There is nothing like food to bring people together. Day four of Nature’s Gifts lands us in the heart of sharing tricks, tips and little secrets from Londolozi’s Family Kitchen.
Conduct life as if it were a feast!
When thinking about a snack board, I am reminded of the Friday night dinners my mother would make me when I was growing up. No matter who the company or what the circumstances were, Friday night was deemed “snack night” in the Devonport house. We would lay out a big tablecloth on the living room floor and platters of food would be spread across it, ensuring there was a little bit of everyone’s favourite on there and allowing us to all wind down after a long week. Not only is it about bringing everyone together, but as a chef, it’s about the different flavours and combinations one is able to put onto a board making the whole experience unforgettable and leaving you wanting more. For those of you hosting this Festive Season I would highly recommend a snack board for one of your dinners or lunches.
This Festive Season here are a few things I recommend every snack board to have:
- Cheese plays the bulk of this board. As it is quite a personal preference, I try to put a little bit of everything on, trying not to repeat flavour profiles…
- A hard cheese such as parmesan, pecorino or a sharp cheddar, gives a nuttier component.
- A blue cheese – not always everyone’s favourite so I opt for a milder form such as a gorgonzola which is a great way to ease ones pallet into a blue.
- A soft white rind – I typically go with two of these as they are a popular choice – A camembert or brie and a Chevre log, crusted either with black pepper or herbs for something different and to cut through the tanginess.
- A medium or semi soft cheese – a Fontina or Emmental is a good addition to the board for a more buttery flavour.
- For a creamier touch, marinated bocconcini balls are also a great addition.
Preserve or Marmalade
- With every cheese comes a good preserve or marmalade, complementing the flavours of the cheese.
- A fig preserve or caramelised onion marmalade works well here adding a sweet element.
- For a more savoury appeal I’d recommend marinated artichokes, olives (in brine or lemon marinated), pepper dews, pickles.
Cold Meat Selection
- Alongside cheese, a selection of cold meats plays an equally important role as it not only enhances the flavour of the cheese but the mouthfeel and overall experience.
- Parmaham or prosciutto are ones that pair well with the combination of cheeses, preserves and fresh elements like grapes.
- Salami or a chorizo for the addition of spice.
- For a South-African touch, no board would be complete without the addition of sliced biltong.
Nuts and Dried Fruit
- Salted, caramelised or spiced mixed nuts is also something that helps to add in a bit of texture as well as contrasting flavours to the creaminess of the cheese. They can be placed either in a bowl on the side of the board or it can act as a garnish on top of a cheese. If caramelised or toasted and mixed with maple syrup, this works really well with a soft cheese like camembert or brie.
- Dried dates, mango and apricots help provide a beautiful sweet element to the cheese board. Very much like the nuts, it helps to incorporate a different flavour profile into the board and break up the richness of the cheese.
- Plain crostini, breadsticks and sliced ciabatta are all great additions if you are adding in a brie or camembert cheese as they are firm enough to hold the weight of the cheese without a flavour clash. The cheese has quite a creamy component with a sharp note allowing a bread element to add the right amount of weight.
- Tortilla chips or corn chips are a great crunchy element to incorporate if you have a dip on the board to break up the richness of all the cheese components. It also allows for a slightly lighter option as the bread and crackers tend to become heavy.
- Artichoke and spinach dip – one of my favourites and must have’s on a board, it takes me back to the snack platters my mother would made. For me this just provides a comforting warm component to the board but also provides sustenance (make sure you get to the end of the blog for more information on this).
- Homemade pesto’s, whether it be a roasted red pepper pesto or a classic basil pesto, incorporates a light fresh element.
- Guacamole, hummus and babaganouch are also three that I thoroughly enjoy and are always a big success, especially with a tortilla crisp.
- Tomato and basil – a classic antipasto to any Italian snack board, incorporating beautifully baked fresh bread with aromatics of fresh garlic, basil, tomato and balsamic. This can either be pre-made or to ensure the bread stays fresh, its nice to put the tomato basil mix in a ramekin with beautifully sliced and grilled bread next to it.
- The word Antipasti refers to the first course of an Italian meal allowing one to whet the appetite. As it’s typically served in a “family-style” manner, it is quite fitting to include this onto the board, in skewer form, incorporating all the typical “antipasto” ingredients such as olives, artichoke, grilled aubergine, bocconcini cheese. The combination between creaminess of the cheese, saltiness from the artichoke, smokiness off the grilled aubergine and sharp flavour of the olives, it all compliment each other as well as providing a light, fresh element.
- Traditionally this isn’t something that goes onto a snack board but I enjoy adding this in for a Greek touch. The combination between crispy phyllo pastry, creamy and saltiness from the feta cheese with the slight fresh component with the spinach, all in a bite size triangle, hold a beautiful earthy and comforting flavour.
- These play a key role in the board to break through the flavours of the cheese.
- Grapes, figs and strawberries not only provide a sweet element but are also great to fill up the space and pair well with cheese as well as providing a beautiful colour contrast to the cream’s and whites from the cheese and crackers.
- Crudité such as cucumber, carrots and celery are some of my favourites to incorporate for a contrasting texture as well as providing freshness to the board.
The key to creating a show stopping snack board is to ensure that not only is there an abundance of food, but also ensuring that there is variety in shapes, in the way that the cheese is presented. Whether it be a wheel of camembert to a wedge of parmesan, creating different shapes allows the board to be visually pleasing and avoids any symmetry which is easily spotted with the eye. When incorporating the preserves, olives, nuts, dips or anything requiring a bowl, this is a great area to be creative and include different shapes onto the board such as oval or tear drop shaped ramekins.
Colour is also a powerful tool when styling food as the eye is easily drawn to it. Ensuring there is a contrast between colours helps visually fill up the board and adds emphasis to certain components. When using grapes for example, both green and red should be incorporated to as the red easily draws the eye in however the contrast of the green against the cheese or bread compliments the food. Strawberries and figs also draw the eye in due to the striking nature of the colour but contrast to the whites and creams of the crackers or dips allowing them to stand out more.
The thought of putting together a board can sometimes be slightly overwhelming with the uncertainty of where to place certain things. I personally find the best way to start is with the items that go in bowls or ramekins as they are slightly bigger and helps me to try visualise the board more. Scatter them around the board, this will also allow you to start grouping certain things together. I then move onto the cheese and try to put different shapes together but ensuring I fill the gaps between the bowls. With each cheese, I place a cracker, chip or bread close by as that is typically what the cheese will be eaten with.
Then, to fill up the spaces, I add in the crudité, spanakopita’s and bruschetta’s, ensuring that where it is placed is close to a dip, pesto or salsa. Try to create some height here by piling them up at a slight angle. This will bring the board to life by adding in different dimensions and repeat the same with the antipasti skewers. Finally I begin filling the board up with fruit components, starting with the grapes to fill the bigger gaps and then moving onto strawberries and figs. Grouping them in 3’s or 4’s allows for that colour to pop more and cutting the figs in either half or quarters also showcases its inner beauty.
Now that you've learnt a thing or two about putting together an amazing Festive Season Snack Board, it's time to get started on your own.
Our gift to you today are the secret family recipes to some of these delicious dips and bakes to add a 'wow' factor to your board.
Click here to download these, print them and pop them into your Festive Season Cookbook.
These boards are my way of showcasing art in food form, in the way in which it is presented but also allowing me to express my love for food through different flavours, textures and combinations. It’s a reminder of the childhood memories I have but also about being able to create new ones with friends and, what better way to do it like a big board of food and an ice cold glass of bubbles.