The saviour of dinner parties.
It’s the weekend and you’re having loved ones over for a bit of a get-together, a dinner party perhaps. You’re racking your brains to serving up something more than a box of Jatz, bags of chips and the same old guacamole dip for pre-meal nibbles. “It’s all too hard!” you think, as you dread having to toil away in the kitchen after having had a long week at work. But before you start gravitating towards the ol’ cracker and dip aisle, we have an alternative that is guaranteed to be a crowd pleaser.
Hail the grazing platter; brimming with fresh quality seasonal produce, delectable shaved meats, opulent fruits, it is the perfect combination of a little bit of everything. It makes it easier for the host too as you can prep everything before everyone arrives. And when they do arrive, all you need to do is to pop the champagne, uncork the wine and enjoy yourself. Goodbye to sweating and stressing in the kitchen whilst missing out on all the fun! There isn’t a better way to get loved ones together and bonding over a platter of amazing food.
And hold up, the best news about grazing platters is that you don’t have to be a food maven or spend a lot to put one together! We had a chat with a delightful member of our home.cook.love family, Jane McMillan, for her tips on how to put together simple but yet amazingly tasteful grazing platters. Jane has been creating some marvellously delectable grazing platters and tables for friend’s birthdays, baby showers and when she hosts her own dinner parties.
What inspired you to want to create your own grazing platters?
My husband and I love having people over, we are definitely entertainers and can’t think of anything better than sharing an afternoon or night with our friends and family. Cheese platters are often the go-to when you have people over and my experience putting them together definitely started humbly and simply with a few cheeses and crackers on a board. As I did more and more my confidence grew and I began creating larger and more extravagant platters, that eventually became grazing tables when bigger events like baby showers and birthday parties were on.
Where do you get your ideas from?
A few things actually. I often start with what size board/area I’m trying to fill. That will dictate the kind of style I go with and ingredients/products I use. Also the time of year, and availability of some products, I love a sale so if something has a good price that can sway me in what I buy on the day. The weather and time of day will the platter will be eaten is also a consideration. If it’s the middle of summer I’d probably go with a lot more fresh fruit and vegetables and minimise cheese and meats that can sweat and become gross in the heat. Winter would be all about the cheese and meats! It’s always great to see what other people do with their platters so I always check out Instagram for inspiration too.
Where do you source your ingredients?
Whatever and wherever is convenient. Anywhere from a local fruit and veg shop or deli to Woolworths or Coles. I have some go-to favourite cheeses that you can only find in certain supermarkets but really you can make an awesome platter from anywhere. It’s more about what you want to spend. I have made platters that have cost the same as a whole grazing table. You can make beautiful and delicious platters for almost any price, both inexpensively and extravagantly! My biggest tip to save is to buy your meat from a deli, either a stand-alone one or part of a supermarket and get them to cut the meat you want. Don’t buy pre-packaged prosciutto or salami for example, it’s always cheaper to get them to slice it for you. And ask for them to slice it as thinly as possible. The second cost saver is to fill up the board with a lot of chopped vegetables and dips. If you cut the veggies yourself you can get a lot of “fillers” that is relatively inexpensive. Cheese and meat are where you spend most of your money on when it comes to a platter.
What pre-planning tips do you have for us?
Know what you want on your platter. Write a list of everything you want to put on the platter. I have often put platters together and forgotten ingredients I bought in the fridge! When placing your platter, I find more is more! Don’t have any gaps, piling ingredients up is better than spacing out – visually at least!
What’s your number 1 time saving tip?
Buy the ingredients the day before and prepare as much as you can ahead of time. It’s best to buy fresh ingredients as close as possible to serving your platter but things like crackers and cheeses can be bought ahead of time so long as you check the used buy date. I like to buy all fruit/veg, meat and antipasto the day before or even the morning of pending what time you’re serving. Cut up all your carrot sticks, celery and other veggie sticks the morning of the day you’re serving the platter. Put them in plastic containers with a little bit of water to keep them fresh
- Start with looking at the size of board/area you need to fill.
- Write down everything you want to put in the platter.
- Always look to buy fresh produce.
- Try to avoid pre-packaged foods. Get meats and cheeses sliced for you, it’s cheaper and fresher.
- Fill the board with load of self-prepped, pre-chopped veggies and dips.
- Buy fresh produce the day or morning prior.
- Items like crackers can be bought a lot more in advanced. Just check the use-by dates.
- Store pre-chopped veggies in containers with a little water to keep them fresh.
- Don’t leave any gaps. Pile ingredients instead of spacing them out.
After more dinner party ideas, inspiration and recipes? Join our ‘The Dinner Party Hub’ Facebook community of dinner party aficionados and novices to share your dinner party experiences!
Jane is mum to a gorgeous little boy Parker, wife to her high school sweetheart and Business Development Manager at one of Australia’s top media agencies. Check out more of Jane’s amazing platters below and on Instagram @clinchy.