Put down the cabanossi, step away from the cheese cubes. Easter is here and it needn’t be another Jatz-fest. Before resorting to a bowl of sad crisps and cheap dips, consider the new party platter: fresh, hand-made and richly detailed.
Brimming with beautiful fruits, shaved meats and quality produce, these so-called “grazing plates” have become obvious fodder for social media. But they have a practical element, too.
“The beauty of a platter [is] having a little bit of everything, not just one thing,” says Bianca Monley of @littlemagicfeast. “It’s a great way for people to come together and bond over food.”
They’re a sensible alternative to dinner parties, too. “It’s easier for the host – you can have it all ready before everyone comes and when they arrive you can just pop the champagne and actually enjoy yourself rather than being in the kitchen the whole time,” Monley says. “And you’ve only got one plate to wipe down at the end.”
Here’s how to make your own.
Go for quality
Never skimp on quality or cut corners with cheap produce – that’s Monley’s top tip. Her dips are made in-house from avocado, beetroot and cannellini beans, as are the nut and seed lavosh, and treats such as mint slice and caramel popcorn.
“Quality is everything,” Monley says. “Where you got the food from [often] becomes a talking point around the platter.”
That doesn’t mean you have to make your own crisp bread from scratch, or spend a fortune on fancy crackers, though. Local farmers’ markets tend to have most items at a reasonable price, or if not, gather a small selection of quality items at a boutique grocery.
Start with a few fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables, choose a mixture of seeded crackers, and round out your shopping list with a couple of good cheeses: a creamy blue, King Island cheddar or, Monley’s favourite, d’Affinois.
Make it colourful
People really do “eat with their eyes”, Monley says, so the more colourful your platter, the better. Berries and fruits give it a visual “lift”, and edible flowers add a delicate touch.
“We also use a diversity of products – nuts, seeds, crackers, katsu curry salad cups – there’s something on there for everyone.”
A fun display is particularly important for children, though quantities can be much smaller. Cut cucumbers cut into stars or watermelons into hearts, for example, and get the kids involved by asking them to place blueberries on circles of watermelons as eyes.
Platter by numbers
Groups of threes give your platter an attractive symmetry, Monley says. “Three different cheeses, three different crackers, three different berries – it just balances nicely on a platter.”
Rather than placing “clumps” of single ingredients over your board, Monley suggests spreading items around evenly. This looks better, and means your guests can reach for ingredients from any part of the table.
Start by spacing three cheeses across the board, then slowly build around them, filling in any gaps with crackers, lettuce cups and small snacky items such as nuts and fruit, and finishing with the brightest berries or flowers on top.
Alternatively, place one big cheese in the centre on a stand, and build around that wheel. And for real “wow” effect, use the biggest round wooden platter you can find.
Keep it bite-sized
“Don’t put anything too big that’s going to be too awkward [to eat],” Monley says. “Everyone wants one or two bites maximum. The whole beauty is you can eat a little bit of everything and you won’t be too full to eat anything else.”