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'You want a variety of textures': The expert guide to serving up a great Irish cheeseboard at home

Add lots of finishing touches, buy Irish – and more great tips to level up your cheeseboard.
Nov 17th 2020, 4:17 PM 18,099 4

WITH MANY OF us making the effort to buy Irish and support local businesses this Christmas, it’s important to keep an eye out for Irish producers and their offerings while shopping. 

The weekly food shop is a great opportunity to discover local businesses to try and – considering we’re not currently able to dine in restaurants and share a meal with our nearest and dearest – gives us the chance to recreate restaurant-worthy nibbles at home while still supporting small businesses. 

A cheeseboard is a fail-safe and impressive dish that takes very little preparation once you’ve sourced your supplies, and is the perfect opportunity to buy products from independent Irish producers.

As part of SuperValu‘s #SupportLocal campaign – for which they’ve teamed up with Guaranteed Irish – we spoke to food writer Caroline Hennessy from Bibliocook about where to begin when planning an Irish cheeseboard – from what cheese to choose to creating the perfect bite.

1. Shop local

Some of the Irish producers you’ll find at SuperValu to help make a superb cheeseboard include Durrus Cheese, Isle of Crackers, Meadowfield Farm and Subh Fraoc Bán.

For cheeses, head to West Cork where Durrus Cheese is handmade, or to Co Wexford where Meadowfield Farm is run by husband and wife John Joe and Marisa Roche. 

Serve them up on a delicious cracker, like from Isle of Crackers. They’re produced in a bakery in north Wexford, and each heart-shaped cracker is mixed, rolled, cut and packaged by hand, making for a truly special product.

Ireland has a wealth of local producers making great chutneys and jams, like Subh Fraoc Bán. Meaning White Heather Preserves, the company is based in Co Monaghan and produces homemade artisan jams, sauces and relishes. 

Also at SuperValu, stylish tableware and wooden cheeseboards from Dublin based business Aran Street East make for a great Christmas gift and provide the perfect place to display your creation.  

2. Use no more than five types of cheese 

When planning what cheese to use, “you want to go small but big,” says Caroline. “So use a small selection of big chunks of cheese.

“You don’t want too many cheeses. Three to five cheeses on a cheeseboard is plenty. If it gets any more than that, it just gets messy and people’s palates get exhausted.”

It’s a really lovely thing just to see one big chunk or a few big chunks of cheese, rather than lots of itty bits.

3. Look for variety when choosing your cheese

Now you know how many types of cheese you need, but how are you supposed to choose which to include? “You want a variety of textures,” says Caroline.

“You want a hard cheese, like cheddar or Gruyère cheese. You want a soft cheese, something like Camembert or brie. And, for me anyway, a cheeseboard isn’t complete unless there’s a blue on there somewhere.”

Caroline advises also looking for variety in the types of milk that the cheese is made from: “The other important thing about variety is you want a variety of milk. You’ve got your variety of textures, and then you want to go for like cow, goat or sheep’s milk to mix it up that way as well.”

When shopping for cheese, be sure to keep an eye out for the many products from Irish producers, particularly small producers who create the perfect artisan selection.  Two great complimentary options, for example, are Durrus Cheese’s Smoked Durrus and Meadowfields’ Soft Goats Cheese. 

Food style cheese board A delicious selection from Durrus Cheese. Source: Durrus Cheese/SuperValu

4. Choose a selection of accompaniments 

Next up are the products that will accompany your cheeses. Again, Caroline says it’s all about careful selection. 

“I’m not a huge fan of putting bread with cheeses, because you want to concentrate on the cheese,” she says. “I would say don’t go too heavy with the crackers. I’d recommend buying two good types of crackers. You want one plain so that every cheese you have goes with it, and another with seeds and nuts.” Isle of Crackers’ Flaxeed Crackers could be a good option here.

Isle of Crackers Product Range 3 Isle of Crackers are a perfect addition to a cheeseboard. Source: Isle of Crackers/SuperValu

Once you have the cheese and crackers sorted, think about meats, fruit, nuts and chutney or relish. 

“You might want to add some charcuterie, like salami or chorizo sliced into manageable pieces, and some salty accents, like olives or cornichon pickles. As for dried and fresh fruit, I love dried apricots and dried figs on a cheeseboard, as well as grapes and slices of apple or slices of pear. They’re a great palate cleanser,” says Caroline. 

shutterstock_761989576 Source: Shutterstock

One good chutney or relish is enough to tie everything together, says Caroline. Two great options of relish, for example, are Moran’s Mega Jams Beetroot Relish and Subh Fraoc Bán’s Tomato and Black Onion Relish.

5. Add extra touches

If you’re looking for something extra, a piece of Irish honeycomb might do the trick. “If you have goat’s cheese, put that on a slice of your interesting cracker. Then you’re getting a mixture of crunch and texture from the cracker, and smooth and creamy from the cheese. 

“Then take a little bit of your honeycomb, and now you’ve got not just the sweetness of the honey, but you also that the crunch of the comb, adding another texture.”

And, if you grow herbs, you might want to include some of them. “If you have any fresh herb, even like a little bunch of sage, place it next to the cheese.”

6. Leave the cheese to reach room temperature before serving 

“You don’t want to be serving the cheese fridge-cold,” says Caroline. “Take it out about an hour before people come. You don’t want it to be sweating, but you do want to be able to taste the cheese. 

If you’ve gone to the trouble of going to a shop and picking out some really nice Irish cheeses, you want to be able to taste all the different nuances in the cheese. 

shutterstock_1108385141 Source: Shutterstock

7.  Take the time to display your cheese correctly 

Once you have everything you need, it’s time to display it on the board. Select a large wooden or ceramic board to allow space for your creation.

If you’re looking to buy a cheeseboard, the handmade wooden board from Arran Street East (see image below) is sure to impress.

Then look at the board like it’s your landscape. Place the cheeses on the board first. You want to unwrap them all. You do not want any bit of plastic wrap, even if they’re wrapped in wax paper or anything like that.

CHEESE BOARD, POT OUT, CHUTNEY AND WOODEN SPOON2 The Arran Street East wooden cheeseboard is handmade. Source: Arran Street East/SuperValu

“Put your cheeses in different spaces on the board, then you can put filling around that.

“Making a cheeseboard is actually one of the loveliest kind of things to do,” says Caroline. “If you’re even at home alone, and you just take the time to put out some nice things on a board, and bring it over to the table, it feels like you’re really treating yourself.” And, with so many tasty Irish cheeses, crackers and relishes to choose from, it’s even nicer to know that you’re supporting small Irish producers. 

This Christmas SuperValu are encouraging shoppers to buy Irish and support local businesses with a number of local Irish suppliers to choose from either in store through their Food Academy producers like Subh Fraoc Bán and Morans and jams and relishes,  Meadowfields and Durrus cheeses, Isle of Crackers or choose from a range of gifting ideas from the Guaranteed Irish Gifts website.

Shop with SuperValu in store or online this festive season. #SupportLocal 

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