27 June 2024, 07:00 AM
  • Cheesemonger Morgan McGlynn Carr of Morgan Cheeses, shares the best cheese pairings from her new book, The Complete Cheese Pairing Cookbook
The best pairings for cheese

While wine and crisp pairings are all the rage right now, there’s no denying our enduring love of a glass of something delicious alongside a wedge of cheese. Port and blue cheese, and bloomy-rinded Camembert or Brie with fizz are classics that will never go out of fashion but, with shoppers ever looking for wild, exciting new taste sensations, it’s worth having some other suggestions up your sleeves at the counter.

You might have seen Morgan McGlynn Carr of London’s Morgan Cheeses on C4’s Sunday Brunch recently talking through pairings and the wonderful world of cheese recipes, inspired by her new book - The Complete Cheese Pairing Cookbook.

Morgan is always being asked for cheese pairing suggestions. And here are some favourites for you to pass on to your customers.

What to pair with Brie

Morgan suggests pairing Brie with a classic French 75 cocktail (lemon juice, gin and Champagne), which highlights its zesty notes. “Oozy, soft and unctuous Brie gets its lively opposite in the bubbles of the Champagne. Gin gives the French 75 its strength – peppery, herbaceous and botanical. The spirit offers a robust backdrop to the mild, spring-onion-like qualities of a young Brie,” she says.

Pillows of baguette, and ripe slivers of pear are also a wonderful match for Brie, Morgan explains passionately. “Simple, elegant luxury is everything when it comes to what’s enhanced in this pairing. A good baguette has a crisp, crunchy crust that is in direct contrast to the smooth, oozy nature of the Brie. Choose a just-ripe dessert pear. You want a little bit of crunch left in the fruit to temper the sweetness.”

What to pair with Gorgonzola

“Negroni is an intensely bitter and alcoholic aperitivo, made with equal parts Campari, gin and sweet vermouth,” says Morgan. “The bitterness is just what Gorgonzola needs to bring out its biting quality, cutting through the creaminess of the paste. The fiery alcohol of the Negroni is restrained by the milky mouthfeel of Gorgonzola. The Negroni’s citrussy aroma, thanks to the traditional orange-peel garnish and the oils it imparts, provides roundedness. The sweet-sour notes balance the bitterness in the other elements of the cocktail and the earthy, savoury notes in the aroma of the cheese.”

What to pair with Cheddar

A Whiskey Sour is Morgan’s drink of choice alongside a good strong Cheddar-style cheese such as Lincolnshire Poacher. “Hold a piece of strong Cheddar on your tongue and as it melts you’ll find an underlying nutty sweetness in its aroma that lingers in the finish. The Whiskey Sour lives up to its name (not only in the lemon juice, but in the whiskey itself), so take a sip after that finish and enjoy the contrast. Not only does egg white bring the drink its characteristic froth, [but] its creamy, meringue-like flavour tempers all that sourness. The soft froth itself balances out the harsh intensity of the alcohol.”

As for foody pairings? Morgan suggests a fruit toast and red grapes, which help to enhance the umami notes of, say, a Montgomery’s. “Cheddar offers a sharp, savoury contrast to the sweetness of the fruit toast. Texture contrasts here, too. An aged Cheddar has a good crumble, whereas the toast is crunchy at first bite and soft inside. Juicy fruit works so well – linking the textures and flavours in the cheese and bread. Fresh red grapes pick out the sweetness of the raisins in the fruit toast and, at the same time, the zinginess in the cheese.”

What to pair with Alpine cheese

Appenzeller and a Gin Martini go hand-in-hand according to Morgan, who says the minerally, herbaceous flavours of the cheese really come to the fore when paired with a botanical-heavy gin. “The touch of sweetness in Appenzeller (or other Swiss cheese – some more so than others) helps to temper the harsh bitterness of this classic cocktail. The surgical precision of the flavours in a Martini cut through the characteristic oily elasticity of Appenzeller to ensure there’s no danger of feeling overwhelmed by the mouthfeel as you eat and sip,” she says.

Earthy Comte is notably layered with flavour, which intensifies as the cheese ages. Enhance its sweet, milky, increasingly savoury notes with wheat crackers and dried apricots. Its complexity shouldn’t be overpowered by complicated nibbling partners. “Comté is a cheese with in-built balance – it is nutty, fresh and savoury at first bite, with a salty and very slightly sweet aftertaste. With a bitter cracker to finish off the experience, we have achieved greatness. Dried apricots bring out the fruit sweetness and tangy side of the cheese, while the slight crunch as you bite into one makes for a good link between the smooth, firm cheese and the snap of the cracker.”

What to pair with Mozzarella

“Breathe in from the top of the Aperol bottle and you’ll be hit by the intense bitter sweetness of orange. Buffalo mozzarella has a very slight acidity that the Aperol Spritz helps to bring through,” says Morgan.

“The texture of the bubbles – in a glorious pop-popping of fizz on your tongue – is a great foil for the softness of this decadent, enveloping cheese. Mozzarella finds its balance in the pear fruits of a Prosecco, and citrus fruits in the Aperol. This is a phenomenally well-rounded cheese and cocktail pairing, if ever there was one!”

What to pair with blue cheese

Who could deny the heavenly match of blue cheese and oatcakes? “The creamy nature of a good blue cheese (Colston Bassett Stilton is a favourite and it’s melt-in-the-mouth when it’s at its peak) is given a starring role against the backdrop of the simple crackers, which do everything to allow the cheese to shine. But that’s also not to forget the nuttiness in each of them – which makes for a gorgeous harmony,” says Morgan.

“Bold, spicy and pungent cheese flavours provide a strong contrast with the neutral flavours of the crackers. This is a dynamic, intense pairing. Creamy is balanced with crunchy. Tangy is balanced with earthy. Pungent is balanced with mild. Everything about this pairing is balance! Both blue cheese and crackers have an underlying nuttiness that finds the ultimate bridge in walnuts. There’s a creaminess to walnuts, too, which brings out the creaminess in both components of the pairing.

What to pair with Manchego

Manchego and rye crackers go “so well together” says Morgan. “The cheese is rich, and the crackers are robust, making them a brilliantly matched pair. The saltiness in the cheese is contrasted with the earthy flavour of the rye. There is good texture contrast here, too. Manchego is a smooth, silky cheese, whereas rye crackers have a characteristically grainy nature. Manchego gives us sweet, salty and a slightly sour tang, while rye brings bitterness. Nutty and earthy in abundance, both elements of the pair bring umami.” Don’t forget to suggest a slice or jar of membrillo to bring the this pairing together.

What to pair with goats’ cheese

Morgan likes to showcase one of her favourite goats’ cheeses - Saint Maure de Touraine - with charcoal crackers and fresh figs. “The contrast between the cheese’s creamy tanginess and the crackers’ unique, smoky character is fabulous. Bright white goats’ cheese against a dark, almost-black cracker makes for a striking, mouthwatering pairing on a board. There is deep savouriness in this pairing, but the sour, fruity notes in the cheese bring natural balance overall. The deep, purple-black skin of fresh figs not only complement the colours on the board here, but also act as a subtle link between the zesty sweetness of the cheese and the bitter cracker.”