Image: @brightongraze, instagram
It’s that season, you know between the 2nd December and 2nd January, where weekends (with the occasional weeknight) are spent navigating family, friends, family-friends and workplace end-of-year celebrations. So when it comes to bringing the Cheese Platters, grazing plates or charcuterie boards if you are up with the lingo, we wanted to bring some of our favourite tips for bringing the most deliciously balanced and instagram worthy plates! We even consulted an expert - Ally Schulz at @brightongraze.
Making a cheese platter doesn’t need to cost a fortune! For example, carrots, celery and capsicum can be cut into strips and make for a delicious and cost-effective cracker. Similarly, fruit always makes for a welcome addition and good contrast to all the yummy, savoury things. I often add whatever crackers or chips, including corn chips or pretzels I have in the cupboard! (I have also been known to add the occasional aeroplane packet peanuts to mine).
Aldi can also be a delicious but affordable option for cheeses and dips!
While there are no rules when it comes to putting a grazing platter together, it is a fine art to get the right sweet-to-savoury ratio. It is also ideal to have a mix between fresh and dried or preserved foods! When it comes to how many of each antipasto component - it's really up to you! I like to have two different kinds of textured crackers, a hard, soft and blue cheese and two dips (one must be beetroot, this non-negotiable). Other things, like sun-dried tomatoes and olives, cured meats like prosciutto or fruit may depend on what's in season, on sale or what I'm really craving!
One of my favourite unexpectedly good combinations is using Nashi or regular pear as a base with blue cheese and prosciutto.
Ally suggests that sweet and salty are best friends when it comes to flavour combinations. She recommends cheese and strawberries, maltesers and popcorn (buttered of course!), and honeycomb and brie make for some simple but delicious classics!
As a chronic over-the-top entertainer, I love adding a grazing platter to any themed dinner party. If you are having tacos, you could include a platter of layered nacho dip and corn chips, tostadas and quesadillas.
If dessert is more your vibe, there is no reason why you can’t make a sweet grazing platter. You can combine fruit, biscuits and any of your favourite bite-sized treats that will satisfy your sweet tooth. Many supermarkets also sell chocolate (and hello caramel!) dipping sauces you can have with your fruit.
You don’t need to spend a fortune on food to make your grazing plate Insta-worthy. But you want it to be practical! One of my favourite ways to present a cheese board, which I picked up from Christmas with my parents, is building the board in a Paella Pan (but any pan would do). We would start by getting the items which don’t need to balance on anything like cheeses, dip containers or quince paste and spreading them out through the pan. Then, you can get all your biscuits, fruit, meat and anything else you would like to add and layering it around to create texture and colour-variety. It’s fun, quirky and creative!
Image source: circa 2017, the Cooke's family Christmas lunch
After working at a florist, Ally said that making platters is very similar to putting flower arrangements together. Some of her favourite arrangements, she explained, were where the florist would group flowers together instead of breaking up the bunches. She adopts this same strategy to grouping different foods together, whether it be berries, crackers or popcorn.
Ally applies this florist finesse to her own grazing boards by often cutting the fruit into fun shapes, like strawberries into fans, and kiwi fruit into flowers. One of my favourite tips she gave me was – you can always use cookie cutters in soft cheeses to cut out the centre of the cheese - whether it be in a festive shape, or to hold some fig jam or quince paste. She also recommends presenting things in odd rather than even numbers, as this can be more pleasing to the eye (and tastebuds).
Although, it may be worth keeping in mind that if any of your friends are vegan/vego or have any particular food allergies to make sure particular food groups are not touching! To do this, you could always add extra small bowls as dividers, or even use smaller dishes/pans to make sure everyone can get in on the cheese-platter action!
If you want to give the gift of a good grazing platter (or #treatyourself), @brightongraze offers beautifully curated and delicious boxes that suit all tastes ranging from sweet tooths to savoury lovers and everyone in-between!