I love the thought of visually stunning food that’s hugely impressive without being too hard to create.
So whilst the reference to insta in the title is completely tongue in cheek, I came across these platters on insta and snapchat via the ladies over at Spell Designs and found out they were the creations of my friend Mel. They’d been popping up at various Spell events (this full table spread had me drooling) and I really really reallllllly wanted to learn how to create one too. Of course, when I landed in the same Byron Bay postcode as Mel last week I couldn’t help but beg her to show me the secrets of the platter craft.
You might be thinking ‘dont you just, like, chuck some stuff on a board?’. But, it turns out that in the same way you don’t just throw your stuff on the ground when you’re doing a flatlay, nor do you do this when creating a food platter. In fact, I surprised that Mel had such a foolproof formula to making your platters amazing – more of a food experience than an ordinary platter. And actually super easy!
- Cheeses – minimum of 3. (catering for more> approx 1 block per 5 people). We chose one brie, one cheddar and one blue. Grab some quince paste if you get blue!
- Dips – minimum of 2 (catering for more> approx 1 dip per 6 people). Choose colourful ones like Beetroot dip.
- Olives, Sundried Tomatoes, Artichokes etc. – We got one small tub of these each.
- Assorted salamis and meats –We used one or two packets. Naturally you can leave these out if you’re veggie! Add more marinated veggies if so.
- Crackers – We got 2 boxes but always buy more than you think you’ll need.
- Rocket – one bag
- Fruit – Strawberries, blueberries, grapes, figs (get only a few if they are expensive), passion fruit, pomegranate, one or two pears.
- Nuts – like cashews and almonds (pick the salty ones :))
- Chocolate – We got the Lindt with a touch of salt because… no words.
- annnnnnd whatever else you want to add. So long as it’s yummy and colourful.
Tools of the trade
- A large platter or piece of wood (make sure it’s a clean natural piece of wood rather than a composite that may have been treated).
- Small bowls
- Cheese of normal knives
Before we get into the process, the biggest thing I learnt from doing this with Mel is that you want to fill the whole platter up so it has a feeling of abundance, and it’s overflowing with no holes or gaps. Therefore, your main focus is filling every single gap with something delicious, hence all the smaller items like blueberries, nuts and rocket. By the end you want absolutely no board showing through. Another thing is to embrace the chaos, don’t try to place it all out perfectly in the shape of a clock (or whatever), as that can look contrived. For this, rustic is better. Let’s get started!
1. Lay out a framework
You’re generally going to focus on an organic layout, but first you’ll want to use your cheese as markers on your board. Thus, a little bit of structure. Lay them in a row or on the sides. Break or cut your blocks if they are too big. Then, add rocket underneath to prop them up and fill any black spaces.
2. Add bowls
Think it’s ok to wack those plastic dip containers on your platter? Think again! Probably the only major rule for this platter – decant your dips and olives etc into small bowls. Then, place your bowls around the platter. Try to avoid placing them too symmetrically, we’re going for a rustic ‘whatever’ feel here. Remember to keep adding rocket around what you add to fill any gaps.
3. Swirl your crackers
Add a few swirls of crackers around your platter, mixing them between the cheeses and making sure to press them close to what’s on the board already. Don’t put all your crackers on at once unless you’re doing a huggggge board because they’ll crowd it, you can always add more later as people eat them.
4. Create themed sections
Kinda. Now’s the time to start adding more to the board including the cut fruit, rolled salamis and meats, and if you can, it’s nice to kinda group these things together. For example create a Mediterranean area and a fruit area. You don’t have to be too militant about this but it can have a nice effect. If you’re working with a bigger board, you can put a pear or two on whole. You can do a swipe of quince paste if you’re using it.
5. Fill the gaps
Once you’ve added all the big items, go through and fill all the gaps with blueberries and the nuts. Add as many as you can so the platter becomes more of a 3D pile of food rather than being flat. This is gonna get you the ‘oooooohhhhs’ and ‘ahhhhhhs’.
6. Push from the edges
Once the board is almost done, time for the best bit. The chocolate! Pushing from the outside in, make room around the edges for adding the chocolate. This will help build up the middle of the platter and make it denser. Break up the chocolate in rustic way rather than into squares, and fill the outside gaps with it. Done and done.
Chances are after all that you’re going to be too excited and hungry to bother taking photos, time to tuck in!
Q: But can I do this on a tight budget?
A: As I mentioned the key word for a platter like this is ‘abundance’. You want your guests/friends/etc to be overwhelmed by choice and the sheer size of the platter, so you’re going to have to spend some money to make this happen. That said, I felt this can actually be a rather inexpensive way to casually feed lots of people – I spent $80 on all this food and we felt it could have fed 10/12 at least. Not bad if you’re having a dinner party! Mel also mentioned that with more people it becomes even better value (aka economies of scale blah blah blah). In the past she’s created huge table sized platters for 30 people and spent only a couple of hundred dollars. Considering a caterer will charge you 10x that, DIY really is best! If your budget is tighter, bulk up on certain elements of the shopping list that are better value, like grapes, crackers, less fancy cheeses etc. Presentation can go a long way to making your platter look expensive.
We added some grapes around the platter after we laid it on the picnic rug. And poured ourselves some Prosecco because we’d earned it. (Lugging the food from the car was actually the hard part).
Thanks Mel for the lesson and your beautiful photos. Can’t talk. eating.