Blogmas Day #20: How To Prepare A Vegetarian Cheese Platter

It's time for today's Blogmas post! I didn't upload anything for the past two days because I wasn't getting the opportunity to take photos for them, let alone for the rest of this month. I was busy on Sunday helping mum with the bungalow to make space for more stuff. Yesterday was taken up by shopping which took way too long. Today, I was trying to make my grandmother's almond biscotti recipe but like with the vegan pavlova I attempted last week, the meringue expanded like there was no tomorrow and left a huge hollow in the middle. I strongly believe that the oven is the culprit, and so I'm going to find out why. I'm going to try this again tomorrow using a slightly different recipe to see if there is any difference.

On another, unrelated, note, I've been offered a job, so now I'm going to be working as a café all-rounder at a school just outside of the city starting late January. I'm going to see if I can find another job as well to supplement it as it's only 2 days a week, and I'd like a bit more work than that. I'm still going to work on my blog, so never fear.

I decided to go with a guide on creating a vegetarian cheese platter. Oftentimes, when we see or think of a cheese platter, there's some form of charcuterie with the cheese, be it a kabana, salami, prosciutto, or whatever else omnivores like to get their hands on. As vegetarians, we do not want to eat those, let alone see it on the same plate as our beloved cheese. However, vegetarian cheese platters often tend to look a bit boring as a result, so I wanted to show you how to make it look gorgeous, mouth-watering and provides enough variety of flavours and textures.

Firstly, though, you need to make sure that the cheese that you serve are indeed vegetarian, as half of the cheeses on the market are made with animal rennet. I have a post here that talks about rennet, which just so happens to be one of my very first posts on this blog, and you'll notice quite a difference in my photography.

You want to have a combination of different textures when it comes to cheese for these platters. You want something that's soft and buttery like brie, something aged like cheddar, something pungent like a blue, and a crumbly cheese like fresh goats cheese. I really like Fromagerie Guilloteau's Saint Angel, Paolo Sartori's Extra-Aged Goat, Cypress Grove Chevre's Midnight Moon, and English Shropshire Blue. In my opinion, they make a fabulous combination for a cheese platter. However, this time, I went with Pave D'Affinois and a Stilton from Aldi, as well as fresh ricotta my grandmother bought.

Secondly, let's move onto the accompaniments. A combination of sweet, savoury, spicy, and fruity sides really adds interest to the cheese platter. Try to gather accompaniments that differ to each other in texture and flavour.
  • Sweet: jams, fruit preserves and fruit pastes work in this case. You can use honey, but some vegetarians frown upon the beekeeping industry, so it might be safer to omit it. I like to use quince paste and orange marmalade. Chocolate, especially dark chocolate, is another great side. I also really like candied almonds and orange slices.
  • Savoury: chutneys, nuts, olives, roast capsicum, and artichoke hearts are great options. Walnuts and/or pistachios are my favourites, as are kalamata and green olives. I used an olive dip in this platter.
  • Spicy: Mustards are really popular in cheese platter, though I've never personally used them in my own platters. Sauced Fine Preserves at Queen Victoria Market sell great mustards as well as other spicy preserves.
  • Fruity: a mix of fresh fruits, such pear slices, raspberries, cherries or figs, and dried fruits, such as apricots, dates, currants, or tomatoes offer options to pair different flavours and textures with different cheeses. Currants or fresh fig goes really nicely with blue cheese, while pear is lovely with aged cheddar. 
Other condiments include balsamic glazes, olive oil, tapenades and Tasmanian Bush Dust, a spice mix made with native pepper, macadamia nuts, bush tomatoes, herbs and spices. I like dipping bread into a bit of oil and then into the dust, but it isn't easily accessible outside of Tasmania.

Thirdly, vehicles! This is relatively simple to work with, as you can choose from a variety of different vehicles and they all pretty much work. However, you want something that doesn't impart much flavour, such as a plain french baguette, water crackers, lavosh, wafer crackers, or bread sticks. Avoid anything seasoned with herbs, spices, sesame seeds, pepper etc. Fruit or olive bread, on the other hand, do go rather nicely with cheese platters though.

Finally, arrange the cheese on the board, and supply a knife for each cheese so that the cheeses aren't contaminated by other flavours.

We are so close to Christmas, yet I'm not really feeling the holiday spirit for some reason. I'm not exactly sure why, but I have a feeling my baking misfortunes are part of the reason why. I've also not been feeling well this evening because of a sore stomach (too much cheese, perhaps?)

What other great vegetarian accompaniments can you think of?


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