Plant-based delicacies like artisanal vegan cheeses, sliced fruit and (of course) a flavourful wine make this vegan charcuterie the ideal sharing platter
Order a planche de charcuterie (charcuterie board) in France, the country where this hugely popular food phenomenon finds its roots, and you’ll likely be presented with a richly-filled platter containing a variety of preserved meats (dry-cured hams, salamis, terrines and pâtés), cheeses and zesty condiments such as baby gherkins, olives, pickled red onions and mustard.
It might sound appetising to many, but less so to a vegan, for whom even the word charcuterie, derived from the French words “chair” (flesh) and “cuit” (cooked), may be slightly off-putting.
Vegan charcuterie board for a variety of social settings
With a little creativity, however, charcuterie boards can be made just as temptingly with a cornucopia of delicious plant-based ingredients that can be purchased at any deli counter, supermarket or vegan specialty shop.
Not only are charcuterie boards the perfect culinary centrepiece for everything from a cosy dinner for two to a casual gathering with friends and family, but because little cooking is involved, they’re practically made for laid-back entertaining.
With a bottle of wine and fresh bread, you’ll be serving a convivial meal that doesn’t require hours behind a stove.
How to lay out your vegan charcuterie board
When laying out your vegan charcuterie board, the most important thing to keep in mind is to include a broad spectrum of tastes and textures in your spread while also ensuring that the elements are arranged as attractively as possible and in a logical order.
You should leave plenty of space to artfully display your offerings, so choose a large wooden board, even if just serving two.
Start by arranging the largest items such as wheels or wedges of vegan cheeses and small bowls or miniature mason jars of dips and spreads evenly across your board.
Though the quality of vegan cheeses has hugely improved in recent years, it’s best to splurge on a few artisanal varieties purchased directly from a vegan cheesemaker. These are usually made with nuts, salt and plant-based ferments, rather than oils and artificial ingredients (which are used to make cheaper supermarket cheeses).
If serving a charcuterie board to guests, avoid unpleasant surprises by sampling a few brands ahead of time. A quick online search will provide you with an ample selection.
Not everyone is a fan of cheese (vegan or not), so make sure to offer a few creamy dips—and think beyond the standard plain hummus and guacamole, opting for dips in a rainbow of colours.
Great ideas include hummus enriched with roasted vegetables (yellow and red beetroot, pumpkin, butternut squash, red pepper and sun-dried tomatoes) as well as rillettes and velvety pâtés made from mushrooms and lentils.
"Think beyond the standard plain hummus and guacamole, opting for dips in a rainbow of colours"
Mayonnaise-based salads with tofu and chickpeas in lieu of eggs or chicken are also delicious.
Don’t forget to add a few dips with cleaner, sharper flavour profiles like traditional olive tapenades (make sure they’re made without anchovies), spicy salsas and vibrant pestos (think outside the box and replace basil with healthy greens such as kale, watercress, rocket lettuce, and radish or carrot tops).
Garnishes, accompaniments and condiments
Garnishes and accompaniments for these foods should be placed within close proximity. For example, place nuts (sugared and plain roasted), fruit (grapes, sliced pear, strawberries, quartered figs) and crackers by the cheeses.
Surround the dips with a medley of vegetables such as radishes, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, blanched baby asparagus, carrots and sweet peppers, but also offer mini grissini (Italian breadsticks) and pretzels.
"Dark chocolate pairs beautifully with blue or bloomy-rinded vegan cheeses"
A few carefully chosen condiments (which should also be placed in small bowls) will add colour and flavour.
To provide a nice contrast to vegan cheeses, remember to include options with a sweet touch: chutneys, aromatic fruit compotes and a sweet onion confit or fruit-and-vegetable relish.
Dark chocolate pairs beautifully with blue or bloomy-rinded vegan cheeses, so don’t forget to add a few squares to your board.
Vegan cold cuts
Once these basics are in place, start adding the more delicate items. Try arranging a mix of plant-based cold cuts and sliced cheeses in empty spaces.
If you’d like to add a shot of tang to these ingredients, top the cold cuts with briny capers or slivers of sun-dried tomatoes and lift the flavour of the sliced cheeses with a drizzle of thick balsamic syrup.
Bits of green
Round off your spread with a few strategically placed bits of green in the form of rocket lettuce or sprigs of fragrant rosemary.
Bread and wine
Bread, of course, is a must with any charcuterie board, but serve it in a basket rather than having it take up space on the actual board.
When choosing a wine, opt for crisp whites and rosés or medium-bodied reds. A sauvignon blanc with a bright acidity, hints of citrus and herbal notes will pair well with the array of fresh vegetables, vegan cheeses and dips, as will a fruit-forward pinot noir.
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