There are few things we love more than having friends over for fantastic food and drink. Sharing a meal is a beautiful thing and, with Christmas round the corner, we thought we’d pull together some of our favourite sharing platter items from incredible, independent brands, to create The Ultimate Cheese Board.
This however isn’t just a feast for the eyes; we’re giving you the chance to WIN THE ULTIMATE CHEESE BOARD via our social media competition. Just click here to find out how to enter.
The Ultimate Cheese Board
A great sharing platter starts off with a fantastic board. A massive thank you to Burrwood Boards for providing us with these beauties. Find out more about this unique company here.
This is why we’ve come here, so let’s not beat around the bush. We selected two of our favourite cheesemongers, The Courtyard Dairy and La Fromagerie, who each provided us with three stunning, seasonal cheeses.
The Courtyard Dairy
We’ve had a lot of cheese courses in our lives. That’s not a boast, it’s just a fact. We may have a problem. However, when the memory of a cheese tasting stays with you for six years, you know that you’ve come across something super special. Enter, The Courtyard Dairy.
We first came across the husband and wife team of Andy and Kathy Swinscoe in 2012. Since then, they have become the known as the UK’s multi-award-winning champions of farmhouse cheese, supplying the country’s top restaurants and selling stunning cheeses from their shop in Lancashire and online. So, there was simply no way that we could put on The Ultimate Cheese Board without them!
Read more about The Courtyard Dairy in our interview with Andy here.
Baron Bigod Brie
Rich, creamy, gooey and just plain delicious, Baron Bigod is the UK’s first unpasteurised Brie to be made in traditional, large wheels and ladled by hand, and my god, it’s good! Made using milk from French cows, which dairy farmers Jonathan and Dulcie Crickmore brought over, and aged to perfect ripeness in The Courtyard Dairy’s maturing rooms, this is a brie that the French would be jealous of.
A cheese in very short supply, only made when the cows are at pasture during the summer months, it’s with create excitement that we are able to include this on our cheese board. From Botton Camphill Farming Community for adults with learning disabilities, it has been made to a Gruyère recipe. Similar to a 12-month-old Comté, with toffee and butterscotch flavours and a nutty finish, it is a real treat and, unlike most Gruyères, this is suitable for vegetarians.
What cheese dreams are made of. This outstanding, raw-milk, blue from Norther Ireland is an unusual take on a classic Stilton recipe. Creamy and rounded with a gentle blue flavour, hand-ladling during the cheese-making process ensures a rich and lingering flavour. This is a delight with a spiced chutney and a charcoal biscuit.
The Courtyard Dairy sells their cheese via their online store, with prices starting at £4.50 for 250g of artisanal, UK farmhouse cheese.
La Fromagerie’s life began up a mountain in Meribel, when its founder, Patricia Michelson, fell firmly in love with cheese whilst on a skiing holiday. She returned to London with a wheel of Beaufort Chalet d’Alpage, which she sold from her garden shed, graduating to a stall in Camden market a year later.
La Fromagerie is now well known for its shops and cafes in Marylebone, Highbury and Bloomsbury, a thriving online retail shop, as well as supplying cheese to some of the best chefs and restaurants in and around London, including Marcus Wareing, River Café, Noble Rot and The Ledbury.
We were lucky enough to get the chance to sample some of its signature and seasonal cheeses, own recipe crackers and popular chutneys during our “research” stage for our The Ultimate Cheese Board article.
BEAUFORT CHALET D’ALPAGE
The raison d’être of La Fromagerie. With an appearance similar to Comte, this is a classic high mountain cheese from small traditional producers selecting cheeses from the summer milk forms, that is made and matured at high altitudes in mountain chalets. The pate is a creamy, pale gold colour, smooth in texture but, as it ages, cracks appear, ripening the cheese. The flavour is incredibly deep and long-tasting with an almost sweet almond nuttiness. This hard cheese benefits benefit from cattle grazing on supremely clean, unpolluted summer pastures studded with aromatic flowers and alpine flora, ultimately producing a fragrant and elegant product.
VACHERIN DU HAUT-DOUBS
The season for these traditionally handmade cheeses (as opposed to the year-round factory-made ones) is short; they start to trickle in at the beginning of October and are only around until the end of March, so December is the perfect time to enjoy this soft and moreish wonder. Rich and almost orgasmically gooey (hey – if we didn’t have a “thing” for cheese, we wouldn’t be putting together The Ultimate Cheese Board, would we?!), the billowy rind and wooden casing help contain the contents when melted in the oven. We recommend adding roasted garlic and perhaps a small sprig of thyme to this before cooking to really complete an already decadent cheese.
POULIGNY SAINT PIERRE
Visually impressive and utterly delicious, this close-textured pyramid of goat’s milk cheese is one that fits perfectly in a salad, on a slice of apple or on any cheese board throughout the year. The natural rind develops more mould as it matures and the soft cheese ripens from to become firmer. There’s something nutty, herbaceous and a bit fruity about this one that we love, along with that gentle zing from the rind (which you can remove if that’s not your thing).
La Fromagerie sells their products from their three London shops (Highbury, Marylebone, Bloomsbury) and online, with prices starting at £4.15 for 150g of cheese.
Cured Meat and Charcuterie
Every now and then, we need something to break up the cheese. Some may use grapes, others biscuits, however we find meat is a great, erm, palate cleanser… We’ve chosen two very different meat-centric brands for our cheese board: one old-school, one more unusual, both fantastic. These bad boys are Cannon & Cannon and Made for Drinks.
Cannon & Cannon
Any meat-eater who’s ever been to Borough Market has no doubt tried Cannon & Cannon’s wares. Retailers and distributors of some of the best British cured meat and charcuterie, we knew that we had to invite them to be part of The Ultimate Cheese Board.
Since 2010, brothers Sean and Joe Cannon have been sourcing fresh, seasonal, free range and distinctively local produce from Cornwall to Inverness. Working solely with producers who take pride in finding meat from quality, ethical and sustainable sources, the brothers have developed a company that provides customers and restaurants with superior, often rare breed, meats.
Cornish Chilli Chorizo, Cornish Charcuterie
Not strictly traditional but nonetheless fantastic, this chorizo has been hand-crafted to Norton Barton’s own recipe using pork from pigs born and reared on their farm. The result is a full-flavoured and delicately spiced cut that sings on your palate long after you’ve wolfed down the mouthful. This pairs beautifully with a spicy Rioja and Cheddar or Manchego.
Suffolk Salami with Red Wine and Black Pepper, Suffolk Salami
Supple and developed, this is a refined salami where the quality of the pork shines through. The pepper adds a husky spice whilst the red wine brings further body to an already full mouthfeel. Great on its own, or on a Great British Biscotti Sun-Dried Tomato & Olives base with a fresh, young cheese.
Tempus House Salami, Tempus Charcuterie, Surrey
Tempus House has a very simple philosophy: in order to make great charcuterie, you have to start with great pigs. Tom Whitaker and Dhruv Baker spent a number of years curing a range of British heritage breeds to make their charcuterie and from that, selected the Large Black as their pig of choice. Their House Salami showcases the optimal ratio of lean to fat that make their charcuterie such a success.
Blood, Wine and Chocolate Salami, Trealy Farm Charcuterie, Wales
Blood, wine, chocolate and meat – what could go wrong?! Putting aside the fact that the ingredient pairing sounds a tad like a 2005 Emo album, this is a exciting and delightfully decadent treat. Inspired by the Mexican ‘mole’, which combines chorizo, blood sausage and dark chocolate, there is a weighty and nuanced depth of flavour to this that can be sat with for a good long while. We’d recommend eating this a bit warmer than room temperature to allow the flavours to come out fully.
Cannon & Cannon usually sells sliced meats at 80g for around £4.50. They can be found at various UK markets (Borough, Kings Cross, Herne Hill, Venn Street and Victoria Park) and online here [no longer trading].
Made for Drinks
With the cocktail scene stepping up its game in terms of quality and flavour, it seems only appropriate that bar snacks change to meet these new standards. They’ve certainly come a long way since the stale bowl of nuts or broken bits of packet crisps of our youth, and now Made For Drink is jazzing up the category with their pouches of unusual treats that have been made especially to pair with premium drinks.
As their clients include Heston Blumenthal’s The Crown and The Hind’s Head, as well as Rick Stein’s The Cornish Arms, and luxury department store Fortnum & Mason, they seemed like a fitting addition to The Ultimate Cheese Board.
The brand’s three offerings have been inspired by different drinking cultures from around the world and have been made using quality ingredients from passionate artisan producers, simply prepared to preserve their intense natural flavours.
Chorizo Thins – Made for Rioja
So, what’s in them? Quite simply, what it says on the packet. Chorizo Thins have been made by slicing and cooking Chorizo Picante made from Duroc pork shoulder, Duroc pork belly, hot paprika de la Vera, salt and garlic – that’s it, and they’re incredible. They’re essentially just well-sourced, super-flavoursome chorizo chips and, in the words of one of our The Ultimate Cheese Board taste-testers, Tyler, “that’s pretty fucking cool!”
Duck Fritons – Made for IPA
Duck cracking for the masses! These are our favourite by far. Inspired by a rural Southern French delicacy, these crispy morsels of Free Range British Duck Skin are rich, lightly salted with sea salt and entirely moreish. Their recommended pairing with an IPA is solid as the hoppy and gently fruity flavour of the beer adds an exciting dimension to the nibbles.
Mangalitza Salami Chips – Made for Pilsner
Mangalitza is a breed of pig farmed for the flavour of its fat and traditionally used in the salamis of Hungary. Made for Drinks has gently roasted salami until crisp and crunchy. Slightly oily on the tongue, the salami has been seasoned with cumin, paprika and garlic before being smoked over beech wood. The result is a supremely intense taste that almost makes up for the minute portioning of the serve.
You can purchase Made for Drinks’ wares from them directly via their website, where 6 x 23g of these gourmet snacks will set you back £15.00.
What do you get when you introduce cured salmon to gin? No, this isn’t a Christmas cracker joke. The answer is: The Pished Fish – a delightfully good-humoured company will bring a touch of humour and a good deal of excitement to your dinner party.
Formed in Camberwell, by James Eagle, The Pished Fish aims to liven up the complacent canapé-topping, sandwich-filling staple of smoked salmon by infusing it with the flavours of high quality booze and botanicals.
Sourcing all its products from Loch Duart in Scotland (one of the pioneers of salmon welfare), The Pished Fish uses only the finest ingredients from start to finish. Every process, from filleting and curing to smoking, slicing and packaging, is done by hand. James slow-cures the fish in alcohol such as whisky and gin, and botanicals, leading to more water loss and a firmer texture than anything you’ll get in Tesco.
Unlike most smoked salmon out there, The Pished Fish also prefers a thicker cut, so that the each mouthful holds layers of flavour and feel, from the delicately smoked and cured exterior to the rich, buttery inner flesh of the fish. This is a complete eye-opener within the category and it’s no wonder that James’ products have been snapped up by the likes of Harrods, Fortnum & Mason and Selfridges.
Other than the superior quality of the fish itself, the branding (by Back to Front) is entirely on-point, making it the perfect item to bring along to The Ultimate Cheese Board party.
Gin and Tonic
We love a G&T so were very excited about this one and intrigued to see how the botanicals other than juniper would come through. We were struck by the gentleness of the flavour profile and the zesty, citric overtones, adoring how the botanicals didn’t overpower the clearly fantastic fish but instead kept the fatty oils from weighing too heavily on the palate. Beautiful on its own, we ventured a pairing with the young and slightly zesty Pouligny Saint Pierre from La Fromagerie, that went down a treat.
One of our favourite cocktails by far, this fish had lot to live up to. Our first impression was that is was too salty, however, after time, we were able to eek out the subtle woodiness of the barrel and a glazed maple sweetness. We were left with a zesty orange note that cleansed the salt somewhat and left our palates feeling brighter.
The Augustus Gloop
Hands down, some of the best smoked salmon we have ever tasted. This sashimi-grade Scottish salmon has been slow-cured over several days in raspberry vodka, before being lightly smoked with apple, alder an beech wood before being finished off with blueberry purée. We were worried that the process might make it too sweet but we were proven wrong. Delicately smoky and perfectly seasoned, this light and fruity offering is an absolute beauty that should be enjoyed on its own, on a reasonably plain base such as La Fromagerie’s Charcoal (or possibly their Caraway) biscuit.
The Designated Driver
No booze for this fish, just a slow-cure before being dried and smoked over juniper and cherry. The result is a gorgeous piece of protein where its sashimi-grade status shines through and its seductive, meat texture is king. Definitely not one to be overlooked.
The Pished Fish products start from just £7.95 can be purchased from their online shop.
Crackers and Nibbles
Okay, full disclosure. We usually hate crackers. We’ve previously been of the opinion that hard cheeses are the vehicle for soft cheeses and water biscuits are a waste of space. However, a couple of fantastic, artisanal brands have managed to make converts of us. Enter, Great British Biscotti Company, La Fromagerie, Purely Plantain Chips and Pep & Lekker’s Seed Snacks.
Great British Biscotti Company
When we think “biscotti”, we don’t normally think “savoury” and our mind certainly doesn’t conjure up visions of Dorset. However, Paul Rostand and his small huddle of discerning biscovites at Great British Biscotti Company are working to change all that.
Sidelining the traditional almond, Great British Biscotti offers a full repertoire of enticing flavour combos – both sweet and savoury – that are equally at home perched a tea saucer as strewn across The Ultimate Cheese Board.
Red Onion Marmalade & Walnut
A delightful mix of caramelised sweetness and rounded nuttiness. These crunchy bites work brilliantly with a soft blue cheese or a hard, ged cheese like La Formagerie’s Beaufort or The Courtyard Dairy’s Summerfield.
Cheddar & Fennel
More flavourful than your average cracker but not overpowering. The fennel adds a gentle aniseed taste that works with the fullness of the cheddar. Unsuprisingly, great with Cheddar, as well as Parmesan.
Jalapeno & Cheddar
A super fun and tasty biscotti with a bit of spice that pairs with all things nice. We loved this with both La Fromagerie’s baked Vacherin du Haut-Doubs and their soft goat’s cheese Pouligny Saint Pierre.
Sun-Dried Tomato & Olives
Definitely one of our top two, the sun-dried tomatoes add a rich and almost jammy sweetness, juxtaposing the olives’ salty charms. Powerful flavours here can be matched with like-minded cheeses and pâtés. We would suggest pairing them with chorizo and other cured meats.
Stilton & Raisin
Our other favourite. For those not a fan of blue cheese, have no fear, the Stilton element is not intense and more of a subtle reminder. The sweet, bold raisin is the perfect coupling and we were unable to find a cheese or meat that this didn’t work with.
Great British Biscotti’s biccies can be bought online via Craved or in bulk from the company’s own website.
These guys aren’t just about cheese – they’re the full package!
THE CHARCOAL BISCUIT
Hand-baked in small batches to ensure quality and consistency, you can rest assured that all La Fromagerie’s biscuits contain no additives. The Charcoal pairs beautifully with all styles of goat’s cheese and white wines from the Loire, such as Sancerre, complemented by fresh hazelnuts and grapes. We particularly enjoyed these with La Fromagerie’s Vacherin and the Young Buck from The Courtyard Dairy.
THE CARAWAY BISCUIT
Made with Matzo flour to ensure a satisfying crispy snap. From pungent washed rind southern Irish cheeses, to a classic Epoisses, high mountain Gruyère or matured Gouda Boerenkaas, the Caraway works perfectly. We would recommend pairing these with a chilled blond beer or a not-too-sweet Riesling.
THE OAT BISCUIT
The Oat Biscuit pairs perfectly with full-flavoured farmhouse cheeses such as Montgomery’s Cheddar and Mrs Kirkham’s Lancashire (change to cheeses on board). We found them best served with a hefty Stilton to play against the sweetness and deliciously crumbly texture. Another suggested serve is alongside crisp apples and dry cider, malty ales or even a lovely cup of tea.
THE RYE BISCUIT
These were a real treat with the Beaufort Chalet d’Alpage and a mousse-y Champagne. If red is your preference, a fruity Syrah works wonders with these and a ewe’s milk cheese. For the more adventurous, pair pungent washed rind cheeses with a Speyside or Japanese single malt whisky.
Purely Plantain Chips
We LOVE plantains, however, as we usually eat them after they’ve been cooked in a large amount of oil, we don’t normally consider them a healthy option. So, when Purely – a health-conscious, premium plantain crisp company – came knocking on our door, asking for an invite to The Ultimate Cheese Board party, we were intrigued.
Coming in three distinct flavours (Naturally Salted; Wild Garlic; Nice and Spicy) and boasting the stats of being low in sugar, high in fibre and potassium and containing 30% less fat than your average potato crisp, Purely is certainly an interesting alternative to your usual bag of crisps. Thick-cut for a satisfying crunch, they’re surprisingly moreish and full-flavoured.
Our favourite is the Wild Garlic that is super tasty and worked wonders alongside the stronger cheeses on our board.
Purely can be purchased online in boxes of 12 (£23.99) or 24 (£39.99). You can also find the brand at Planet Organic.
Pep & Lekker’s Seed Snacks
With healthy-eating and dietary abstinence undergoing a Renaissance at presence, some naysayers may admonish cheese boards as a decadent and unnecessary exercise in gourmandised excess. Well, whilst we personally see nothing wrong with the occasional act of wilful and social gluttony, we’ve decided to welcome a company to The Ultimate Cheese Board party whose health-conscious credentials cannot be doubted, just so that we can place their morsels in the face of anyone who wishes to interrupt our merriment.
Pep & Lekker’s new organic Seed Snacks are these very additions. Vegan, gluten-free, oil-free, sugar-free and packed with at least five nutritious seeds, these (recyclable and compostable) pouches of bite-sized crackers are the perfect thing for anyone looking for a allay their guilt over a spot of indulgence.
Boasting three distinct flavours (Rosemary & Pumpkin; Cumin & Nigella Seed; and Fennel & Sunflower Seed) and a hearty crunch, these snacks work as a wonderful palate cleanser between cheeses and are an appropriate, intolerance-friendly alternative to classic crackers. We personally found they worked a treat dipped into baked Vacheron, hummus and with a smear of pâté.
Pep & Lekker Seed Snacks can be purchased here at Ocado from just £2.39.
We’re back to old faithful, La Fromagerie for our chutney.
APPLE & DATE CHUTNEY
Throughout the year, La Fromagerie’s kitchen pulls together seasonal ingredients and makes chutneys to last them through the colder months. Made in small batches, the ingredients change frequently throughout the year to ensure the freshest produce goes into our chutneys. The Apple & Date Chutney is simply delicious. Thick and naturally sweet, the spice mix is rich and festive. We could not find a single cheese that this didn’t work amazingly with.
Wow, you’ve made it to the end of the post! Congratulations – that was a long one with so much deliciousness, we wouldn’t have blamed you if you’d abandoned us and run off to the fridge. However, seeing as you’re here, we thought you’d want to be in for a chance of winning this feast!
Make sure you enter our competition to WIN THE ULTIMATE CHEESE BOARD! Find out how to here.