This Christmas is all about taking the ordinary and making it extraordinary when it comes to festive food and flavour pairings.
In collaboration with Boursin, the nation’s favourite indulgent cheese, MasterChef Finalist, Giovanna Ryan, unveils the latest tabletop trend to transform festive food displays – The Vertical Cheeseboard.
The Vertical Cheeseboard is an Instagram worthy showstopping centrepiece that will dazzle friends and family. The tiered sensation serves up the latest food and flavour trends and can be easily adapted depending on the number of guests or special occasion.
“A cheeseboard isn’t just for Christmas… Giovanna Ryan comments, but it certainly is an important Christmas tradition and one that often takes centre stage. It generates memorable festive moments, brings loved ones together, encourages conversation and provides a ‘time out’ moment for people to relax, enjoy and indulge.”
Follow my easy guide on how to create this for yourself.
Pick your themes. These are my personal favourites, but you can be as creative, as you like. The first two tiers work all year round and then I tailor the top layer to the occasion or season.
- Sweet and Salty
- French Classics
- Christmas Flavours
- Choose your flavours. Mine were selected to compliment Boursin as its blend of delicate garlic, fragrant parsley and mild chives make it perfect for creating delicious flavour pairings.
Soft Cheese: Fresh dairy, milky, clean
Pair with apple, capers, figs, grapes, walnuts, truffle, cinnamon.
Garlic: Warm, succulent, sulphurous
Pair with almond, truffle, walnut, rosemary, thyme, bay and onion.
Parsley: Fresh, grassy, woody
Pair with bacon, capers, lemon, walnut
Chives: Allium, fresh, light
Pair with bacon, orange, nutmeg, rosemary and thyme.
For a festive vertical cheeseboard, think about catering to all your loved ones – you definitely have the space to do so. Make sure you include not only the traditional charcuterie pairings but branch out and take flavour risks that will really pay off. Combine creativity with conviviality and incorporate delicious ingredients and mouth-watering flavours into each of your tiers.
First, map out your themes. I chose to mix culinary classics with a creative Christmas twist.
Next, what colours do you want to pull through? Warm winter colours are lovely for this time of year: rust, reds, golds, and dark green as they will complement the white shade of the cheese. It’s also good to add lots of greenery, so make sure you have your herbs and spices as well as any foliage-based decorations for a rustic feel. This will help your cheeseboard look generous and bountiful while ensuring it packs lots of flavour.
Now the fun begins. Start by choosing your hero cheese, my favourite is Boursin, as its creamy and crumbly texture make it extremely versatile. Place it around the three tiers, leaving plenty of space between each. I suggest using a mixture of sizes to create levels to your tiers – a combination of the 80g and 150g work really well for this.
Next, add any other major elements. The beauty of this style of cheeseboard is that is it extremely versatile, the pairing possibilities are endless. Figs are a great addition, not only because they taste delicious but they tip the scale when it comes to aesthetics – cut them in half or slice them into quarters to show off the beautiful interior. Pair them with honey and cheese and you have a winning combination. One that’s classic but also on-trend and slightly sweet.
For your middle layer, I suggest adding depth with thinly sliced speck and saucisson. Try to drape the slices of ham so they create some height. On the top layer, scatter cranberries, some sliced, some whole, to create a beautiful colour contrast. If fresh cranberries are a bit too sour for you, dried ones will work really well too. For a divine little treat, think about new ways to incorporate cheese, here I’ve filled a few dates with Boursin Velvety, its indulgent creamy texture makes it the perfect ingredient to get creative with!
Think about carbs – what will really get that ‘share and enjoy’ moment going. Crackers, breadsticks, sliced baguette, sourdough, anything you want to load your slightly crumbly, but deliciously creamy cheese onto! Nestle them into the spaces around the tiers, trying to keep some of them upright for height variation. For the lower layer, we used some dried fruit crackers to complement the sweet and salty theme, and slices of olive baguette in the middle.
Get creative! Sprinkle, grate, drizzle or scatter your finishing touches, let each tier really come into its own. Utilising different textures by adding herbs, spices, oils and nuts is a great way to add flavour and scent. I used whole almonds and walnuts as well as chopped hazelnuts mixed with rosemary.
We made the middle layer our most indulgent by grating black truffle over one of the Boursin rounds, but you could use truffle or hazelnut oil as a slightly less decadent alternative.
Don’t be afraid to add zest and get inventive with herbs and spices. I layered rosemary on the first, thyme on the middle and cinnamon, pine, and star anise on the top. They do a great job in adding a hint of freshness and colour, whilst also setting a fragrant tone to the room. They can also be swapped and changed to suit any occasion.