Putting together a quality cheese platter is one of the great pleasures in life. You’ve got your best mates round for a night of good drinks, good food and good laughs and so you want to make sure that your spread is loaded with a range of lovely cheeses for everybody to enjoy.
But the secret to a good cheese platter is to make sure there is food other than cheese on it. Some may say this no longer makes it a cheese platter. Fair enough. But whatever you want to call it, it’s important to mix it up a bit with a few palette cleansers.
We all know about crackers and dips so let’s assume you already have that all sussed out.
A good platter needs some nice olives. Most supermarkets these days offer some pretty decent olives, but if you really want proper gourmet olives you might need to go to an artisan food shop. A lovely chilli and garlic green olive or smoked kalamata olive is such a nice way to break up the cheese. Even better if you have a delicious gin and tonic in your other hand. The two just pair perfectly.
Cheese stuffed mini peppers
These mini peppers are stuffed with a cheese mix, usually made from feta, goat’s cheese, garlic and herbs. Like olives, they break up the heavy cheeses really nicely, and give you a lighter cheese hit with a bit of nice, sweet capsicum to go with it. As well as cleansing the palette, nibbling on some vegetable matter also makes you appear less of a glutton…even if it is still filled with cheese!
Beef jerky is an often overlooked platter item, possibly because gnawing on a great big stick of meat can appear to some to be beyond acceptable party etiquette. But this doesn’t have to be the case. Simply cut or break the jerky into smaller bite size pieces.
The great thing about jerky is that it comes in so many different flavours which may include:
Get a sample pack and arrange the bite sized pieces by flavour onto a cheese platter as an alternative to the more predictable deli meats that people tend to expect.
Similar to jerky, biltong is a great alternative to the usual salami or pepperoni slices you might normally find on a cheese platter. It is softer than jerky, making it a little easier to nibble on. Some varieties of biltong also come in a ‘fatty’ version, which means the slices have a very buttery feel that melts in the mouth. Just make sure you have paper towel on hand as the fatty biltong is quite moist. Like jerky, beef biltong also comes in many flavours and varieties, including:
– Truffle fatty
– Chilli fatty
Biltong can also be made from different meats, some can be quite gamey, others more traditional. You can even get lamb biltong, seasoned with rosemary and mint. Little slices of grandma’s Sunday roast on a cheese platter! It’s different, but you’re not impressing anybody by putting a twiggy stick on your cheese board.
Shiitake mushroom jerky
It’s nice to have a few alternatives to meat and cheese, and it’s increasingly likely that somebody in your social group is vegetarian or vegan. Shiitake mushroom jerky is basically the same as beef jerky and comes in a variety of flavours, similar to what you will find with its meat-based alternative.
Pickles aren’t for everybody, but let’s face it—you probably don’t want to be friends with anybody who doesn’t like pickles anyway (just kidding).
Store bought pickles are fine, but if you really want to take your platter up a notch, there are more artisanal pickles to be found in specialty food shops.
It’s hard to beat a nice honey roasted or maple flavoured cashew. The sweet and crispy coating on a nice rich cashew is a real treat. It also helps to break up the heavy lean towards more salty and savoury items that are also on your cheese platter.
The great thing about sweet, flavoured nuts is that they are still a savoury nibble, so you don’t feel as though you’re having a naughty dessert before dinner, but the sweetness just helps to add a bit of variety and slightly satisfy that sweet tooth of yours.
Eat and enjoy!
These are just some easy suggestions to start with. A few things to add to your cheese platter that aren’t the more bland and predictable things that an entry level platter will feature. There are loads of ways to level up your cheese board so get creative and enjoy a drink and a good nibble with your mates!