How to prep your plate: delicious-looking food made easy!

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So you’ve bought the ingredients, slaved over a hot stove and produced a mouth-watering meal fit for a King (or Queen!). But how to serve it up to your guests in the most tantalising way? Sure, you want the flavours to shine through… but you also want everyone at the dinner table ‘oooh’ing and ‘aaah’ing over your marvellous creation!

Never fear, we caught up with Jo Edwards, QVC’s resident chef and the mastermind behind the delicious dishes on our Seasonal Recipes page. Below, she shares her favourite dishes to present, top tips for beginners, and an ingenious answer for you to use if anyone questions your plate-prepping disasters…

QG: When you’re coming up with delicious recipes, do you always keep in mind how you’ll present the finished product?

JE: I firstly think of something that I would like to make. It could be something I’ve eaten at a restaurant, or a recipe that I have made numerous times in the past, or something that I really like to eat, but mostly I come up with the recipes after seeing something that intrigues me. One of the recipes this spring is a salt beef sandwich, I really wanted to learn how to make it, so decided that I would learn and write the recipe I came up with as well.

One thing that I always look at for the recipes is what is in season. Seasonal food is not only tastier but is most cases, cheaper. With everything I make, I always have what the end result will look like in the back of my mind, but there are other things to consider first.

QG: Are there any dishes that are really difficult to make look nice? How do you solve this problem?
JE: I work with two amazing stylists and a great photographer, between the four of us, we can always work it out. There is a reason though that it’s really hard to copy a photograph in a book or magazine: a lot of the time some ingredients are teased to the top or placed in the spot that best works for the shot, so don’t feel bad if it never looks like the photo! Casseroles and stews are harder to make look nice, but a sprinkle of some chopped herbs hide a number of sins and adds to the flavour as a bonus.

QG: What are your top tips for presenting meat?
JE: Rest the meat for as long as you can before serving. I understand that resting the meat that you have cooked always seems like a waste of time, and why would you want to let you food go cold while it rests? The trouble is the longer you rest meat, the better it will taste, but also it will look better on the plate.

The longer you rest the meat, the longer the juices have to settle down which means when you cut it, the juices stay in the meat and don’t leak all over the plate.

QG: What are your top tips for presenting a vegetable side dish?
JE: Pick the vegetables that you are planning on serving so that you have a varied rainbow on the plate, a plate of all green veg looks too healthy, whereas a plate of all white veg looks bland and unappealing. Adding nuts, seeds and herbs that complement the dish are other ways to make the dish you are serving look more interesting.

QG: What are your top tips for presenting desserts?
JE: If having to slice a large cake, mousse or cheesecake, the best piece of advice is to use a clean, hot knife. Run the knife under hot running water, dry of the excess liquid and slice, do this before each cut and the slices will look professional.

QG: What are your top tips for presenting a pie or tart?
JE: Individual pies or tarts always looks better that a large one, especially after you try and serve them, but if you are serving a large pie or tart, I would suggest you clean the knife after each cut, that way what’s left on the knife after the first cut doesn’t end up on the next slice, making it look messy.

QG: What’s your favourite dish to present?
JE: All of my career, apart from QVC, has been in pastry kitchens, so creating, dressing and presenting any dessert I always enjoy.

QG: Ever had any plate-prepping disasters?
JE: No, because it was always meant to look like that! That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

QG: What’s one piece of advice you’d give to beginners that are about to present their first dish?
JE: Not to be afraid of it, it’s food at the end of the day. If it’s the first thing that you have cooked and presented, it doesn’t matter what it looks like, whoever you are presenting it to will be excited to see what you have created. If something didn’t work the first time, change it the next time round.

Pinterest and Google images are a great way of seeing how someone else decided to present a dish, there is no wrong way to present something. I know we eat with our eyes, which is why magazines and cookbooks spend time and energy on making the food look enticing, but we also eat with our nose and of course our mouths. It may not be the best presented plate of food, but if it has mouth-watering aromas and tastes great, that’s all that counts in the end.

QG: Thanks so much, Jo! We’re off to the kitchen to cook up a storm and present with panache! 

Don’t forget you can find delicious recipes, plus a whole lot more, over on our Seasonal Recipes page. If you have any of your own top tips for food presentation, post a comment below!

See our fabulous range of cookware, as well as mouth-watering ready-made dishes (we won’t tell if you don’t) over in our Home & Kitchen department.

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