Ever wondered how to create a beautiful grazing table with exquisite home made delights. I'm going to step you through the process on how to create one for any size or party using my high tea table as an example.
Now you don't have to be like me and create a whole bench full of food. The same principles that I'm going to share with you will apply to any party of any size or any array of food.
Grazing table theme
First off you need to decide on a theme. It could be a simple barbecue dinner, mermaid party, Greek extravaganza, the list is really endless. If I’m going to do something, I really like to put my whole heart into doing it well. These one off events are no exception. I think its my ultimate happy place when I can put together a bunch of my recipes and create a kind of masterpiece.
In the past I’ve done a Japanese sit down dinner theme, of course many Greek events and my latest event was a high tea table. I found it easier to cater by putting it all on one table. This way we had more table space and I could easily separate all the gluten free dishes to one side of the bench. The whole point is to pick a theme for the event and get everything else to work around that, the food, decorations, drinks, you name it.
How many people should your grazing table serve?
The next thing you need to think about is how many people you are serving. This will determine the quantity of food you will need. Do you want them to have one of every dish? Maybe you want to have some extras in case numbers change. Or maybe you are like me and want to send people home with a goodies box as well.
Does anyone coming have any dietary requirements you need to worry about including as well? If you have some gluten free people that might mean a few extra plates or dishes. For example, I had to replicate a few dishes for the gluten free people at my party like the sandwiches, caramel tarts and scones. They were the same thing just made on gluten free flour. This made the table look like there were a lot more dishes. Really it was just to cater for those few needs we had on the day.
If you look closely in the photo, you can see that one side is basically a replica of the other side. Simply for the purpose of serving the dietary requirements on the day. I think if there wasn't those needs there might have been less dishes on the bench. Or quite possibly I may have filled it up with something else.
Time to make a food plan
This is probably the most important step. Planning what food you will make, how much of it and then how you are going to achieve it. This may vary depending of the type of food you are making, the quantities and how much time you have to work with. I'm going to show you how I catered for this bigger type of event because that way these principles will help you be more organised and its way easier to scale back then to go big at that last minute.
Start by thinking all the dishes you can imagine on your table on the day. Try to pick realistic things you know how to cook and that suite the theme. Don't worry about quantities just yet as that will be influenced by your table set up as well. You could write your list out on a piece of paper or if you're a bit more technology based like me you can type it up on your phone notes so you can make adjustments as you go along.
Setting up your cake table
The next thing I suggest doing is actually setting up a dummy table. You may only have a few dishes and just know that it will work so go right ahead and skip this step. However, if you are like me and doing a big cook up that requires multiple dishes you may have chosen too much or not enough. I know when I set up my table I took away 5 dishes and then added a few things for height like musk sticks and lollie jars simply to fill in gaps on the table.
It also gave me a chance to then label the plates which made it so much easier on the day. This meant I could also have others help me plate up the dishes on the day because they were labeled. There were very few on the day I had to change because I pre organised it all quite well beforehand. I did add a few white boxes for some height though. Also, a handy tip is to take a photo of the set up if you need to put all the plates away.
Plan out your cooking days
Now the biggest job of all is cooking up all the dishes you have chosen. I highly suggest planning it out. Start with what food is non negotiable that needs to be made on the day. These weekly planners were so handy for this purpose. I wrote out what dishes I needed to cook when on them and they were so helpful. I could then just cross them off as I went.
Depending on how much time you have to work with until your event try to space your cooking out. You don't want to leave it all until the last minute! I only had 2 weeks to work with so I had a lot of cooking to do in a very short amount of time. I suggest doing as much of the food that can be frozen as advance as possible. These were things such as the pastries and bougatsas. There are sometimes items that can last a while if stored well such as jams, lemon curds, lolliepops or fudges. There might even be some cheat steps you can take advantage of. For example, make the cookie dough and freeze it. That just helps to reduce steps leading up to the day. You also wont have as much last minute things to do.
You don't want to leave it all to the last minute because you will be absolutely exhausted. Then you will probably never want to do it again. Secondly, things happen. If you've left it to the last second you will be overwhelmed and won't be able to do it all. So again my biggest suggestion is do as much as you can as early as you can. That way you can do just the fun things on the day like setting up.
Shopping for your cake table
Now that you have all your recipes ready to go you can start planning out your shopping lists. I made two different lists for the two weeks I had before the event. First week was for all the dry ingredients. I went and bought them in bulk and along with any ingredients I needed for that weeks cooking. I had a second shopping list for anything that needed to be bought the week of the party. This was for things that needed to be really fresh. For example, the whipping cream, veggies for the hummus, raspberries that I topped the chocolate mousse ect.
Well that pretty much sums up the process of preparing and cooking for a high tea grazing table. It's pretty much the same process for any type of cake table or party. Now you just have to be able to successfully cook up all the food. Then be prepared to serve it up on the day. I'm sure there are many ways of going about organising for events like this. Don't forget to leave your ideas below too. I'd love to hear about all your preparation and cooking that you are planning for your next party.