Lucie Inns of Cheesology writes for the love of cheese
They say that somewhere in the world there exists your perfect partner and so it goes with cheese. The purists amongst you may feel that cheese requires no accompaniment and you will be happy to eat it on its own. However, many of you will be wanting to enhance it in some way, perhaps with a cracker or an apple or just simply some really good bread.
Of course ‘perfect partners’ are very subjective as with all things, and if you love nothing more than having a chocolate ginger biscuit with your Stinking Bishop then no one should stop you. There are, however, certain food and cheese pairings that add an extra dimension without detracting from the cheese which, after all, should always be the star of the show.
In this article I’d like to give you some insight into what, in my opinion, works well and also to give you the confidence to try different combinations.
Hard cheeses like a strong Westcombe Cheddar, Applebys Double Gloucester or Kirkhams Lancashire can take an equally insistent partner, which is why pickled onions or shallots and a well-made tangy ploughman’s pickle or piccalilli work well, contrasting with the savoury quality of the cheese. Chilli crackers or slightly spicy chutney can also enhance the flavour. Tomato-based chutneys are good and onion bread works well.
Pungent rind washed cheeses such as Stinking Bishop or Celtic Promise seem to be enhanced by aniseed flavours so roasted fennel or fennel crackers are very good.
Crumbly cheeses like Cheshire, Lancashire or Wensleydale paired with a slightly astringent fruit such as gooseberry are great. If you come from the North it’s quite traditional to eat fruit cake with your Wensleydale. Fruit bread is good too.
Figs have traditionally enhanced goat’s cheese and quince, like the Spanish membrillo paste, is happy partnered with hard sheep’s cheeses like Lord of the Hundreds and Sarsden Glebe. Soft sheep’s cheeses work particularly well with rosemary bread or crackers. Charcoal crackers are a great visual contrast to the whiteness of a goat’s or sheep’s cheese and the subtle flavour will not overpower the cheese.
For the softer cheeses, Camembert really comes alive with some truffle honey drizzled across it – a very Italian thing to do. One of the more unlikely combinations and one of my favourites is a triple cream Brie style cheese paired with a well-made rose petal jam or jelly. It’s like a savoury cream tea and is totally sublime. Damson puree is really good with Brie style cheese.
Many blue cheeses are fantastic when paired with something sweet so pickled cherries or dried fruit and some really dark chocolate are excellent. Celery is a natural companion to the blues. Dried fruit, fruit crackers or raisin or sultana bread also work well. Slightly sweet oatcakes are good and I have known digestive biscuits to be a happy partnership.
Ultimately, though, it’s whatever ‘floats your boat’. I hope you find your perfect cheese partner.