You've macerated, mixed, simmered and sautéed for hours (well, a good 20 minutes); you've added orange blossom water and crystallised stem ginger, jasmine flowers and three quid's worth of vanilla pods; yet when the big reveal arrives, it looks a little...underwhelming. A metaphorical bowl of meh. Sound familiar? You're not alone...
When it comes to home cooking, the resulting dish never seems to look as ravishingly delicious as the perfectly prepped photo of it in the recipe book. Personally, I think it might be my special 'ladle into bowl, serve with paper napkin' technique that hinders my own attempts at fine dining. But help is at hand! This week I’ve teamed up with The Ledbury to bring you professional plating tips to make your food look as good as it tastes.
Recently named best restaurant in Britain by The Sunday Times, The Ledbury serves up two-star Michelin food in a light, unstuffy setting in the heart of Notting Hill. Whether you’re planning a lavish three-course dinner or casual kitchen lunch, Sous-Chef Greg Austin shows how a few tweaks can take any plate from simple to stunning...
SKETCH IT OUT
Forward planning can really make a difference with presentation. When trying a new dish, sketch it out a few times on paper first and play around with different arrangements. It needn’t be a Picasso, but think of your plate as a canvas for all the different components of your dish and have fun with it!
FIND THE PERFECT PLATE
Your plate should be a backdrop to the dish rather than a distraction. If in doubt, go white and opt for uncomplicated shapes like oblongs and ovals to give the dish a confident, contemporary feel. White isn’t your only option though: coloured plates can provide a striking contrast for showcasing food – think sunset-red lobster on blue porcelain, or creamy white celeriac served on black slate slabs.
The golden rule of good-looking food? Use odd numbers. Three plump scallops positioned on a plate look far less contrived than two or four perfectly symmetrical ones.
Get creative with your sauces! Use a squeezy bottle to dot circles of puree around a plate, or sweep a paintbrush through sticky reductions for a touch of background texture.
LESS IS MORE
Keep garnishes simple – it’s all about small flourishes that add subtle flair and flavor to a dish. Colourful toppings with punchy flavors like pink peppercorns, pomegranate seeds and peppery mustard and shiso leaves are perfect for a kick of character.
SHARING IS CARING
For big festive occasions when you’re short of time and space, serve up three or four platters of food for guests to help themselves. It’s a great way to present more rustic, thrown-together dishes like salads and antipasti - a vibrant mound of panzanella looks so much more inviting than ten painstakingly plated individual portions.
Looking for some colourful plates to pep up your meal? Notting Hill tableware shop Ceramica Blue specialises in vibrant, handmade ceramics that look totally unique.