Words by: Chef Rev Batohi & Carla Louise Gailey
What is a grazing table? Well, it’s essentially a giant cheese board which is extremely pretty, but it’s also a new way of having a relaxed catering setting, and nothing says festive season better than a low maintenance grazing table. Aside from the delightful ’Instagram-able-ness’ of these tables, they allow the host to focus on entertaining and not food management. All the items are put out at once, and all dietary requirements are catered for. The wonderful thing about dining like this is that there are no rules. The one we put together is simply an expression of our food journey, which will hopefully inspire you to create your own this festive season.
Chef Rev’s Grazing Table Journey
- Savoury bread and pastries
- Relish, dips, sauces, preserves and spreads
- Charcuterie including pre cheeses, cold meats, nuts, fruit and pickles
- A juice station and DIY gin bar
- Garnish and décor
The perfect start to any grazing table is a solid, large table. Pro tip: line your grazing table with wax paper, so it’s super easy to clean up afterwards. Don’t forget to sanitise your table before laying out the goodies. You can also add a mini dessert section and a garnish station for a gin bar or even put your garnishes in between the food, which can make the table look pretty or make the perfect summer sangria punch.
I always design grazing tables with ‘easy to eat’ items that are usually cutlery free. Instead of using chicken drumettes with bones, which are awkward to throw away, I use boneless chicken breasts instead. Pro tip – instead of using crockery and having the schlep of cleaning up afterwards, I normally provide good quality themed napkins.
Here is my DIY version of Easy Chicken Strip Recipe
- 1kg chicken breasts cut into thin strips
- 200g all-purpose flour
- Any kind of seasoning (I normally use braai salt mixed with garlic and onion powder)
- Panko Crumbs
Slice your chicken breast into long thick strips. Coat dry chicken strips in this order: flour, eggs, panko crumbs, eggs, panko crumbs. Shallow fry on medium heat for a few minutes. Place on a paper towel to drain excess butter.
Breads + Pastries + All The Carbs
The perfect grazing table always starts with bread and pastries. It’s a great centrepiece for any food story, with great pastry offerings from Yoli’s and the SUPERSPAR bakery. They serve up the freshest baked goods daily with a delicious range of artisanal bread loaves. Yoli’s make delicious fruit and nut bread all year round, but especially during the festive season. Best placed near a jam or blueberry preserve. Another excellent convenience hack by Yoli’s is that they make exceptional giant cheesy breadsticks (warning – you cannot stop eating these). It’s a carb that’s herbed, baked and cheesed! What more could you want in this life? Pro-tip: for extra crunch, take an unsliced loaf of ciabatta or sourdough and run under cold water. Place in the oven at 180 degrees for 10 minutes. Slice. (true story)
I also believe that a day of sugary drinking must be accompanied and balanced by salty pretzels. I usually fill up my table with a bag of good quality salty pretzels. Remember, crackers soften after a few hours, but pretzels stay ‘crunchier’ for longer.
Spreads + Dips + Preserves
Bread and crackers must always be accompanied by what I call splendid spreads. A spread can be anything as easy as sweet chilli-mayo or a store-bought relish. My favourite thing to do when I’m pressed for time is to quickly pop into The Market and go straight to Delagoa Bay and Yes Chef! Delagoa Bay has the most amazing herb butter melt, which is essentially a spread by itself. If you add fresh chopped chives or spring onion, it really becomes the star of any bread or cracker show. Pro-tip: the herb butter melt from Delagoa Bay is also a great addition to any curry or pasta. But don’t tell anyone I’m giving away chef secrets. Another great convenience hack from Yes Chef! is their balsamic and citrus glaze. The perfect serve is tomato, basil and a squeeze of their balsamic! Yes Chef!’s Jalapeno, red chilli, and candied onions go really well with cream cheese, gouda and cheddar. (I once made a French onion soup with a jar of this, and it picked up the whole dish). Their fig, olive and almond preserve pairs the best with blue cheese and mature stilton. SUPERSPAR also stocks a wide range of organic preserves, olives, and peppadews.
Cheese + Crackers
No grazing table is complete without a cheese and cracker section. These pair perfectly with anything but especially wine – they are easy to eat and pretty much caters to all dietary requirements. The ultimate cheese platter comprises of an assortment of cheeses, fresh fruit, cold meat and crackers. Try to stick to popular cheeses such as brie, cheddar, gouda, and camembert. Pro tip: make sure you slice cheeses for guests so that there is enough to go around. Also, crackers soften faster in the humid KZN weather, so make sure you place them on your grazing table just before your first guest arrives.
For my fresh goods – I love to visit Homegrown because it’s always full of surprises! They stock their shelves with urban and local farmer produce with unique veggies offerings, and they also make, amongst other amazing things, the most delicious beetroot hummus. Hummus is easy to make at home, but theirs is appetising enough to buy it weekly. I normally eat it with my sour cream Pringles on the couch while watching the Devil Wears Prada for the 100th time). Also, look out for their daily deliveries of micro-herbs – these add a professional chef touch to any meal but remember that most of them have a flavour. You’ll also find everything you need to add some crudité to your spread. Some of you may be asking, “What is a crudité Rev?” It’s neatly sliced raw veggies, and it’s simple and effective. Best served with thick relishes or dips! Nothing gives me more food satisfaction than fresh veggies. You will often find Dawn from Homegrown bringing in fresh veggies from the farms. Look out for their giant spinach and bright yellow lemons. Convenience catering from the SUPERSPAR deli makes life extremely easy with entertaining guests in any home setting. A chef buying pre-made salads is usually a huge no-no, but this is the 21st century, so if it’s well-made, I have no problem with saving time and being a custodian of anything that will give me more time with my loved ones. When you pop into the deli at SUPERSPAR, be sure to ask them for the following list: mango atchar, potato salad, coleslaw salad, broccoli salad (my personal favourite – it’s perfect for a braai or a side for dinner). Best positioned on a grazing table near anything that requires a bit of va-va-voom, such as breads or anything that needs an accompaniment like your roasts.
Another firm favourite on any grazing table is biltong. My best is the Kilmun biltong from Wozza Meat Co. Warning: this is always the first to finish on any grazing table. I always buy extra of what I think I actually need. (Don’t put it all out at once). I can safely say that our country is united through biltong. Wozza Meat Co. wastes no time in serving the best meats that the North Coast has to offer. I enjoy the rolled lamb neck for easy eating grazing tables – it’s stuffed with spinach and cheese and offers hungry guests a substantial portion. With all roasted meats, make sure you slice the meat beforehand to avoid guests cutting themselves. Alchemy Kitchen on Eat Street serves a great selection of brunch-style tapas. One of my favourite things to order is the Thai drumsticks. Instead of making these at home, I usually order three portions to add to my table. Cold meats from the SUPERSPAR Deli has a great variety of options for any grazing table. My favourite selection for any grazing table is the cervelat salami, smoked ham and hickory ham. Pro tip – if you have leftover cold meat, use them for your eggs benedict the next day.
Pro-tip: another great thing about the Kilmun biltong is that it pairs exceptionally well with a good pinot noir or syrah. The Other Room, a boutique wine cellar situated inside Alchemy, stocks new and exciting reds weekly. Pop in and chat to owner Theo for his best selection of reds for the week. They also stock a delicious selection of malbec and grenache, both wonderful pairings for cured meats.
Hello You Sweet Thing
If you spent heaps of time making your grazing table, the only logical thing to do is outsource your desserts. Pastry chef and owner Nicola spends a great deal of time perfecting her craft so that we don’t. Say no to Christmas trifles and be boujee. Not only do the mini desserts from Yoli’s look great for Instagram photos, but they pack a sweet punch.
- lemon meringue pie
- lemon pound cake
- almond croissant twist
- apple crumble
- chocolate frosted brownie
- chocolate berry tart
Theo, from Alchemy on Eat Street, distils an award-winning house-made gin called Ginsala TM. This gin embodies the KZN North Coast with its aromatic, slightly spicy flavours from the masala infusion. These bottles are available from Alchemy – and is the perfect gin for your festive grazing table best poured with a craft Indian tonic. In terms of garnishes, I always add lemon, limes, oranges, grapefruit, rosemary, thyme, mint or cucumbers to make sure that everyone is covered in terms of flavour profiles.
Speaking of booze – I thought I’d share my special Sangria recipe with you I mentioned earlier.
Chef Rev’s essential Sangria styled punch recipe (Makes 2l large jug):
- 1 bottle of red wine such as 2019 Morgenster Merlot available at The Other Room at Alchemy
- 1 cup brandy
- 100ml orange liqueur (only if you have it – this recipe is just as delicious without it)
- 200ml apple or orange juice (I once used a pear juice, and it was mind-blowing)
- 1 large orange and apple roughly cut with the skin on
- A handful of berries
In terms of decoration, grazing tables are a great relaxed way to cater and always allow us to play around with creativity and fun ways of food styling. If you are entertaining kids and guests from out of town, I highly suggest taking them to The Pottery – they allow you to take time off your day and let your creative juices flow. Paint your own bespoke ceramics and then use them for your grazing table a few days later. It’s a great conversation piece and allows us to freeze a moment in time via ceramics with the people we love the most. Mr Price Home also has some great serving platters that make you look like the host with the most.
One last pro-tip: use a light net or citronella candle to keep away bugs. Thyme, mint, and rosemary also work really well as a natural bug repellent. I usually double up the use and have them around the table as a bug repellant but can also be used as a gin garnish. Make sure you wash all the herbs on the grazing table. Citronella candles are available from Riptide Candles. Remember to place them closest to cold meats and any kind of roasts on your grazing table.
Special thanks to our contributors + collaborators; visit these guys for all your grazing table needs!
Wozza Meat Co.
Alchemy, Alchemy Kitchen, The Other Room
Mr Price Home