Is there anything so luscious and tempting as a beautifully prepared and thought-through cheeseboard? Especially when the temperature is just right and you can practically see the cheese melting towards you, begging to be smeared on a cracker, partnered with chutney or fruit or something slightly more sophisticated. The French method of eating the cheese course before dessert is one I greatly admire; I’ve even got special plates to eat my cheese off – a present several years ago from my mother which adds to the overall feeling of eating indulgence.
And it’s so versatile. In my corner of the world, we eat fresh cold creamy Wensleydale with warm apple pie or nibble away at a slice at the same time as fruitcake. For some reason it works. Or match a mature Cheddar with just the right amount of Lea & Perrins and watching it bubble under the grill to perfection. (Pre-toasted bread is vital to prevent sogginess spoiling the experience, I find).
In the south of France several years ago I enjoyed a baked Camembert drenched in the local wine, spiked with herbs and served with a deliciously large side helping of crusty baguette. Thus started my hunt for a similar dish in which to bake my own Camembert. I’ve finally found the right dish, just like the one above, and am starting to think up combinations of flavours and tastes with which to indulge myself. It’s enjoyable agonising about whether to stay traditional, adding wine or oil and herbs, or whether to trial it with cranberry and port. I will have to ration these, of course, as I quite like my arteries just the way they are!
And that’s one of the lessons of cheese. It’s best enjoyed in moderation. The anticipation is part of the pleasure. Now, if you’ll excuse me, there’s a piece of Yorkshire Blue in the fridge which requires my attention …