Celebrity chef’s cheesy plea to foodies
A platter of cheese accompanied by good wine has simplified perfect home entertaining for Australians in lockdown.
And with nationwide restrictions still in place, a passion for cheese has intensified as many people have become more discerning in their tastes for finer fare.
Whether it's a visit to a cheesemonger, a farmer's market or local grocer, it's important to support Australian cheese producers doing it tough, says celebrity chef Matt Moran.
Growing up on a dairy farm, Moran says the experience gave him a great appreciation for the commitment and passion that dairy farmers put into their work every day.
"As Australians, we're lucky to have such a fantastic range of dairy produce on our doorstep," he says.
"Cheese is an integral and timeless ingredient that can be used to achieve balance in a dish or simply as a delicious stand-alone for a starter or after dinner snack."
Cheese producers are calling on Australians to stack their cheeseboards full of homegrown, handcrafted produce.
From cured meats and fruit to an interesting range of mustard, cornichons, olives and cheeses, it's easy to whip up a well-curated charcuterie board at home.
Moran says there are plenty of cheeses and other ingredients you can use to add interest to your platter.
"A soft, creamy, white mould cheese, a mild washed rind or a hard cheese for contrasting texture will bring big flavour," he says.
"You can pair these with some gorgeous Australian produce, like local honey, seasonal fruits and pastes."
Have a squeeze of lemon or lime juice on hand to keep your apple and pear slices looking good.
A drizzle of honey over strong goat's cheese or blue cheese can enhance the flavour.
Walnuts go well with blue cheese, as do hazelnuts with strong cheddar.
Home-made pickled onions, baby gherkins and olives can also add pep to the palate, especially if the platter is coming before a sweet course.
Beers and wines with good acidity, pinot noirs and sangioveses, will go with cheeses better than tannic wines.
Bubbles are great, whether Champagne or good dry Lambrusco. Fragile, older reds should be paired cautiously with any cheese.
Australians are already eating close to 13.5kg of cheese per capita each year, according to Dairy Australia. Cheddar remains the most popular variety of cheese, but non-cheddar cheese figures have increased.
Dairy Australia's Alexandra Kury says incorporating dairy into your diet can reduce the risk of hypertension and type 2 diabetes and support strong bones and teeth.
Across the country, many cheese shops have opened and more restaurants are putting care and thought into their cheese courses.
Modern cheese trends, including cheese tea (tea with a cheesy cap of foam) and creamy cheese wheel pasta (a cheese bowl cooked by waiting staff at your table) have taken the melt one step further.
Woombye Cheese Company in Queensland are rolling their brie in ash to add a smoky flavour profile and a striking colour to a cheeseboard.
Cheesemonger Hakim Halim from RIPE Cheese says there is demand for locally produced artisan cheese.
"It's the ultimate indulgent product for a Friday night in," he says.
"Cheese adds a touch of class to any meal, a companion to your wine and allows you to just gather your family around a cheese board for a snack."
The pandemic has seen cheese lovers clinking wine glasses over Zoom and experimenting with gourmet cheeses with distinct flavours and luxurious textures.
Chiara Nohra has a virtual cheese and wine hour with friends monthly.
"It's the perfect way to encourage social distancing while giving people a much-needed outlet to socialise. All my mates logged on and you felt you were partying in the same room."
Originally published as Celeb chef's cheesy plea to foodies