Graze to your heart’s content with these simple, summer dishes.
With warmer weather comes increased socialising. The sun coming out lends itself to lazy afternoons in the sun with a glass of wine. Sometimes it can be before dinner but sometimes it can be good to graze and snack into the evening instead of having an entire meal. I am a huge fan of putting together platters and having these rather than a sit-down dinner.
There are a few key things to remember when preparing a platter. I always aim for a mixture of textures, flavours and colours. It's easy enough to buy dips and spreads but it's also easy to whip up your own, especially if you have a food processor.
If you have kitchen staples such as tinned cannellini beans, chickpeas, natural yogurt, fresh herbs and frozen peas, you are a few blitzes away from some great dips. Reading the ingredients list of some supermarket dips may be even more of an inspiration to make your own.
Beetroot is great for a dip because of its bright pink colour. This one is a fabulous addition to any platter, especially if you make your own pita crisps to go with it.
Keeping with the Mediterranean theme, you may want to serve it alongside some haloumi and lemon juice, grilled eggplant, roasted walnuts and maybe a garlic-loaded hummus.
Labneh is possibly the simplest way to make your own cheese. It's a thickened yogurt, that turns into a soft cheese and is a super-tasty, satisfying and versatile addition to a platter.
You can roll it into balls, cover it with herbs and marinate it in olive oil. It also works well at breakfast with poached fruit and muesli. You can spread it on crackers or toasts and serve it with just about anything.
I love it in a bowl, as I've done here, with herbs and spices on top. All you need to make it is some natural yogurt and some cheesecloth, and it's satisfying and impressive.
My friend gave me a jar for my birthday, rolled in balls with herbs. It went straight on to a platter and I was instantly inspired to make my own again.
Olives are a platter staple, especially if you're going for an Italian theme. This baked antipasti is veering towards a warm salad. I wanted to use the fennel in my garden and I love baked feta - the good-quality stuff will hold its shape and it goes well with these flavours.
This baked antipasti is great served warm, but will also keep in the fridge in a sealed jar. As for the wine to have alongside your platter feast, it depends on what you feel like. There are no hard and fast rules, although the feta and olives will lend themselves nicely to a light red.
For a sunny afternoon I like to start with bubbles, rose or a crisp white, like a chardonnay. The recent New World wine awards declared riesling is making a comeback - there are plenty of bottles under $20 worth a try and many of them will go down nicely with some friends, a homemade platter and, hopefully, a decent amount of sunshine.