The end of year party season offers the perfect time to impress your guests with an aesthetically pleasing and delicious charcuterie board. With a few secret tips from Bundaberg’s Brewed Drinks Entertaining Expert, Sarah McLellan, you can save the stress of party planning and upgrade your New Year’s celebration in just five simple steps with a gorgeous cheese platter that everyone will enjoy.
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The key to a good platter is a variety of texture, flavours, and colour. Think about cheeses in four basic groups; aged, soft, firm and blue.
Cheddar, Comte, and Goudas fall into the aged category, while the soft cheeses include the likes of Camembert, Brie, Chevre, Mozzarella, and Burrata. Moving into the firmer cheese with options like Parmigiano, Manchego, and Pecorino, followed by the more pungent blues with Gorgonzola, Roquefort and Stilton.
Having at least one cheese from each of the four categories is a great start, but even two or three with different flavours and textures will do. If you’re trying to keep the cost down, choose a basic Cheddar, or Camembert from your grocery store’s dairy fridge (there are some excellent local options at a reasonable price), and then choose one special cheese to buy from the fromage department.
It’s time to dress up your board and add fun accessories
Now comes the fun part—you can dress up your board with a variety of additions to complement the cheeses. Arrange some grilled bread or crostinis in or around the centre. Add some crackers, and flatbreads too – and don’t forget about your gluten-free friends by offering at least one wheat-free or rice cracker option – they’ll thank you for it!
Then, start layering a variety of fresh and dried fruits into the mix. Whether it’s a few small bunches of grapes, fresh quartered figs, a sliced peach, apple or pear—they’ll all be welcomed as an accompaniment to your cheese and crackers. Handfuls of dried fruits add great flavour too – apricots, prunes, dates, dried cherries or even cranberries can be a tart addition and palate cleanser.
Gourmet, homemade or store-bought chutneys, preserves, and jams also add an elegant touch. We recommend pairing aged cheddar with Ginger Beer Rhubarb Chutney (recipe below), Manchego with Calabrian chili paste, or a slightly sweet fig jam.
Move over cheeses, we’re inviting some cured meats to the mix
Though it’s not mandatory, adding a couple of cured meats to the mix will give your cheese platter a different boost of flavour. Some mouth-watering options include slices of hard salami or spicy soppressata, ribbons of thinly sliced prosciutto or small rounds of chorizo.
Mixed nuts, olives, cornichons or even pickled vegetables are also an excellent choice to round out the perfect platter.
Plating up & picture perfect presentation
Now, the age-old question. How do I arrange all these delicious goods? A large wooden tray or even a chopping block works perfectly as a serving vessel, with small bowls added to hold olives and other oily ingredients.
If you’re having a party with a larger group of people, a super impressive way to lay out your cheese board is to have a long table or surface covered with butcher’s paper as your base—then arrange the cheeses, meats, and other additions right on top. Grab a sharpie or marker and write the names of the ingredients to help guide your guests.
Cheers to pairing the perfect drinks
The food is in order, but what about the perfect beverages to pair with your platter? A mimosa bar with bottles of bubbly is a light and celebratory option to pair with your cheeses. You could also have a spring punch ready to pour in a large carafe.
Recipe: Ginger Beer & Spiced Rhubarb Chutney
- 2 Tbsp. canola oil
- 2 shallots, finely chopped
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. black pepper
- 1 tsp. grated peeled ginger
- 4 Tbsp. honey
- 1/4 cup Bundaberg Ginger Beer
- 450g rhubarb stalks, sliced 1/2 inch thick
- 1 tsp red wine vinegar
Heat the canola oil in a medium saucepan. Add the shallots and the salt and pepper and cook until just softened, about 2-3 minutes. Add the ginger and cook for another minute. Stir in the sliced rhubarb, honey and ginger beer. Cook until the rhubarb is just tender, but not too soft that it falls apart. Remove from the heat, and stir in red wine vinegar. Cool and serve with your favourite cheese platter.