Cheese 'completes' the meal. How to make your own delicious well-paired cheese platter.
The perfect cheese plate
Handy advice for a better life. Cheese is what "completes the meal", says Yunib Siddiqui, local CEO of Abu Dhabi's Jones the Grocer, which has its very own cheese cellar. The simplest way to create a gasp-worthy cheese plate is to follow what is known as a "CheeseClock", created by the online cheese shop Artisanal (www.artisanalcheese.com). The method was created as a means to simplify the process of constructing a well-paired cheese plate. The cheese board is divided into four sections, each corresponding to a three-hour interval on the round face of a clock, with each cheese varying in texture and strength from the next: soft and mild; semi-firm; firm and strong; and very bold.
Siddiqui advises that cheeses be stored at 9-14°C to accelerate the maturing process. Since most people don't have state-of-the-art, temperature-controlled cheese rooms, he suggests storing cheese in the fridge and taking it out only when it's time to serve. After speaking to the cheese connoisseurs at Jones, we have compiled four easy steps to a delicious platter, perfect for Christmas or New Year's parties. You should expect to spend about Dh400 for all four stages.
STEP 1: MAKING YOUR CHEESE CLOCK The board starts at the 6-9 o'clock section of the "clock", with a mild, soft cheese, such as the truffle Brie available for Dh35/100g. The 9-12 should contain a hard Emmenthal for Dh16/100g, followed by a 12 to 3 semi-firm, bolder cheese such as the Mimolette for Dh30/100g. Finally, the 3 to 6 o'clock area should have an assertive, strong cheese such as the bio-organic Roquefort, which costs Dh35/100g.
STEP 2: CHOOSING YOUR ACCOMPANIMENTS Dried cranberries and sour cherries, Dh25 and Dh 25/100 g respectively, boost the flavour of most cheeses, as do more unexpected pairings such as edamame and crystallised ginger, which stand up well to strong salty cheeses. If you prefer fresh accompaniments, figs are the best option along with muscatels, Dh18/100g. Rrye bread, cheese crackers, sourdough and charcoal ash crackers are all suitable carbohydrate accompaniments.
STEP 3: ADDING THE PASTES Plum paste, available for Dh21/jar, goes well with soft, delicate cheeses while spiced pear or apple rosemary pastes complement strong-flavoured hard cheeses such as Parmesan. A favourite classic is the Damson spread from Jones at Dh34/jar - it makes a great accompaniment for strong, soft cheese. STEP 4: GIVING THAT EXTRA TOUCH Yunib Siddiqui recommends combining feta or Parmesan cheese with green olives on a cocktail stick and serving them to your guests. Another sweet and delicious addition is a dollop of truffle honey.