Here’s how to create the ultimate cheese platter
Whether you're entertaining a handful of guests, or a whole house full, a beautifully constructed cheese board can be a real show-stopper. Piled high with meats, cheeses and morsels - and presented with a little creative flair – these delicious platters encourage party goers to graze, relax and chat.
Looking for cheese platter ideas? Here's how to assemble a charcuterie board, step by step.
STEP ONE: BUILD A BASE
Your first consideration in creating a simple charcuterie board is the board itself. Choose quality wooden board or platter big enough to hold treats for all your guests.
Next, add small serving bowls across the board. These can be filled with chutneys, mustards and dips - all wonderful grazing table ideas - or small items like olives and nuts. Bowls are also great structures to build your charcuterie board around.
STEP TWO: ADD YOUR CHEESE
Need cheese board ideas? Head to delis or cheesemongers for interesting local and imported finds. For a well-rounded cheese board, plan to include one familiar flavour (a cheddar, for example), one exciting flavour (something new or rare), two varieties of milk cheeses (usually cow's milk and goat's milk) and one aged cheese (for sharper, deeper flavours).
Pre-cutting the cheese makes your board easy to serve, as well as upping the style factor considerably. Aim for a variety of shapes and textures arranged around the board, allowing generous access for your guests.
Need some inspiration? Try these creative cutting styles:
The mini triangle: Small wheels of soft cheese, like brie, can be sliced in half to form semi-circles. Add cheese serving knives so people can help themselves.
The wedge: Harder cheeses like gouda can be pre-cut into wedges for serving. Slice generously and cut diagonally into triangles. Placed upright on the board, with the short side of the wedge vertical, these can form attractive shapes.
The crumble: Hard, crumbly cheeses like aged cheddar call for a more rustic look. Crumble into bite-size pieces and form into a pile on the board
The fan: Slice harder cheeses like manchego into thin wedges, then fan out on the board for a gorgeous, and tasty, display.
The slice: Slice a small wedge from a soft cheese, and place it slightly away from the rest of the block, giving a nice visual effect and providing a clear starting point.
STEP THREE: ADD YOUR EXTRAS
Select quality smoked and cured meats to complement your cheeses. Again, think in terms of visual presentation as much as taste. Prosciutto looks delectable casually scrunched on a board, thinly sliced salamis and hams can be folded or rolled, while sausage rounds can be piled up for easy picking.
Add a few small stacks of crackers to the board. For bread, simple is best, so avoid strong flavours. (Baguette slices are a classic for a reason, balancing elegant looks with a deliciously crusty texture.) For even more crunch, place small piles of almonds, Brazil nuts or pistachios across the board.
Fruits and fresh vegetables help cut through the big flavours and fats of cheese and meat, and they're a lovely opportunity to add colour to your board as well. Grapes, berries, cherry tomatoes and cut figs are perfectly sized for grazing and nibbling. Celery, cucumber and carrot sticks work well, too.
It may seem odd to layer on sweetness with meat and cheese, but a grazing platter is designed for guests to enjoy however they like, and if that means a little chocolate in between savoury mouthfuls, then so be it. Dried fruits - apples, apricots, dates - are perfect additions, as are shards of dark chocolate or toffee. Fruit-packed baked goods, like jam drops or small chunks of fruit cake, are unexpected but delicious.
STEP FOUR: GARNISH AND ENJOY
A sprinkling of fresh herbs or edible flowers is the final touch to a stunning grazing plate. Most of the elements are best served at room temperature, so the board can be assembled up to an hour ahead and kept covered. Add breads and crackers just before serving, along with any garnishes. Then let your guests dig in and enjoy.