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Excelle Magazine        Food Hacks

Your plate or mine?

Remember the sharing platter when it was a chunk of cheese and a stack of crackers after tea, or “picky bits” at the pub? Well, there’s a new and improved version coming to a dinner table near you. 

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Our love of gorgeous-looking food that will wow friends, and the move to more relaxed dining habits, has bumped the platter up to main course status. Perfectly planned and immaculately presented, it even has a cool new name. Introducing the graze board. The graze board concept is believed to have come from Australia. Ros Randall, who owns online deli Cooks Larder (cookslarder.co.uk) with husband Jamie, noticed its popularity when they moved to Sydney in 2008. Ros says: “We weren’t really aware of the platter, or graze board, trend before we moved, but it’s very much part of the culture in Australia. It’s something you would take to a barbecue, whether at someone’s house or at the beach, and would certainly come out for special occasions.

“They’re usually focused on a brie or camembert with crackers (rice crackers are popular), smoked cheeses and fish, olives, fruit, salami, nuts and, if it’s a special occasion, there will always be a bowl of king prawns. They also like to include a fish pâté like smoked trout or mackerel.” The graze board has since made it big in the UK, with online searches for them hitting an all-time high in July 2021. Lockdown fuelled the launch of businesses dedicated to graze board deliveries, and 372,000 people have tagged their #grazingboard on Instagram. Alongside the traditional meat and cheese option, you can now order fruit, breakfast and dessert selections to your door, and event organisers even have the option of replacing the classic sit-down meal with a full graze table.

Flavour

The new, improved board might have been polished and preened by food stylists, but its success boils down to flavour. If you’re creating your own, The Telegraph’s Xanthe Clay recommends including sweet, sour, salty and savoury ingredients - and a hint of something bitter. You should also try to include lots of textures.

Picture perfect

For a board with style and substance, you’ll need to think about the practicalities, says India Timmis. The founder of StargrazingCo has created platters and food art for celebrities including Harry Kane and Zoe Ball. She starts by considering how many people she’ll be feeding, and what size and shape of platter will allow everyone to reach the ingredients. When it comes to creating your board, start by plating the bigger items like cheese and any pots/jars, followed by large fresh items like grapes and tomatoes, and then crackers and breads. Use smaller items like nuts, fruit and meats to fill in the gaps.

If you want to up the wow factor, you can also:

  • break different ingredients and colours up with herbs, fruit and edible flowers, and vary the height of each section to create interest.

  • use foods like sliced peppers or cucumber to create sharp edges or corners, if you’re creating a shaped board.

  • keep grapes, cherries, tomatoes - anything that grows on a stem - on it, to make your board look more natural and inviting.

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Breakfast

Treat yourselves to a lazy breakfast in bed, or save time with a board you can prep in advance for guests. A couple of items from each of the four main ingredient types will give you plenty to pick at:

  • proteins (eggs, bacon, smoked salmon, cheeses)

  • fruits (varying colours for impact) 

  • carbs (muffins, pancakes, bagels, toast, croissants)

  • toppings (yoghurt, cream cheese, jam, honey - even chocolate chips).

Regional

Champion your local area or hometown/ country by filling your board with locally sourced items, or paying tribute to a well-known dish. How about a dessert board that’s heavy on the parkin? Scatter it with gingerbread, toffee, cream and sharp fruit flavours , to break up the sweetness.

Event-themed

You’ve just missed the Euros and Wimbledon, but budding food stylists can still get their teeth into something creative for London Fashion Week (17 - 21 Sept) or Roald Dahl Day (13 Sept). Anyone for a bite of the BFG?

Say cheese

If you’re creating a meat and cheese board, the general rule is to include at least three types of cheese - one hard, one soft and creamy, and a blue cheese. Ros and Jamie consulted former Cheesemonger of the Year, Andy Swinscoe, when creating their charcuterie board. He recommended Yorkshire Pecorino, Old Winchester and Devon Blue. Quantity wise, start with around 50g per person (for an appetiser) and have some extra available for top ups.

All the gear

You don’t need expensive kit to create a great graze board. A chunky wooden board and mis-matched pots only add to the relaxed, indulgent feel. For something more polished, a large white serving plate is plenty – the colour, shape and placement of your ingredients will do most of the work for you. The only essential is accessories that make your guests’ experience better - especially if they’re not going to be seated. Think toothpicks, bowls for seeds and stems, and napkins for those awkward olive pit moments.

Take the stress out of catering your next event by ordering
an impressive ready made grazing platter from

Graze & Glitter - Facebook @grazeandglitter