Go big and go bold is our mantra which is why we’re shopping at M&S for a beautifully balanced selection of top-notch cheeses for a festive feast …
When creating a cheeseboard balance is the name of the game. A rule of thumb is to feature different styles, textures and flavours allowing for about 65g of cheese per person. This explains why the combination of a blue, a hard cheese and soft cheese has always been popular. If following this tried and tested trio, be adventurous with the cheeses you select. Think about shape and colour too.
Though there are more than 100 delicious new cheeses at M&S sourced from the finest producers in Europe, if we had to narrow the field, we’d recommend the tangy three-year-old Cornish Cruncher Cheddar, a pleasing contrast to the intensely savoury Cropwell blue Stilton, while the addition of a luxury truffle-filled Brie elevates the ordinary cheeseboard to a festive feast. Add Le Crêt Gruyère, with its caramel notes, or a slightly nutty yet versatile Comté, a rich and complex Roquefort Revelation and super-soft Berthaut Epoisses from Burgundy in France for the perfect six fromages.
When setting out your cheeseboard, make sure you leave space to actually cut the cheese; give the hard cheeses space to breathe and softer cheeses room to spread out. Allowing the cheeses to come up to room temperature before eating is the key to enhancing the flavour. Serving with crusty bread, crackers and a trio of chic chutneys such as M&S Chilli Jam with Piquillo, M&S Spiced Apple & Pear Chutney and M&S Caramelised Onion Chutney will also impress the most discerning of guests. Having some sliced apples on hand as a palate cleanser between cheeses is a must, as are some grapes, or the saltiness of sliced charcuterie and pickles.
Taking all of the stress out of decision making is the new M&S Continental Cheese Selection. This expertly curated set, from artisanal producers, includes a manchego PDO, a tangy blue Montagnolo made with triple cream, silky French brie and a super-creamy Epoisses.
Meanwhile, put a date in the diary for December 16, when The Ultimate Cheese Grazing Box will be in store. This includes Vintage Red Fox, Barbers Coastal Bite Cheddar, Stratford Blue, a whole Button Mill Brie and Petit Basque Flowers plus roasted hazelnuts, walnuts, almonds, and dried fruits, all served in a wooden tray and sufficient for up to 12 people.
Don’t forget too that serving hot cheese is on trend: last year M&S’ brie en croute nearly broke the internet. This year it’s joined by two favourite dishes in dip form – perfect for dunking chunks of bread, crackers or crudites. The Molten Mountain Cheese Bake is a showstopping mix of Gruyère, Comté and Emmental, topped with roasted onions, lardons and raclette, while the new tear-and-share cheese puff pastry with molten Camembert, tastes as good as it looks. All you need to do is pop in the oven and then prepare for things to get messy! These are officially the gooiest, cheesiest dips ever.
For younger guests or the young at heart, the new Cheesy Snowflakes and Santa Hats add fun and flavour to the occasion. The Santa hat cheddar has a tasty balsamic onion flavour, while the cheddar and Lancashire snowflakes are filled with dried cranberries and apricots.
It goes without saying, no cheeseboard is complete without a selection of wine. The M&S Classics range, launched in the summer, includes the Classics California Chardonnay which has ripe mango and citrus flavours – the perfect accompaniment for the Continental Cheese selection for instance. Other top tips from M&S’ sommeliers include serving champagne, cava or a fruity red (like a Burgundy or Cotes du Rhone) with Gruyère. Pour a glass of bordeaux red to enjoy with some of the Cornish Cruncher Cheddar, and as an accompaniment to a creamy Brie de Meaux serve a glass of white burgundy, a light, fruity red, such as pinot noir or gamay, or even a lager or spicy saison beer.
With the cheeseboard complete and the wine expertly selected – hostesses can look forward to basking in compliments and enjoying their own party. That’s a Christmas wish we look forward to realising with the help of M&S. @marksandspencerireland
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