This post is about one of my favorite ingredients. I’m crazy about cheese, and I suppose you are too.
Today you will see a summery cheese plate that I gathered up for a family bbq yesterday, but I’m also showing my two previous Christmas’s pictures. I always take a snap because I really take pride and joy in crafting them!
Besides giving some tips about how to build up an amazing platter, I’m sure you are also interested about the content. Some ingredients are international, others are without a doubt, the tastiest portuguese cheeses I so very cherish.
For family events, in Portugal, cheese is a very popular staple picky/starter, always accompanied by some bread, sweety contrasts (honey and homemade jam), oh and wine! Never forget the wine. I will post something on wines in the near future.
The cheese I chose:
- Alavão (mixed goat and cow’s milk with a paprika covering)
- Strong cheddar
- Parmegiano Regiano
- Palhais goat cheese
Personally, I feel that more than 6/7 cheeses is pushing it a bit. Keep it varied, but simple! It is never about the amount. Quality above all people.
Flavor contrasting is what having taste buds is all about. Besides the sweet and salty sensation, texture is also important to capture, this is why finding nuts on a cheese platter is so common, yummi and posh (nuts can be quite expensive).
For sweetness, honey is the best. The Algarve offers a huge variety, from rosemary to orange blossom, and if you visit the north of the country (like Trás-os-Montes), Mel de Urze is dark and similiar looking to molasses, with a deep sweet flavor, from the flowers abundantly found through granitic lands.
Another great combination is quince marmalade, well we call it “marmelada” but it’s firm because of the fruit’s high pectine concentration, not exactly the runy marmalade everyone is used to. You can actually cut it into cubes or slithers, without desintegrating. Homemade jam, or any store bought of your preference, will also do.
Recently I’ve discovered a balsamic glaze, an italian product I found in a local supermarket in Praia da Luz (southern Portugal), that ever so often sells peculiar gourmet products. The best thing about these glazes (or the worst for my food budget), is the different flavors! I bought blueberry (my fave), fig, pomegranate, chillie and original (red grape). My next purchase will be lemon and, well, any other flavor I don’t already have! Ever so good with cheese.
Now for the fruit: grapes, the ones in the picture are from my vine, still quite sour but heck, I did not want to go to the supermarket on purpose; figs (the purple ones are good in June, the green ones in September); apples and berries (winter); pears as well (careful to cut only before serving, they will go brown from oxidation).
Nuts: almonds, pistachios, walnuts, pinenuts, cashew, etc. And a pretty herb for decoration.
Last Christmas I tried this cheese log, I bought a goat cheese with honey (the brand is called Palhais), very smooth and creamy. I chopped up some pistachios and cranberries, rolled the cheese to stick, and, wait for it, christmas colors all around.
This was my first cheese plate (2012), some cheddar, parmegiano and two creamy cheeses, where I just cut off the top, so it’s just a matter of spooning the creamy stuff on crackers or bread (this cheese is strong, but so cozy for winter events, and low maintenance to prepare, as you can see).
Last christmas I also made these little puff pastry goodies with cream cheese, cheddar and spinach. Just mix the ingredients, improvise and adjust to taste, spoon in previously fitted puff pastry squares (with a mini cupcake tray), and into the oven (200ºC) until the pastry is cooked.
So, here is last Christmas’s cheese platter, with the previously shown log, glouchester with chives (the orange one), another creamy one from Serra da Estrela, parmegiano, gorgonzola, apple slices, currant (yet again, holiday colors!) and nuts.