As we head into party season, the grazing platter becomes an increasingly central feature of entertaining. Gone are the days when you simply threw some Jatz crackers and toothpicked cheese cubes onto a plate. Grazing platters have become all about quality produce, stunning flavour combinations and visual artistry.
My younger and more immature self (circa 2016 and early 2017) might have dismissed this as pretentious foppery, gleefully tossing crackers and cheese cubes (without toothpicks – gasp!) on a plate whenever I was on office morning tea duty.
My offerings were nowhere near this pretty.
Luckily I have seen the error of my ways. There is something quite therapeutic about preparing a grazing platter – it’s like flower arranging but with edible results. And the saying is true, we really do eat with our eyes. I must agree that the taste of cheese cubes is slightly improved even by the simple addition of toothpicks, so imagine how much better they would taste if more artfully arranged (or perhaps using cheese other than the pre-cubed variety).
To help you prepare for your festive gastronomy duties, here are our tips for the perfect grazing platter.
FIRSTLY, LET’S GO SHOPPING!
What’s a grazing platter without cheese? We have previously written a blog about making the perfect cheese plate. Here is a summary of the fundamentals.
- Go for a good mix of textures – something soft (Brie or Camembert), something slightly harder (Swiss, Gouda), and something hard (Parmesan, Aged Cheddar). Throw in a touch of blue if you’re feeling daring. Be careful if it’s a hot day though, as strong-smelling cheeses are likely to become even more ‘fragrant’.
- Temperature matters – take the cheeses out at least an hour before serving so it can come to room temperature. Pop a damp tea towel over the top for a few hours to minimise the cheese drying out.
- Use different knives for different cheeses so there’s no accidental mixing of flavours.
How about including some fruity pastes to go with the cheeses? Quince paste is popular, although it does have a tendency to mask the flavour of some cheeses, so it’s best left as an accompaniment for blue cheese if you have it on your platter. For pastes that blend well with other cheeses, try some traditional Italian panforte instead.
Bread and crackers are often seen as the humble vehicle that transports the cheese to your mouth. But they should also be good enough to stand on their own. We recommend you provide a range of crackers on your plate, as well as some lavosh and nice crusty bread.
Provide a good combination of colours and textures with your dips. Some ideas include beetroot, spinach (or basil) and feta, and the ever-popular hummus.
Fruit is a refreshing and healthy addition to any grazing platter. Because they come in a variety of textures and colours, they are the perfect way to draw the eye (and the palate) to your grazing platter.
Anything goes, really. Passionfruit, bananas, strawberries, blueberries, mango, grapes, raspberries… show us your colours!
Dried fruit would also make a great addition to your platter, so try some dried apricots and figs.
Along with your standard ham, salami, turkey and prosciutto, delis have other exotic and delicious offerings. Amaze your guests with a cured meat they can’t pronounce!
Other bits and bobs
Add some olives, sundried tomatoes and nuts. Dark chocolate also makes a surprising but welcome addition to any plate.
Fancy a bit of fancy?
Recently we posted a blog about spring racing picnic treats. If you’re willing to go that extra mile for your grazing platter, why not add some gorgeous cherry tomato tulips or fresh fruit sushi? For more instructions, see here.
Image and recipe via Shockingly Delicious
Image and recipe: Bigger Bolder Baking.
SECONDLY, GETTING IT TOGETHER!
Of course how you arrange your platter is your personal taste. However, here are some tips to help you along.
- Arrange the bigger foods such as the meats, cheeses and larger fruits first, and get creative with shapes and placement. For example, present your different cheeses in different ways (one wedge, one block and one circular), roll some of the meats, cut the fruits into shapes, etc.
- Put the dips in some small bowls of different shapes.
- Spread it around! This helps not only to ‘balance’ the look of the platter, but also enables your grazing guests to access a variety of foods from where they are sitting. Try to get bright colours to weave in with paler hues.
- Sprinkle your smaller foods like nuts and blueberries throughout the platter to fill in the spaces.
Image via pinterest
Did you know that Bento Boxes are like mini grazing platters? After your party’s over, throw the leftovers into your Bento Box for a fantastic next-day lunch on the go.