Cheese Platter On A Budget
The cheese platter has established a serious place for itself in the Indian dining scene today. Creating a beautiful cheese platter is an art; styling the board requires the efforts of an art masterpiece. The platter must consist of a variety of cheeses, fresh fruit, a tangy-sweet compote, a few dried fruits, nuts, and of course “vehicles” for the cheeses.
However, a lavish, filled up cheese board can come with a heavy price tag…
And the demonetisation has everyone carefully counting notes! But it is also December, the month of parties – home entertaining are always on the agenda, and perhaps even preferred at the moment (think: demonetisation).
Today I show you how to assemble a gorgeous cheese platter, balancing both Indian and imported cheeses, with some homemade condiments from reasonably priced ingredients and some basic items that you would definitely have in your pantry. My cheese platter cost me Rs. 2500 for the cheeses and vehicles – not too bad for a good looking dish which will definitely have leftovers that you can use for later!
But first let’s talk about what goes on the platter, and then we talk about the costs.
ASSEMBLING THE PLATTER
The board & knives:
First of all, a good cheese platter must have a good platter – preferably a high quality wooden one. Marble platters also work well.
Always have separate knives for each cheese to maintain each ones’ distinct flavours. Soft cream cheese can have a butter knife, whereas the harder cheeses need pairing knives. Aged cheese like cheddar need the cheese plane. Most stores sell three kinds of cheese knives in a set, making our lives much easier.
Keep toothpicks around as well. If you think a particular kind of hard cheese will be popular, you could pre cut them into cubes and stick toothpick in ready to be picked.
Additionally, use layering for presentation – cups and holders of various shapes and sizes to hold the breadsticks and lavash. You could also use a clothed breadbasket for the baguette.
A good cheese platter has at least 3-4 different cheeses with a variety in consistency, texture, pungency and flavour. A soft, firm, aged and blue are the usual 4 categories. Choose a variety in the milk used as well (cow, goat, sheep). Normally the snobs frown upon a strongly flavoured cheese on a cheese board – however, I have noticed that herbed cheeses are always enjoyed so I ignore the snobs here. Homemade cream cheese balls are a great money saver too and add a variety to the platter.
Options: Camembert, brie, cheddar, manchego, gouda, chevre goat cheese, cream cheese, gorgonzola, blue cheese, comte, Parmigiano-Reggiano, stilton, bocconcino, flavoured ricotta, gruyere, asiago, pecorino, smoked cheeses.
In my presentation below, I use an imported Camembert, Amul gouda, Indian cheddar, Indian bocconcini, Indian Parmesan, and a homemade herbed cream cheese ball made from Amul cream cheese.
Breads: Arrange some crackers and lavash, along with bread sticks and sliced baguette. Other options include rice crackers, cheese straws, flatbreads, paper crackers, and textured biscuits. Most local bakeries keep freshly stocked lavash and bread sticks at minimum prices. Indian manufactured salted and cream crackers are readily available at all groceries.
Fresh items: cherries, apple, pears, fresh figs, fresh apricots, grapes, strawberries, gooseberries, olives, pickled onions, gherkins, sundried tomatoes, roasted peppers,
Dried fruit: apricots, dates, prunes, figs, kiwis,
Nuts: pecans, pistachios, almonds, walnuts, candied nuts, spiced nuts, roasted rosemary cashews
Preserves: A fun mix of sweet, spicy, mild or flowery is a good mix to have. I recommend two types at least for a decent cheese platter.
Options: mustards (spicy, sweet or mild), a good quality honey, sweet preserves like dark cherry, cranberry, spiced chutneys, caramelized onions, apple chutney, fig paste, spiced pear and cranberry chutney, beetroot and goat cheese dip, thick drizzle of aged balsamic on top of cheese
If cheese is the main focus of the event, it is recommended around 3 pounds of cheese for 8 people. If cheese is just one of the many dishes on the buffet table and/or the crowd isn’t exactly cheese fans (I don’t know you), then it is about 3 to 4 ounces per person.
- Remove cheeses an hour before serving – cold temperatures mute the flavours.
- Label each cheese for an elegant look.
- Separate strong smelling, pungent cheeses – this will not deter scared eaters and also avoid overpowering other cheeses.
- Always serve at least one familiar friendly cheese, particular to a non-adventurous crowd.
- Make the chutneys or preserves days in advance to avoid stressing at the last minute.
- I also recommend pre-slicing and cubing the cheeses to avoid a mess and also refraining dirty hands all over the cheeses!
- Try adding some pieces of chocolate!
THE MONEY FACTOR
The platter in the picture above cost me the following:
All cheeses (6 cheeses): Rs. 2070
Vehicles: Rs. 300
Condiments: homemade or from the pantry
Nuts: from the pantry
Dried fruits: from the pantry
Fresh fruit: Rs. 200
I recommend splurging on at least one imported cheese (brie or camembert).
If you are keen on the smelly variety, go for a good Danish blue cheese. Amongst Indian brands there are a range of cheeses that are easy on the pocket: gouda, feta, cheddar, bocconcini, cream cheese, parmesan…
Remember the prices are for whole blocks of cheeses, and you will undoubtedly have quite a bit leftover that you can use later.
Cheddar (imported) (200g): Rs. 450
Camembert (imported) (125g): Rs. 350
Brie (imported) (125g): Rs. 350
Grana Padano (imported) (300g): Rs. 380
Amul Gouda (250g): Rs. 275
Mooz Bocconcini (250g): Rs. 250
Go Orange Cheddar (200g): Rs. 149
Britannia Block Cheese (400g): Rs. 245
Herbed cream cheese ball (200g): Rs. 250 (Amul cream cheese + Blue Cheese)
100% vegetarian Parmesan cheese (200g): Rs. 495
Breadsticks: Rs. 75 (local bakery)
Lavash: Rs. 130 (local bakery)
French Bread (300g): Rs. 60 (local bakery)
Crackers: Rs. 200
Rusk Toast: Rs. 30
ON THE KITCHEN THERAPY PLATTER:
Camembert, Mooz Boccoccini, Amul Gouda, Dairy Farm Cheddar, Dairy Farm Parmesan, homemade herbed cream cheese ball
fresh strawberries, sliced apples in lemon juice, red grapes
dried apricots, dried figs, stuffed dates, dried tomatoes
almonds, pecans, walnuts
spiced pear and cranberry chutney, honey, spicy dark grainy mustard
cream crackers, Monaco salt crackers, herbed lavash, bread sticks, sliced baguette
YOUTUBE VIDEO: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Y6qWnFge9c
BTW: a recipe for the leftover baguette is coming up next! 🙂