easy to eat for any newbie cheese person. It’s non-committal and simply an enjoyable cheese.
Choosing your Washed Rind Cheese
Next up is the Karoo Sunset, which is the washed rind for this board. According to Luke, this younger version isn’t massively pungent or stinky, as the bacteria hasn’t quite worked its way down through the cheese.
Having said that, though, it’s still a rather intense cheese. There are umami, meaty notes that definitely come through. To round off this platter, Luke has used the Blue Moon, a Jersey milk blue cheese from outside Knysna. This dense cheese is creamy, buttery and tangy and finishes off this classic platter beautifully.
Creating the Cheese Connoisseur’s Perfect Cheese Board
If you consider yourself the cheese fan and have mastered the introduction cheeseboard, then the connoisseur’s board might be more up your alley. This board features a mix of local and international cheeses and is something of a showstopper.
There are two goat cheeses here, the first is a Buche, an unpasteurised cheese from Kommetjie. It’s complex and balanced, with just enough sweetness to counteract the fruity acidity.
The second goat cheese is the Forest Phantom, an ash-ripened cheese from Bapsfontein. With the striking black exterior, this cheese is bound to draw attention to itself and luckily the flavour doesn’t disappoint. It is smooth, silky and creamy and easier to eat than the Buche.
Next on the board is a 2-year-old Gruberg, and the maturity comes through in a crystal-flecked texture, as well as in the biscuity, nutty, caramelised flavour.
Next, for the washed rind cheeses, is an Epoisses. There’s no sugar coating this one, this guy is a stinker in the best way possible.
The flavour, once you get past the smell, isn’t so scary. It’s meaty, rich and a little leathery, with sweet and tart notes in there.
Lastly, the blue cheese Luke chose is a Stilton, from Nottinghamshire in England. This famous cheese almost needs no introduction, but it’s a delicious combination of piquant, salty and tangy flavours.
With all great cheese boards, however, come great accompaniments and Luke isn’t about to let you ruin all your great cheese work at the last hurdle.
For both boards, he suggests a few slices of proper sourdough bread (he uses Woodstock Bakery), as well as homemade crackerbread. He advises uses mild flavoured vehicles for your board, as you really do want the flavours of the cheese to shine through.
On the introduction board, Luke has kept it simple with a spiced strawberry jam, fresh apple slices and some local olives. For the connoisseur’s board, he’s included pickled daikon, homemade sauerkraut, fresh apples and strawberries and olives.
Each of these accompaniments adds a note of freshness and acidity, but won’t overpower the complex and unique flavour of each cheese.
Final Tips for Preparing the Perfect Cheeseboard
- Here are a few last words of wisdom before you embark on your great journey of cheesiness.
- Make sure you don’t leave your cheese out for too long. If the weather is cold then definitely give the cheese longer time to come to room temperature, but if it’s warm, make sure you take your cheese out an hour or so before you wish to serve it. Room temperature is mostly the ideal way to enjoy cheese, as it allows all the subtle flavours to come through.
- Cut your cheese before you put it on the board so that no one comes along and slices off the nose on a wedge of cheese. Slice the cheese so that it’s evenly distributed with enough rind on each piece.
- Remember that these rules can be broken and made to work for you. Hate stinky cheese? Leave the washed rind off. No one will shout at you. As long as you’re enjoying the cheese, that is all that matters.
- So, if you’re interested in trying your hand at the art of cheese boards, use this as a rough guide. The point here is that cheese isn’t scary and needn’t be boring and predictable. You can always mix it up and have some with it. Ultimately, though, if you’re truly stuck, pop into Culture Club Cheese and ask Luke for advice, you’re bound to leave all the wiser.
Josephine Mill, Boundary Rd, Newlands | 021 685 0630
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