Want to make the ultimate party platter of food for your guests?
This post is packed with tips about how you can easily create the perfect platter that will WOW your guests with the right balance of flavours and textures.
Gone are the days of the cheese and pineapple on a stick hedgehogs. OMG I can hear you say ‘do you remember those?’ These were so popular back in the 80s but were replaced by dips & chips as the party favourite.
Now, the platter is the centrepiece adorning many tables around the country, creating a MUCH more sophisticated experience...
Charcuterie boards, grazing boards or cheese platters are now the go-to for guests to experience local delicacies.
Platters can also be a quick casual dinner for an intimate supper for two or for an evening with a few friends while putting the world to rights over a glass of wine.
So how can you put together a well-balanced platter for your event?
You want to have a good balance of textures and flavour sensations, sweet and savoury, crunchy and soft.
1. Start with your protein bases first
Choose contrasting cheeses and a range of flavours from mild to strong, as well as soft to hard textures. Ask your cheesemonger to recommend a selection for you if you aren’t sure or you want to know what’s in season.
Like cheese, the world has an array of offerings. Each country has its own speciality of cured meats. I love bresaola, chorizo and coppa and lucky enough to have a wonderful local Irish producer on my doorstep.
Choose charcuterie with a range of flavours and shapes with different textures.
I like to scrunch up the slices to give a bit more depth to the platter, rather than leaving them flat.
For large events why not have a separate oyster platter, or smoked fish like salmon, mackerel or a fish pâté, great for the pescetarians.
Make sure to keep everything cold and or serve on ice, this can look very impressive, for your guests and much easier than serving hot food on platters allowing much more time with your friends and loved ones.
You can’t go wrong with simply cooked fish with just a fresh squeeze of lemon and some simple dips for everyone to savour the flavour.
2. Let’s add freshness and crunch
Grapes are very traditional, and add volume with colour, but why not go for some soft figs, dates stuffed with pistachios or spiced poached apricots with cream cheese and pecans.
I love to use fresh fruits that are in season but dried fruits are perfect when availability is not at hand and quickly give colour and texture.
It doesn’t just have to be celery or carrot sticks...Why not go for crunchy sliced apples, stuffed olives, marinated peppers and artichokes.
Beautiful crunchy radishes and endive leaves add lovely colour and contrast.
3. Now add sweet and sour
Don’t feel you have to pull out that aged jar of pickled onions or gherkins. Why not make up a fresh pickle from local vegetables with a simple olive oil and lemon dressing or balsamic vinegar.
Brinjal pickle is perfect with cured meats for a little spice.
Your chutney choices should complement your other elements. I always like to offer a choice of three if it’s for a group.
4. Don't forget the crackers and bread
If your guests are going to be standing, I like to offer thick slices of sourdough bread or some robust crackers to help them pile up their treats on their plate.
Oatmeal biscuits are great as a background to the start of the show - the cheese and meats.
Or consider making your own breadsticks with wonderful herbs like rosemary and a sprinkling of sea salt, cover them in poppy seeds to make them extra special.
And use up those little bits of leftover cheese to make wonderful cheese sables. These can be prepared ahead ready to be baked fresh on the day.
NOTE: Remember to keep your gluten-free options separate for guests, always wise to double check their likes/dislikes or any allergies before they arrive!
5. Finally, garnishes to finish and finesse
Walnuts, pecans and macadamia, choose your favourite, are great additions to a grazing board or a larger platter. They fill the gaps and add little pick-up snacks.
Adding in some micro herbs, very vogue at the moment, packed full of nutritious goodies, like rocket, fresh basil and onion seeds. Crisp contrasting leaves of lettuce will make your platter feel alive and healthy for your guests.
Platter ideas for dinner
A platter doesn’t just have to be for nibbles at parties, it’s perfect for an amazing relaxed casual dinner for larger gatherings and can be made into a show-stopping centerpiece.
Here combine everything, cheese, meat, fish with breads and dips, fruit and vegetables and accompaniments.
Or what about a themed style. Try an American hot crab dip with sweetcorn and cream cheese.
An oven-baked spinach artichoke dip is good for a vegetarian option. These hot dips can be made in advance too.
If you want something simpler, try a Nigel Slater recipe of fresh ripe tomatoes with olive oil, garlic and a melting cheese like feta or Cavanbert that will meld with the other flavours.
How to arrange the perfect platter
Once you have all your ingredients, choose your plates, dishes and boards.
I like to arrange them onto the table first to get a sense of space and where I’m going to place everything. Including seasonal floral arrangements to dress your table and bring your table to life and look sensational.
Begin by filling your boards and platters with the charcuterie first, then add the cheese to complement.
Fill in the gaps with your fruit, vegetables and nuts.
For larger events, where people will be using a buffet-style layout, simply group items together.
Top Tips for your platters
Don’t forget napkins, cutlery and side plates
Add bowls of cocktail sticks
Remember to keep your gluten-free crackers and bread separate
Let your cheese come up to room temperature
Chill wine, prepare soft drinks and cocktails and get your glasses ready for greeting your guests
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