Luckily, the days of dry cabanossi and cube cheese with Jatz crackers are long gone. But with the overwhelming array of options now available at your local deli (or supermarket), it’s become more difficult to navigate the path to a great antipasto platter. It’s true there’s an art to getting it right (and a bit of science too), so here are my tips on creating something to charm your guests and their taste buds.
1. Start with a great serving piece – I chose a round wooden board (find something similar here). Make sure your board, platter or plate is big enough to fit all the ingredients without it looking crowded.
2. Include flavours and textures that complement each other. You want an assortment from all the different flavour groups: salty, sweet, sour, bitter and umami (savoury). That way, you and your guests can put together flavours that enhance each other and boost each bite to another level.
3. I like to serve this kind of platter before the main meal. Having at least 8 options on the board allows my guests to try everything without getting too full. As a guide, allow 1 – 2 slices of meat per person – a total of about 50g to serve 8 people. With these small quantities, go for the best quality you can afford.
I love a good charcuterie plate, made up of cured and dried meats plus cheese and delicious extras which add to the experience. Here’s a guide to the ingredients I used this time, all sourced from Salt Meats Cheese in Sydney’s Alexandria. Use it as a starting point and have fun preparing your own platter.
1. Saucisson: This is a salty dry cured sausage from France. Mainly pork based, it can be made with a mixture of other meats.
2. Truffled Salami: Something truly decadent, the truffle flavour in this Italian salami comes through strongly in the smell but presents as just an undertone in taste.
3. Braesola: Originating from the northern Lombardy region of Italy, this air-dried meat takes on a darker colour and a flavour similar to that of jerky.
4. Capocollo: The name indicates the part of the pig it comes from, the capo (head) and collo (neck). This meat is similar to a cured ham or prosciutto.
5. Prosciutto: This variety is a ‘soft’ meat – shaved incredibly thinly, it almost melts in your mouth. The saltiness is perfect paired with a sweeter flavour such as rock melon.
6. Vintage Cheddar: A nice sharp cheddar is a classic for any cheese board. A spread of quince paste on the top of this is a perfect combination.
7. Stilton Blue Cheese: Don’t be scared off by blue cheeses. Whilst the taste can be a little strong for some, balance it out with a bit of date or fig to combine a salty and sweet flavour.
8. Camembert Le Maubert: This soft cheese is made with pasteurized cow milk hand-made in France and has a creamy texture and a strong flavour, If you heat this up for even just a minute in the oven, it will make it that little bit softer and deliciously gooey.
9. Poultry Liver Pâté: Any type of pesto or dip would be good for this option but rolling with the meat theme, I chose this delicious poultry liver pâté. Don’t be fooled by the appearance, some pâtés can tend to look a bit like ‘Snappy Tom’ but the flavour and richness to the spread is definitely not to be shared with the kitty!
10. Cornichons: The pickles on the board act as a palate cleanser between different meats and cheese. You could substitute this element with caper berries or any pickled vegetable.
11. Dates: These add sweetness to the cheese or meat. A little goes a long way.
12. Quince paste: Pairs beautifully with sharp cheddar – in fact, it’s a match made in heaven. Also try with the Stilton.
13. Olives: Olives stuffed with chillies add an element of heat to the board, and give spice to contrast with the cooler milky cheeses.