Serving cheese in order to please

The perfect cheese platter. SUPPLIED
The perfect cheese platter. SUPPLIED
With the entertaining season upon us, Eleanor Ozich advises a natural kind of entertaining: relaxed, intentional and thoughtful is her favourite approach.

``Sharing food with those I love is what drives my passion for cooking,'' she says in her latest book The Art of Simple.

``My idea of the perfect evening is to spend it with family and friends, the kind of get-together where hours pass fleetingly and conversation flows effortlessly.''

So in the new book, the author of My Petite Kitchen and My Family Table, shares ideas for simple yet elegant ways of entertaining, from setting the table (use natural elements, such as an apple tree branch for a centrepiece) to embracing napkins (she loves linen) and ambient lighting (go natural).

Ozich has mixed this advice with her trademark recipes: keeping it seasonal and simple.

This latest book also includes ideas about a simpler, calmer life she discovered when she moved the family from the city to a beach house in Titirangi, Auckland.

``Once you fall in love with the simple things you'll wonder how you never noticed them before.''

The perfect cheese platter

Beautiful, pungent and rich, there's something about cheese that I simply can't resist. It's not surprising that I have a deep love for creating the perfect cheese board, one with varying textures, colours and flavours. Not only are tasting platters relatively simple to throw together, they can also be a conversation piece for your guests. Most will dig in with gusto, sharing opinions about which cheese they like, and perhaps those they don't.

Here are some simple tips to help you create the perfect cheese platter.

  • Choose a large platter that will fit a good selection of ingredients. I often use a round wooden chopping board with a piece of baking paper placed on top.
  • I like to keep it minimal and offer three different types of cheese of varying textures and age - you don't want to overwhelm anyone's palate.
  • The first is a soft, creamy cheese such as Brie or Camembert. Mild, whipped ricotta would also work nicely here.
  • The second is something firm and aged, such as a sharp vintage Cheddar, Gruyere, or Gouda.
  • The third is blue vein, my most loved variety; almost every cheese board I make includes a blue cheese, known for its intensely strong and pungent aroma.
  • I also recommend trying out cheeses made with different types of milk, such as goat or sheep milk.
  • Dry cheese often likes something creamy to accompany it, such as slices of avocado, whereas salty cheese begs for something sweet, such as thin slices of fresh pear or apple.
  • Fresh berries are another thought. Decorate with honeycomb and a few sprigs of rosemary to create a platter that's visually striking - remember that people often eat with their eyes first.
  • Always offer a different knife with each cheese variety. If guests help themselves to the cheese using just one knife, there is a high chance that all the cheeses might start tasting like one another.
  • Various other sweet and salty items work well as an accompaniment to cheese. Try cured goods such as prosciutto, salami or smoked salmon, salty morsels such as pistachios, candied almonds or good-quality olives. Assorted dried fruit can include figs, medjool dates, prunes or apricots.
  • Forget flavoured crackers and try something a little more interesting. I enjoy oat crackers for their mild, buttery flavour but good-quality sourdough or French baguette are also nice options, particularly if you include a little bowl of extra virgin olive oil for dipping.
  • Always bring your cheese to room temperature before serving - cheese at room temperature reveals flavour subtleties that you don't taste if it's chilled.
  • I like to pop it on the table at least an hour before guests arrive.
  • Lastly, I recommend making as many selections as you can from local producers. I like to visit my local farmers market or, alternatively, a local delicatessen will offer a beautiful variety of cheese and is always happy to help out.





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