Cheese has to be one of life’s great pleasures. You can cook with it, throw it on a sandwich or crispbread, serve it in a salad, throw together a cheeseboard for a dinner party, or sit yourself down with a delicious, runny triple cream brie and a glass of wine or port. Whatever you do with it, you can be sure it will be devoured with gusto. Australia is now world-famous for its cheeses – a long way removed from the world of ‘Kraft’ cheddar and ‘Velveeta’ – a sweet, spreadable cheese packed in a similar way to ‘Kraft’ cheddar, and as my grandmother taught me, a great way to do “Vita Weet’ worms – that I grew up with.Everywhere from the Hunter Valley, to Tasmania to Western Australia – especially the Margaret River region – is doing spectacular cheddars, brie, camembert, goat’s cheese, washed rinds, ricotta, and the entire plethora of cheeses from all around the world.
Cheeses are basically classified as soft (Mozzarella, Ricotta, Feta, Haloumi, Goat’s Cheese, Chevre, Brie, Camembert, Washed Rind cheeses); semi-soft (Taleggio, Harvarti, Port Salut, Gouda, Edam, Colby); hard (Lancashire, Red Leicester, Double Gloucester, all the Cheddars, Pecorino, Manchego, Gruyere, Emmental, Jarlsberg, Provolone, Pecorino and the world famous Parmigiano Reggiano and Grana Padano); blue (Brie, Camembert, Gorgonzola, Dolcellate, Stilton, Shropshire Blue, Jersey Blue, Gippsland Blue, Roquefort, Danish Blue); and strong (Limburger, Munster, Liptauer). Showing a total lack of modesty, I can say that I throw together the best cheeseboards, and often get asked by friends to do them for functions. I don’t go for the minimalist approach recommended by the cheese experts – I’ve never really been one for food snobbery. Eating cheese should be a pig-out experience, and this is the approach I take. I offer a variety of crackers, from basic water style to lavosh and grissini. The board will usually have 3-4 of my favourite cheeses, including: Margaret River Port Dipped Cheddar or King Island Cheddar; Persian Feta or a good Chevre or Goat’s Cheese; King Island ‘Discovery’ Washed Rind Brie or a double or triple Brie; and possibly a Port Salut. This gives a good variety of flavours and textures. Then add a sprinkling of fresh fruit, and items such as fresh dates, dried apricots, honey-glazed figs, Turkish Delight, Muscatels and chocolate coated orange peel. Believe me, there is never anything left. There is a wonderful range of accompaniments for cheeses that you can make yourself, and following are a few examples. I find that the stronger cheeses are more suitable to ports, and the creamier style cheeses compliment sweet desert wines. The supermarkets have finally woken up to the fact that fridges full of ‘Coon’, ‘Kamaruka’ and ‘Kraft’ just doesn’t hold sway anymore, and the bigger Coles and Woolworths supermarkets keep huge ranges of cheese, though some of the more specialist ones require the expertise of David Jones, or the fromagerie in Jones the Grocer or Simon Johnson Providore. There is also an excellent cheese store in the food court of the GPO Building in Martin Place in the city.
Always serve cheeses at room temperature, and please use the proper knifes, otherwise the cheese is just hacked.
Tim Alderman ©2017