LET’S NATTER ABOUT PLATTERS
Platters, platters, platters. They’re all the rage. They’re exciting and delicious and very very instagram-worthy. They instantly elevate your status to HOST with the MOST… if they’re done right. And platter-making, whilst it doesn’t necessarily have to involve cooking, does need to involve a little artistry. Platter art. Plart? No, that sounds gross. They’re great though – afternoon tea, pre-dinner appetisers, party food, any and all kind of snack – all are simply solved with a platter.
I can throw together a pretty passable platter without much notice. But the undisputed king of platters is my dad Paul. The image above is his handiwork – it’s also all vegan, because he is a show-off. So, I played a Better Call Paul card (trademarked, by me), texted him to ask his top five platter tips, and got a five-word text back (good to see he has a lot of time for his only daughter): “colour, variety, height, shape, flavour”.
A very good start. But five words were not quite enough for me – so I called in another expert, my dear friend Emily Braithwaite, who with bestie/business partner Bella Seymour runs thriving local business The Platter Place. She made some great points about why platters are such a smart choice when it comes to catering: “Platters are great for any sized function. Whether it be 5 -100 people, it gives people a huge variety of food they can choose from which is also great for catering for dietary requirements as well. It’s also excellent because you can set it up for the beginning of your event. Once the event has commenced you can sit back, relax and enjoy, instead of having to constantly cook and be serving food all day or all night!”
Well, I’m convinced. Consider me staunchly pro-platter. So let’s look at Paul’s five points a little more in-depth, with some of Em’s valuable wisdom and some of my dorky attempts at jokes smattered throughout!
My top tips on colour: you want as many as possible, and you want them to be natural. Think colourful fruit and veg, zesty dips, herbs to garnish. Don’t rely on packaging or those crazy coloured rice crackers to give you a pop – it just doesn’t look as good. Pro tip from Em: “When designing a big flat spread like a grazing table it’s important to have as limited gaps as possible and use colourful and textured food to break up the bleak colours of foods like biscuits.” So there you have it, folks. Biscuits are bleak and gaps are out. You heard it here first.
What’s the difference between plain old cheese and biccies and a cheese platter? Variety of course! You want different kinds of cheese (at the very LEAST one hard and one soft, and maybe a blue too if you’re into that. I certainly am), two kinds of cracker or maybe a cut up baguette, and some extra bits – quince paste, grapes, strawberries, nuts, cherry tomatoes, olives. Any or all of these will do!! Also, Em reminded me – the quality of the products is important too! Platters can be super economic, but if you’re splashing out for an occasion, kick the tasty cheddar off that platter and treat yourself to some d’Affinois or Delice de Bourgignon. You deserve it!
This is SUCH a Paul thing. On a platter he’ll use different sized little bowls, stands, wine glasses, maybe a bowl on top of another upturned bowl, piles of little goodies or mounds of bread to create this wonderful 3D spectacle. It works a treat. Unleash your inner food feng shui master and get creative! But also don’t forget you’ll probably have to carry your platter somewhere. I once did a teetering tall beautiful rainbow stack of crudités that looked wayyy less impressive tumbling to the ground as I tripped over my own feet.
I don’t mean just the shape of the stuff you serve – I mean round crackers, round slices of tomato, round wheel of brie, round slices of salami – these can all look delightful on a platter together. But what shape will they be in? Swirls? Neat rows? Cute little piles? A fire-breathing dragon with wings? (If you can pull off that last one, send me pics. I’ll cook you a five course meal with paired wines). Think about the shape of your platter, too. Is it a large round plate? A big wooden board (very 2018, and definitely Paul’s favourite. He had some custom made that are almost exactly the length of our kitchen bench, as you have seen).
Ok now I think we need to take a moment to acknowledge, altogether, that it doesn’t matter how pretty and ‘grammable your food is. If it doesn’t taste good… it’s not doing its damn job. With platters, we’ve already established variety – this rule definitely applies here. We want savoury things, sweet things, crunchy things, soft things, tangy things, maybe even hot and spicy things! And we want them to be fresh. And also delicious… duh.
So… you now have all the tips and tricks at your disposal to present perfect platters every time. Or, if you’re pressed for time and just want the experts to do it (and you’re based in Hobart or Melbs), call Em and The Platter Place will sort you out. (Don’t call Paul. If I start giving his number to everyone that wants cooking advice – as I may have tipsily done at a recent gathering, what am I like – I have been firmly told he will not be amused and my steady source of culinary advice will dry up quick smart).
SIMPLE SNACK PLATTER
OK I’m not going to go so far as to call this a recipe, but I recently had some friends come over for a clothes swap (how cute and sustainable are we? Makes me feel much better about forgetting the damn shopping bags all the time) and said I’d provide some snacks. I bought this:
And then, following all the Platter Commandments as we have laid them out today, I turned it into this:
Please note the use of colour (THANK YOU beetroot tzatziki), texture, shape. Height wasn’t too applicable here but can confirm flavour was top notch. We grazed on this bad boy aalllll afternoon.