Grazing platters have evolved from a simple plate with a few bits of cheese and store-bought biscuits thrown together. Today, the emphasis is on quality seasonal produce, homemade dips and a bounty of fruit in whatever combination suits your diners.
For us, as an extended family of multiple food allergies and preferences, it’s a way to cater for everyone, including tagging sections of the platter as GF, DF and V. It makes it easier for me as the hostess, as I can prep everything beforehand, joining in the festivities when everyone arrives. It’s a great way to get friends or family together, bonding over an amazing platter of food.
We sought some tips from Masterchef 2015 runner-up Georgia Barnes at the Perfect Platter masterclass held in The Kitchens, Robina. Demonstrating two platters, one vegan and the other a cheese platter, some of Georgia’s tips were:
- Prepare ahead of time
Choose your platter and get small bowls ready for wet items. Pre-make any pickles, dips or grilled cold items. Cut up all your veggie sticks on the day and keep covered in the refrigerator. Keep most ingredients bite sized so they are easy to eat, with veggies sliced on the angle to add visual appeal.
- Go for quality not quantity
Use beautiful fruit and quality seasonal produce sourced from local suppliers. Use your vegetables to make fresh dips and pickles rather than buying from the store. For a cheese platter, choose several good cheeses, balanced by a variety of crackers and other accompaniments such as fresh fruit (eg apples or pears), dried fruit, jam and nuts that complement the flavours of the cheese. Christmastime brings us luxe fruit in season, such as peaches, grapes and cherries.
- Choose cheese with care
Vary your cheese styles and textures. Include three good-quality cheeses from a range of aged, firm, soft and blue to cover all bases. If you are catering for a large crowd, add a delicious homemade or locally sourced dip to complement the selection. (Consider including a plant-based cheese, dairy-free vegan dip and gluten-free crackers for vegan, GF and DF diners.)
- Think of number, colour and arrangement
People feast with their eyes first, so think colour, number (1, 3 or 5) and arrangement.
Grouping your food into threes gives symmetry: three hero items, such as cheeses or three types of dips and pickles, or varieties of brightly coloured fruit. Use several different types of crackers.
Start by spacing out your main items, such as your cheeses, on the board. Then slowly build around them with heavier items to make a colour palette around the platter. Face things in different directions. Tumble lighter snack items on top. Pile your ingredients up to achieve height instead of spacing them out. Don’t leave any gaps. Tuck in biscuits and cos lettuce leaves. Add visual props to suit the season and appropriate serving implements. Finish with the brightest berries, flowers and herbs on top to give a visual ‘lift’. Enjoy!