I love cheese a lot: hard, soft, mild, intense, creamy, crumbly, you name it. Not my fault - I was brought up that way. My whole family loves cheese. We tend to have a cheese course at meals of any significance, and if my wine connoisseur brother is involved, you might also be spoilt with a wine that has been specifically matched with the flavour characteristics of whatever cheese is being served. Even in my childhood, Saturday lunches tended to be a cheese platter and a meat platter with condiments, salad and bread. No hard work for anyone to prepare, but absolutely delicious.
When I saw that this month's Barefoot Blogger challenge was to create a cheese platter, I couldn't resist, even though I feel like I am cheating by posting this along with my recipes. I would love to show you 30 cheeses and the various condiments and fruits that I like to serve with them, but budget and space meant editing the choices down to three: a hard, a blue and a soft. I chose them for a mixture of textures (hard, crumbly, creamy) and flavours (from mild-ish to very intense). Today they all came from France, but don't assume I don't also love cheeses from other places, especially local cheeses.
Thanks to Rebecca from Ezra Pound Cake for the great choice. Yum!
So here are today's selections:
1. Roy Des Vallees - a semi hard, mixed goat and sheep cheese from the Aquitaine region of France
2. Carles Roquefort AOC1 / White Label - a sheeps' milk blue from the Pyrenees in France
3. Fromage des Clarines - a very creamy soft cow's milk cheese from the Haute-Savoie region of the French Alps. When ripe, this cheese is very runny, so it is served by cutting the top off the cheese and scooping it out from the box with a spoon (sadly not quite ripe enough when I took the photo today.
As condiments, I like to serve some sort of savoury paste, usually quince paste. If you have never tried it, it is a revelation with cheese, especially the hard cheeses. I have also included a prune and walnut log, to either slice thinly and eat with the cheese (especially the soft cheese), or to eat alongside the cheese as a flavour and texture contrast.
Because we are now at the late summer end of our fruit, I am able to include figs. Figs are the most fantastic pairing with soft cheese. I also like grapes, apple, pears and strawberries depending on what is in season (or more importantly in the house).
I like to offer a range of crackers - almond bread is best with the soft cheese; a wheaty cracker works with the hard cheeses and something without too much flavour for the blue as the blue is able to provide more than enough taste for one mouthful.
And finally the platters - don't pick anything too heavy as you need to be able to pass the cheese. A few smaller platters works much better than one ginormous one. Take it from someone who knows.