05 Sep // pimp your platter

At some point last year, I found myself often serving up snacks for dinner, or preparing a simple cheese board, or throwing together a platter, and really wanting them to look good. Presentation is not often my strong point, but I'd seen some beautifully put-together platters and decided I really needed to lift my game. 

I started simple - lots of fresh herbs or flowers, and utilising all the different coloured little dishes and ramekins and plates I've collected over the years. I also got a couple of great wooden boards, and a few cute knives. A good mixture of colour is crucial, a mixture of textures, and enough of a cracker/chip/crisp type thing. I'm heavily into oatcakes at the moment, for example. I started using the hashtag #plattergram to show off my ever-improving platters, and learned to follow only one rule of plattergramming: no plastic. By all means use dips from a pottle, (although hummus is really easy to make, you guys) just put it in a ramekin first, ok? 

A general theme or food-style helps, for example a little bit Spanish inspired (chorizo, olives, spicy almonds, manchego cheese), or Mediterranean (broad bean dip, falafel, hummus, haloumi), or French (pate, caramelised onions, cornichons). Simple things like putting falafel balls with hummus, salmon with cream cheese and lemon, and putting haloumi with tzatziki instead of with kiwi onion dip. I love fresh stuff too: carrot sticks, halved cherry tomatoes with feta and mint and good-quality oil, half a ripe avocado. I also can't go past a good quality fresh baguette and Lewis Rd butter. A little bit of foresight is all it takes. Ask your friendly cheesemonger (or google) for assistance if doing a cheeseboard; I go for a soft cheese, a blue cheese and a hard one, to be safe. I love adding fresh honeycomb or a fruit paste or chutney, a few nuts of some sort, maybe some muscatels, and oat cakes or crackers.    

The way to really impress your guests though, I've discovered, is with these walnuts. Presuming they like walnuts, that is. They go nicely on an entree platter, a drinks platter, or a post-dinner cheeseboard, and they are amazing. They require just four simple ingredients - although don't scrimp on the walnut quality (rancid walnuts from the baking section of the supermarket will simply not do. Go for freshly cracked or good quality local ones), and people love them. I first noticed the recipe while flicking through Gather Journal at the hairdresser. I have a real soft spot for fancy food journals, and although I have a few issues of the very cool Gather, I didn't have the issue I was suddenly holding. The walnuts looked amazing, so I memorised the recipe, then found it online to be sure, and my life (and my platter making) has never been the same. Whether the weather where you are is warming up or cooling down, get these walnuts in your life. With a stinky blue cheese and a bold glass of red by the fire, or on a colourful platter in the sun with a glass of rose, the 20 minutes or so it takes to make these are oh so worth it. 

Honey, thyme, and sea salt walnuts

These are adapted only slightly from the amazing Gather Journal

Ingredients

1 cup (roughly) fresh walnuts (in NZ I use Uncle Joe's from Marlborough) 

1 very generous pinch flaky sea salt, such as Maldon

4-5 fresh thyme sprigs

1 tbsp clear, runny honey (I use J.Friend and Co Beechwood Honeydew)

Method

Preheat oven to about 190C. Line a flat baking tray with baking paper, and scatter over the walnuts. 

Sprinkle over the sea salt. Pull some of the thyme leaves off the stalks, and scatter over the leaves. Add the other stalks whole amongst the walnuts. 

Roast in the oven for about 8-10 minutes, being very careful not to burn them.

Remove the tray from the oven, and while the walnuts are still hot, drizzle over the honey. 

Serve warm, or allow to cool to room temperature. They should keep in an airtight container for a good few days.