Gone are the days of cheese and pineapple on toothpicks and chicken-mayo vol au vents. These are the top tips to presenting a breathtaking and modern charcuterie platter.
As Christmas hosting season approaches, it can be hard to avoid looking to social media for party inspiration. Pinterest and Instagram are brimming with images of bright and colourful, hand-crafted grazing boards.
They're often offered in place of the boring - or sometimes even stuffy - hors d'oeuvres everyone has come to expect at a party. When scaled up, a large grazing platter can be the main meal. Because they're prepared in advance, grazing platters allow the host to be present at their party, and create a beautiful and tasty centrepiece for people to gather around.
Overflowing with a diverse mix of fresh fruit and veggies, as well as delicious artisan cheeses, crackers and dips, crafting these modern cornucopias can seem an intimidating feat. But, with these simple tips, your spectacular party platters will wow your guests!
The first key thing to remember is: colour. A good diversity of colour will make your board dynamic and appealing. People eat with their eyes first, so the brighter the better.
Cheese and crackers on a wooden board can be a bit of a beige-fest. A grazing board should evoke abundance and vitality. Fresh fruit and veg are easily sourced, easily-prepped and look beautiful.
Berries are a great way to add a little pop of life through colour and fill in gaps, while also adding a new flavour to the plate. You can also utilise dips with ingredients such as beetroot and carrot to bring more vibrant hues to the platter.
The second tip is: freshness. While the beauty of a grazing platter is its make-ahead-ability, take care to balance that with making sure no fresh produce wilts or loses colour over time. The Australian summer sun is merciless and will destroy your board in no time.
There is nothing wrong with buying your favourite cheeses, crackers, dips or even cakes, biscuits and donuts from the local supermarket, but wait until a couple of hours before guests arrive before unpackaging and plating. This way, all items on your platter will be room temperature, but nothing will get too warm. Once served, try leaving a moist cheese cloth over your cheeses after plating to stop them drying.
The third tip is: keep food bite-sized. A grazing platter is great for exactly that: grazing. Don't serve anything too awkwardly sized for people to eat with their hands while standing. Your guests want to be able to taste a little bit of every delectible thing you're offering, don't weigh them down with big portions.
Another thing to remember is: height. Your grazing platter needs to have a good range of height in order to really capture that full and bountiful aesthetic. Some social media savvy foodies actually stack grazing boards on top of grazing boards to create ultimate, overflowing tiered platters.
Assuming you're not doing that - the best way to create varied height in your charcuterie is through directional change, meats and cheeses.
A softer cheese is generally a good centre piece. Round and spreadable, they are crowd-pleasers that fit well on the plate. Harder cheeses are better served pre-sliced, as it is easier for guests. Use it as an opportunity to create texture on the plate.
Mix up your meats! Don't stick to the expected ham and salami rolls. Use little bowls to present spicy Spanish sausage slices or try wrapping parma ham around slices of cantelope for a yummy and summery bite.
Final tip is: Don't forget condiments and accompaniments! Everyone loves cheese veg, but, alone, they can be a little blah. Go all out on the other stuff: rich fig jams, muscatels, salted nuts, olives, capers, grainy crackers and sourdough. In the end, you'll realise that these kinds of things are the superstars of your grazing board.