When I was a toddler, while other kids my age had a merry time at the park, I watched my father whip up delectable dishes. I instinctively caught his passion for food and spent my growing years learning my way around the kitchen. The lockdown last year gave me the opportunity to turn my passion into my profession, and thus, Crave to Plate was born.
There’s a lot more to assembling a charcuterie and cheese board than plating a few kinds of cheeses and cold cuts together. It’s a form of art and a chance to satiate both the eyes and the palates of your guests. If you bear in mind the flavours, dietary restrictions, personalisations and accompaniments they would enjoy most, you have the perfect formula for happy stomachs.
Curating The Perfect Cheese Platter
A cheese board is likely the simplest appetiser one can dish out, though it adds a touch of panache to any get-together. Putting one together is fairly hassle-free, though choosing the right mix of cheese, wine, meat and accompaniments requires a bit of planning. These pointers will smoothen the process for you.
The key to a good cheese platter is to include variety and a mix of textures. Every plate must feature a soft, semi-firm and hard or aged cheese. Think Gouda, sharp Cheddar and Gruyère. Also serve cheese produced from different sources of milk; cow, sheep and goat’s cheese can be spiked with various flavour combinations, as well. As much as I love to experiment, my go-to is to quickly whip up some soft cheese with a few of my favourites, such as cranberry, cinnamon, wasabi, truffle and miso. To further please the palate, I add a bit of meat to the mix. For a little more texture and punch, dress up your Brie with nuts, fruits, or jam.
Next comes the meat. Offer guests at least three to four options of cured metas. Give them a pick of prosciutto di parma, a variety of salami and chicken-based ham.
A variety of shapes and sizes of the cheese on display add to the appeal of a platter. Pick cheeses that are rolled up or cut into spheres, wedges or cubes. It’s advisable to steer clear of pre-sliced cheese—slicing them fresh keeps the flavour intact.
Have fun with arranging your cheese board and be flexible. Go simple and keep the platter sparse, or stack it up entirely. Remember that cheese tastes best at room temperature, so let your cuts sit out for at least 30 minutes before serving. When displayed, add little labels by each so guests know what they are eating.
Accompaniments aren’t just fillers. They are the perfect opportunity to get creative and make your board more interesting and appealing.
Bread and crackers are a must—the most popular choice among vegetarians. For the health-conscious, sourdough, rye, whole-wheat crackers and flatbreads are good options. Fresh, sweet, salty, and tangy elements, such as sliced cucumbers, add to the board. Berries go beautifully with cheese, and seedless grapes bring a natural sweetness and crunch to what’s on offer. The tartness of olives and pickles is always a welcome addition.
Sweet condiments such as figs, apricots, honey, or other seasonal preserves not only balance the savoury and umami flavours of the cheese and meats, but also make the board more visually impressive. A handful of nuts are also good for additional crunch.
Include surprise elements to the spread such as hummus, guacamole and other such dips to add more colour to the display. Some fresh herbs and edible flowers can be your final touches.
Things To Keep In Mind
You musn’t leave your cheese board out at room temperature for more than two hours. This window shortens further to 90 minutes in the summer as well as monsoons, as the risk of spoilage is higher.
Photos: Karan Takulia; Table Setting & Styling: Amber Tikari
This has been adapted for the website from a story that was originally published in Hello! India’s December 2021 issue. Get your hands on the latest issue right here!