Oh cheese, it is so glorious. We profess our love for the stuff almost on the daily! We literally cannot get enough… So when Kris Lloyd – the Cheese Queen herself – gave us these 12 Christmas cheese ideas, tips and recipes, we almost died and went to cheese heaven. Check them out…
With the festive season comes parties, lunches, dinner and drinks. I think that cheese should be involved at every event (but I may be biased). Here are my 12 tips and suggestions for your Christmas and holiday season cheese plates:
One – We catch up with a group of old friends for breakfast on Christmas morning, this year it is my turn to be host. I don’t stress at the though, but instead know that I can rely on one of my favourites to impress the crowd. Homemade mini pikelets! Made the day before, I prefer to use Marg Fulton’s pikelet recipe, or do the cheat’s thing and buy the baby piklets in a packet. No one will ever know! Top the little golden gems with Harris Smokehouse smoked salmon and a dollop of Woodside fresh goat’s curd, a sprinkle of fresh finely chopped dill and top with a couple of Australian Caper Company baby capers. All local produce, simple, easy and elegant with a glass of sparkling.
Two – Another breakfast dish again, simple and perfect with sparkling wine. I use Woodside Edith (choose firm younger cheeses) cut into round slices as thin as possible. Once cut, cover with wrap and place in the fridge. Then grab two to three Packham pears (in season) wash and cut thin slices but thick enough for people to be able to hold in their hand rather than using a cracker. Place a piece of Edith on top of the pear. Finish with a small piece of Buzz honeycomb and a few toasted pine nuts. Assemble just before serving to avoid the pear discolouring. Everyone loves this and it is light on carbs, I think this means you can have several. It does, it definitely does.
Three – I am a big fan of serving one cheese on a cheese board. Choose a cheese that will be ripe when you serve it – determine this by feeling, smelling and, if possible, tasting the cheese. There is nothing more disappointing than serving up a Brie or Camembert that is chalky and bland. Generally, with a Brie or Camembert the closer the best before date the more likely you have picked a winner. If serving one cheese choose a generous portion. Cheeses that fly solo on a cheese plate well are Brie, Camembert, Comte, Triple Cream (superb with sparkling wine) and a good cloth wrapped Cheddar. Given your cheese offering will be simple splash out on some accompaniments such as chutneys, jellies, jams, pastes, nuts, baby vegetables and seasonal fresh fruit.
Four – The temperature can make or break your culinary experience. I set timers to remind me to take cheese out of the fridge to allow a generous rest in a cool pantry or room. The length to rest the cheese will depend on the size and thickness of the cheese. A typical Camembert should have around 40 minutes on a 20C day, a wedge of Comte which is dense in texture around 400g should have 50 – 60 minutes. I also like white wine served just off the chill, a 10 – 15 min period out of the fridge delivers a far more rounded full bouquet. Obviously take into account the weather and adjust your resting times accordingly.
Five – If you have bought a large wheel of cheese and it is unlikely you will use the whole wheel, cut a wedge and return the remainder to the fridge rather than have the whole wheel sitting out for hours. You can always top up if it has all gone. It is safer and the cheese will maintain its integrity. Having cheese sitting out for hours and hours and then returning it to the fridge is a real no no!
Six – Salads play a major role when the weather heats up. And with the forecast looking like a scorcher in the lead up and for Christmas day, you will love a salad like you have never loved salad before. One of my go tos is baby beetroot which has been boiled with a little vinegar and sugar until tender. I then let it cool so that I can peel and thinly slice. Arrange on a platter and squeeze 1 blood orange over, add some roasted walnuts and crumble soft goat milk chevre – the more the better! Finish with baby herbs, like basil or flat leaf parsley, add sea salt to taste and a generous amount of olive oil. Looks smart, tastes great. Perfect for that hot Summer’s day.
Seven – Sticking to the roast this Christmas Day? Do something a little bit different with the veggies and add some goat’s curd to your roast potatoes. It is like the sophisticated sour cream.
Eight – When cutting cheese wedges from larger wheels I like to scald the knife with boiling water. This prevents any contamination occurring and the knife glides through the cheese beautifully!
Nine – If you are buying a few wheels of cheese to take away with you always try and retain the original wrapper the cheese was bought in – cheese paper is designed especially for cheese and allows the cheese to breathe and not become sweaty. If the cheese paper is not available wax paper can be used. Store cheese in drawer compartments, which will have some humidity, to avoid the cheese drying out. Depending on your fridge you may also need to put the cheese in a plastic container to stop it drying.
Ten – Cheese is a great food to share, it can be as simple or as complicated as you want it to be. Try some of these and mix and match the different styles. My Aussie picks are La Vera, Adele Blue, Alexandrina Aged Cheddar, Milawa Gold Washed Rind, La Casa del Formaggio Fresh Ricotta, Woodside Charleston, Island Pure Haloumi, Heidi Farm Raclette, Shaw River Buffalo Mozzarella and Pyengana Cloth Bound Cheddar.
Eleven – I recommend buying smaller quantities of the cheese more often to avoid drying out. The various Farmers’ Markets around South Australia are the perfect place to buy cheese and other local produce for your holiday table. Make sure you talk to your cheesemonger to ensure you find the perfect cheese for your occasion, making sure that you tell them when you will be using the cheese.
Twelve – Cheese works with more than just wine. Try Prosecco, beer, cider, single malt whiskey and even Grappa.
Have fun with the wonderful selection of cheeses available to us here is South Australia, experiment with some you may not have tried before, share them and enjoy them. And have a cheesy Christmas!