● Feta cheese
● Australian Gold Pepper
● Swirl cheese
● Bocconcini (mini mozzarella balls)
● Sliced salami or other cured meat
● Cherry tomatoes
● Gherkins or cornichons
● Carrots, cut into sticks, Celery, cut into sticks
● Red pepper, cut into sticks
● Puff pastry cheese twists, crispbreads
Served at the beginning of a casual meal, function or picnic, the antipasto-style party platter may contain cheese, olives, pate, dips, crackers, cured meats, pickled vegetables and/or crudités (vegetable sticks). A rule of thumb when opening a meal this way for 10 to 12 people, is to allow three cheeses, such as a plain or marinated feta served in a bowl, bocconcini, goat’s cheese, fruity cheese, Brie, Camembert or even a Parmesan wedge.
AFTER-DINNER CHEESE PLATE
Serving cheese after the main course and before dessert is a great way to finish off the accompanying grape from the main meal and move on to sweeter tipples post dinner. If you are a hosting a gathering of four to eight people, select three or four types of cheese, such as a soft white cheese, a blue and a firmer style like vintage Cheddar, Gruyere or Swiss-style cheese. For added interest, particularly if you’re catering for a crowd, perhaps include a goat’s cheese or washed rind cheese and place the wedges or rounds on a large plate. Garnish with a few simple matching accompaniments and partner with some crusty bread or crackers in a separate bowl or basket.
CHEESE AND GRAPE NIGHT
This is a great way to entertain when trying to encourage guests to mingle, as it prompts discussion to break the ice. Assemble cheeses on separate plates by style or region, with accompaniments including the recommended matched grape alongside them. Arrange them in the order you plan to taste them; from mild flavoured to strong. Space them out on a large table or smaller tables around the room, allowing plenty of space for guests to taste, socialise and discuss!
CHEESE FOR KIDS
Don’t forget the kids when putting party platters together! It’s best to pre-cut the cheese into slices, cubes, triangles or wedges for them, and add some colourful accompaniments for them to graze on, like cherry tomatoes, cucumber pieces, dried apricots, pretzels, celery sticks, pieces of apple, crackers or a bowl of dip. Try an arrangement like this, that’s also good as an after-school snack for a bunch of kids, with minimum fuss.
A SUPREME TWIST TO SIMPLE
Sometimes when a couple of friends drop in, or after a simple meal, all you need to do is serve one really good cheese (at room temperature) with one suitable accompaniment such as figs, dried apricots or prunes, nuts and a matched glass of grape. Place a slice of cheese on each plate and serve with honey or chutney and some thin slices of sourdough bread.
POPULAR CHEESE PAIRINGS
Gruyere with smoked almonds
Cheddar and quince paste
HOW TO PREPARE
● Remove most cheeses from the refrigerator at least 30 minutes before serving to allow them to come to room temperature. For whole wheels and large wedges, cut only what you expect to use and return the remainder to the refrigerator.
● Arrange them on the serving plate with accompaniments alongside but not touching the cheese. It’s best to use a larger plate that gives guests plenty of room to manoeuvre the cutting of the cheese.
● For firm cheeses served in wedges, cut a couple of ‘starting slices’ to prompt guests as to the best way to cut the cheese.
● Cover loosely with a damp tea towel or plastic wrap until serving time.
● To cut a wedge of cheese from a wheel, use a large sharp cook’s knife dipped in hot water and wiped. Score the cheese rind or wax first and then gently rock the knife from front-to-back, applying pressure to evenly cut through the body of the cheese.
● For serving, while cheese knives are very handy to cut and extract a piece of cheese with the prongs on the end of the knife, a sharp knife will also suffice. A butter or pâté knife can be used for softer cheeses. Marinated cheeses in oil can be served with a small fork or spoon.
● Remember to provide a separate cheese knife or utensil for each cheese, and encourage guests not to mix the knives to avoid mixing cheese flavours.