The silly season is fast approaching and, no matter whether you're the host or a guest at another abode, a grazing platter of colourful nibbles is always a welcomed addition at any social gathering. Fresh, colourful and brimming with options, you're bound to get a collective 'oooooh' when you place a loaded board in front of a crowd of peckish guests.
A grazing platter is a board that's loaded with tasty and complimentary things to eat - think crisp veggie sticks and crackers; colourful dips and fancy cheeses; crunchy nuts and cold-cuts; fresh or dried fruit and decadent chocolate. Total eye-candy for your taste buds, and with options galore there's bound to be something on board to tickle everyones fancy. They're a slow, relaxed, sociable way to eat, perfect for both low-key catch-ups and fancier events.
More reasons platters are awesome
They're prepared in advance, so as the host you don't have to fuss once guests arrive - just take a seat and join in on the feasting!
They're easy (and fun!) to set up. Let your creative juices flow as you load everything on the board - no doubt you'll feel pretty chuffed at your finished creation.
Post-feasting clean up is a breeze - just wipe down the board!
Tools of the trade
Putting together a platter is easy as, but there's a few things to keep in mind:
Every platter needs a base. Depending on the crowd your feeding is your best bet around what to use. if you're serving a small to medium crowd go for a small-large serving board. If you're serving a medium to large crowd, use one or more large serving boards or even a table lined with parchment table.
For a rustic-looking set-up, go for a wooden board, and for something more contemporary, marble is nice. To keep it simple, instead of a board you can also just place baking/parchment paper directly onto a table and build on that - once it's loaded up it will look fabulous.
You'll also need a few small bowls to load up with dip (also great at giving your platter height and dimension!), and some cheese knifes for smearing things onto crackers and slicing cheese etc. To keep it low-key you're welcomed to leave dips in the pots they come in - I'm all for aesthetics, but at the end of the day it won't affect taste. You do you.
Food, glorious food
When selecting ingredients for your healthy platter, aim to include lots of lovely whole foods - these are foods that aren't processed or have been as minimally processed as possible. Here they're brimming with nutrients that support health. With a variety of ingredients on board, each loaded mouthful (think a cracker smeared with salty cheese and fruit paste, and then topped with smoked salmon) will hit multiple flavour profiles e.g. sweet, bitter or salty. Such a hedonic way to eat!
When shopping for ingredients keep in mind the number of guests you're feeding, and only buy what you need. Aim to include at least 1-2x from each sections below:
The vehicle (aka things to dip into dips)
Fresh veggie sticks
Let the seasons guide you as to what to buy, and go for lots of colour for a vibrant platter - not only will they be cheaper, but they'll be at their peak nutritionally
Crackers e.g. oat crackers, rice crackers (gluten-free option)
Quality bread e.g. sourdough, sliced thinly
Fresh fruit - whatever's seasonal!
Dried fruit e.g. figs, apricots, sultanas
Honey or honeycomb - amazing with cheeses or smeared onto crackers
Dark chocolate - go for a high percentage of cocoa (it's packed with antioxidants)
Seafood e.g. smoked salmon wedge/slices, oysters
An assortment of nuts e.g. walnuts, almonds, cashews, pistachio
Cheeses - the hero of any platter e.g. soft brie, pungent blue, hard cheddar, salty feta
If you're dairy-free or vegan, there are fabulous vegan-friendly cheeses available. Some supermarkets and most health shops will stock options.
Smoked or quality deli meats e.g. smoked chicken, smoked fish, champagne ham or prosciutto
Dippy things and spreads
Olives (remember to add a little bowl to discard pips)
Marinated veggies e.g. artichokes, gherkins or peppers
Condiments e.g. mustard (dijon/whole grain)
Edible flowers to fill in gaps. Totally not necessary, so you can have extra brownie points for this one.
Keep in mind food safety
It's not a good idea to keep foods at room temperature for long periods of time, with some foods spoiling quicker than others. If serving items on your platter that need to be chilled (e.g. oysters), it's worthwhile placing them on top ice or adding at the last minute.
When building your board...
Place bigger items down first e.g. cheeses, bowls of dips.
Then fill the gaps with smaller items e.g. nuts, dried or fresh fruit... be creative with your space.
Get artistic. Swirl items like crackers or layer on top of one another.
Group like-items together for ease of use e.g. veggie sticks and dips, crackers and cheeses. This is particularly useful for larger platters.
Tips for pretty-as-a-picture platters
Make it colourful. Remember different colours equal different nutrients! Include a few different colourful veggie sticks and dips e.g. a bright pinky beetroot or vibrant orange carrot!
Practicality wins. Keep things bite-sized, and so minimal effort for your guests.
'Less is more' does NOT apply. Abundance really is the WOW factor with platters - load it up, and fill in the gaps with small items like berries or nuts - this will make your platter look like it's overflowing!
Platters don't need to be expensive, but if you're not mindful of costs when you shop then cost can quickly add up - I have made this mistake before! It all comes down to the ingredients used.
Always go for seasonal fruit and veggies
Making your own dips can often work out cheaper
You don't need to use fancy cheeses. Always look for what's on special!
Look in your pantry first to see if you have anything that needs to be used up - great for any extra nuts or dried fruit!