How to select your Christmas cheeseboard with Aldi

I COULDN'T IMAGINE Christmas without a bumper cheeseboard and this year, I've joined forces with Aldi to ensure you get the most from your cheeses. Cheese should be selected by considering these factors: type of milk, texture (hard, soft, semi-soft etc.), blue or non-blue and smoked or unsmoked.  Although not a rule as such, I like to add in locality and Aldi proudly features several kinds of cheese from small-scale Scottish producers, as well as some of the better-known continental offerings.  Here is what I came up with:

I'm going to start with my favourite cheese of all-time, Roquefort.  It's very tempting to head for Stilton at Christmas - nothing wrong with that at all - but for me, this French classic is just such a wonderful thing that no cheeseboard should be without it.  I mentioned Scottish cheeses, but I also put Roquefort in here because 1) it commands respect and 2) it shows how far Scottish cheese making has come that we have people producing cheese that can sit at the table with this behemoth.

Cheddar is a no brainer for me, as it's such a popular type of cheese.  I selected this vintage cheddar made in Wigtownshire that has been matured for 15 months.  It's crumbly and rich and an ideal starting cheese. It'll go down well paired with whisky and port, which we shall touch on later.

For our soft option, we head back to a France in the shape of another real heavyweight, Brie de Meaux.  Widely considered to be the finest brie known to man, it's mushroomy, barnyard-y flavours are heavenly on a crumbly Scottish oatcake - always a crowd pleaser.

You may have read in the news recently that Aldi are increasing their range of organic produce in stores. With that in mind, I picked up two cracking organic Scottish cheeses from the Highlands.  The Scottish gouda-style cows' milk cheese is based on the more famous Dutch recipe and this sweet and nutty version is just as good as some of the top goudas I've tasted from The Netherlands.  The other, a crumbly farmhouse cheese that I think represents Scottish cheese perfectly.  It's mild and sweet with a hint of grassiness that will go well with the red onion marmalade we selected from Aldi.

Next we're off to Spain where I've spent a great deal of time tasting cheese over the past few years, Manchego being one of the country's most famous sons.  I've added this to give people a taste of ewes' milk cheeses. The cheese is matured for around 9 months and has a buttery, slightly herbaceous vibe to it.  I'm a huge fan of goats' cheese, for which the Spanish are also famed for, but I've returned to Blighty here to showcase the great Cornish cheeses stocked in Aldi. This rich and nutty offering is called Gervik and is produced at the Trevarian creamery.  The tang and creaminess is what I love about goats' cheese and this marries well with the onion jam and a solid port. I don't know why more people don't love goats' cheese!

Finally, I've added one of Normandy's most famous exports, Camembert. I've added this purely because in the winter, bringing this out of the oven (add a clove of garlic beforehand) and dipping in bread or crackers brings a hot dimension to the cheese board.

As far as drinks pairings go, I've played one option slightly safe and taken the opportunity to  introduce a drink that I just love with cheese - Prosecco.  Prosecco is a little more neutral than its neighbours Champagne and Cava, which makes it easier to match with cheeses.  My favourite cheese to accompany it is brie or goats' cheese.  The creaminess and the texture just harmonise so beautifully with the acidity, and the bubbles add another element of texture. This Canti Prosecco (£6.99) has hints of peach and apple that pairs well with cheese.

Port, we know is a classic pairing and it works with so many cheeses, whether it be a Stilton or another blue, a meaty cheddar or a mushroomy brie.  This unfiltered port from Maynard's is available for £8.95 and the notes of chocolate, ripe fruit and spice really sings with the above-mentioned dairy goods.

Here are a few tips to get the most out of your Christmas cheeses:

  • Bring the cheese out of the fridge around 45 minutes before serving.  This will ensure the flavours are maximised and that the true texture of the cheese comes out

  • It's easy to go to town when buying cheese, but really 40-50g per cheese per person will easily suffice.  Plus people may not like blue or goats' or indeed, even manage to tuck away tonnes of cheese after a big meal

  • If you do go over the top - don't worry.  Cheese will keep far longer than you think, so ignore what it says on the labels.  Keep it wrapped up in tin foil or cling film, ensuring you keep as much air from the surface as possible.  When it comes to throwing cheese out, use your instincts!

  • Have fun pairing drinks and talking about it. As well as port and prosecco, beer and whisky work, too. There are no wrongs or rights and anyone that says otherwise is a pretentious fool! It's merely an opinion after all 

Any questions regarding cheeses or your Christmas cheese plate, drop me a line in the Contact section and I'd be more than happy to help.  Happy Christmas, Philly x


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