I often think I am lucky not to have a particularly sweet tooth. But if there is one ingredient I can get really greedy about it’s cheese. Come the end of the day, while we are making dinner, I’ll often raid the fridge for a piece of yummy cheese to have with some crispy crackers and a nice glass of wine. Goat’s cheeses like chevre and Cabicou, with their clean, lightly acidic taste, seem to partner really well with creamy chenin blanc styles. To my palate, sauvignon blanc seems to offer the right flavour balance for the “barnyard” flavours of creamy ripe brie or camembert. A hard, nutty aged gouda or a crumbly sweet parmesan has me hunting the cellar for a buttery chardonnay or even a pinot noir. As with meat or fish, the rule of flavour matching applies to cheese. The stronger and richer the cheese, the more full-bodied and richer flavoured the wine to match.
Cheese is one of those ingredients that is best bought in a large piece that you can cut from, rather than little portions or pre-grated. Its biggest enemy is air, so you need to cover cut surfaces and store cheese wrapped in a piece of tinfoil or waxed paper, ideally in an airtight container. The moulds from blue cheese and brie are produced by airborne cultures which can easily contaminate any other cheese you may have in the fridge. You may find pieces of cheese that have been around for a while have developed a blue mould or a white furry mould like on camembert. You can just cut this off as cheese moulds don’t contain anything harmful (don’t eat mouldy bread, chuck it out!). Adding cheese into a dish makes it immediately richer and more substantial- crumble cheese through a salad and it becomes a light meal. My Lettuce, Pear, Blue Cheese & Walnut Salad and a salad of Beets, Broad Beans, Walnuts & Goat's Cheese are two great examples of this. Both are perfect for a light supper with crusty bread or as a light lunch or entrée.
If you are making a pie, quiche or soufflé that uses cheese, don’t be afraid to change out the flavour by using a different cheese. My Asparagus & Goat's Cheese Tart could also be made with gruyere or blue cheese. If you are a soufflé fan (there’s nothing like a soufflé for a Sunday lunch!) then my recipe for Goat Cheese and Spinach Souffles is a fail-safe favourite. You can try changing out the cheese to make a plain soufflé with gruyere and parmesan, or try using pesto and feta in place of the blue cheese.
I always like to keep a block of parmesan or grana padano (milder, less crumbly and less complex) or pecorino( made with ewe’s milk rather than cow’s milk) on hand in the fridge. They all contain umami - meaning they are a source of natural glutamates, which give food a depth of flavour and tastiness. I use them to perk up a bowl of polenta, grate over a salad or pasta, or enrich a sauce. Because they are dense and richly flavoured you will find a little goes a long way. Ingredients like these hard cheeses in your pantry make it easy to be a good cook, and to whip up something tasty in a flash.