Will Studd's guide to entertaining with cheese

By
Casey Warrener
Added
14 December, 2015

Presenter of Lifestyle FOOD’s ‘Cheese Slices’, a series that unearths the best small-scale fromageries from around the globe, Will Studd reveals his ultimate cheese recipe, a penchant for French styles, and where to buy the best.

When I pick up the phone to Will he shares that he’s in Byron Bay. “It’s raining here and apparently there’s a shark circling, but I want to go for a surf,” he says. This statement is telling: the man finds beauty in the austere – in nature, in flavour and in the sweet simplicity of a good hunk of cheese. “One of the joys of cheese is that someone has done all of the work for you, and you just need to work out what you want and go buy it! Keep it simple, is my philosophy.”

What’s your ideal marriage of cheese and wine?

Personally, I’d go for Roquefort and Sauternes with some really beautiful rye bread. Roquefort and rye bread are readily available, add a wine with provenance and you can’t go wrong. They’re complementary flavours: you’ve got the creamy, salty intensity of the blue, which works well with the rye that has that slightly sour, bitter character. Another would be a riesling and a Munster from Alsace – a good example of where you have two local products working together.

For the festive season, Brillat-Savarin is great with Champagne, because the cheese is so creamy and the acidity of the bubbles is able to cut through that richness.

One of the most important things to remember about cheese and wine matching is that there are no guarantees – there are predictable outcomes, but there’s nothing like trying combinations and seeing what works. You could say that if you put a big Australian shiraz with a fatty cheese, you’re guaranteed not to succeed. But a sharp cheddar would work. Sancerre and goat’s cheese, fantastic, another failsafe.

And alternative drink pairings?

Something that I partake in a lot is Camembert de Normandy and a good, dry cider. I like Normandy cider, but we’ve got some good ciders here in Australia, too. You can’t get genuine Camembert de Normandy in Australia because of the raw milk regulations, but I do one under my brand called ‘Le Conquerant’, which is a clever use of cultures that creates similar characteristics – it has that aroma of wet hay and cauliflower, and it’s packed in a wooden box in the traditional style. Pair that with the cider, which is cleansing and acidic, and it’s a really special combination.

Do you have an ultimate cheese recipe?

For me, it would have to be a baked Le Conquerant Camembert, which is very easy. Basically you take a couple of cloves of garlic and split them in half, blanch them for a minute in boiling water, then you stick them in the top of the cheese, unwrapped but still in its wooden box. Put a splash of wine on top – it doesn’t matter what wine, it can be red or white – add a grind of pepper, a sprig of fresh pine, and pop it in the oven at 180 degrees for 20 minutes. When it’s ready, dig it out with a fresh baguette. Again it has to be a French-style Camembert – it can’t be mild. You could try it with other cheeses; the only rules are that you need a box, and a style with a little bit of flavour.

Where would you recommend buying cheese?

I find farmers’ markets very uplifting – I always wonder where the $200 went when I leave – but the exhibitors are so enthusiastic, everything is really fresh, and it makes you believe in the future of good food. Your local farmers’ market will be a good reflection of the region’s cheese no matter where you are in the world. In terms of shops, I’d normally go and check out Simon Johnson, which you’ll find across Australia. The other important thing to note is that if you can, always try before you buy.

Will you have cheese on your Christmas table?

I’m a great believer in blue cheese for Christmas, probably because of my English background where it’s common to share cheeses like Stilton on the day. Another reason is that cow’s milk blues are generally at their best when made from autumn milk, because it’s more concentrated and has lots of flavour. That’s in Europe, but in Australia there’s a similar principle in that you start to see the first blues of spring in shops at Christmas. So you’re seeing what we’d call new season or new growth, and it means really interesting styles.

For more entertaining ideas, try these canapes matched to sparkling wines

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