Uncover The Art Of Food Presentation

Give your home-cooked fare some professional pizazz with tips from food stylist and home economist, Sue Ashworth.
Food Presentation
When we see gorgeous photographs of delicious food, we want to eat it! Yet just how do the experts make it look so good, and what are the tricks and techniques? We give you the lowdown.

It’s all in the planning
Any meal or recipe is a balance of four vital components: colour, aroma, taste and texture. These combine to please your eyes, your nose and your palate, so when you’re thinking about what to cook, include different foods to satisfy your senses. It’s even more important to make food look good when you’re trying to lose a few pounds, then you can take pride in its appearance and slowly savor every mouthful, rather than bolting down a plateful of unattractive slop.

Picture this!
Imagine steamed white fish with boiled potatoes and cabbage. Hmmm. Not appealing! Yet take the same three ingredients and mash the potatoes, top with lightly cooked shredded green cabbage and sit a seared fillet of fish on the top, sprinkled with lemon zest and juice with some chopped fresh parsley and you have a different picture. Look closely at those attractive food photographs and you’ll see that it’s all about contrasting colours, shapes and textures, as well as the flavours of the food.

Translate into great meals for Weight Watchers
So, when planning your meals, try to think about the balance of sensations that make food such a pleasure. Right on target for Weight Watchers is to enjoy the different colors, textures and flavors that fruits and vegetables can bring to your meals, brightening up your plate to make an appetizing meal. And they’re all Power Foods too! Chances are you’ll be eating far more of these foods than you used to, and we’re guessing that you’ll be relishing all those lovely colors and flavors.

Take care
Whatever recipe you’re making, whether it’s a simple sandwich or a meal for a special occasion, so much depends on the care you take. And that can mean technique, so try to polish your skills. Take time to read your recipe, then prepare all you can before you start to cook, and do your best to follow the instructions, without under- or over-cooking. Vegetables are best (and better for you) when they retain their crunch and color, so avoid boiling them to within an inch of their lives!

Get tooled up
It’s amazing how many kitchens lack basic tools of the trade, yet have fancy gizmos that hardly ever get used. A good chef’s knife, a knife sharpener, razor-sharp scissors, an efficient peeler and a couple of decent chopping boards will be used almost every single day. They’re the bedrock of good preparation and presentation. Neatly cut meat, poultry, fish, vegetables and fruit are the starting point for any recipe, and it matters to cut them nicely. Watch any good cook or TV chef – it shows!

Plate perfection
Serve hot food on heated plates, so you can take a little longer arranging it. First impressions are important if we want people to enjoy our efforts. Simple plates are often the best, as busy patterned plates can detract from the food. And choose plates that are big enough, so that you’re not cramming everything into a small space. You need room for all those gorgeous veggies! Keep food neat; try not to slop it onto the plates. Clean around the edges of the plate with paper twoel if you make a mess – it only takes seconds.

A bit of garnish
You might think that garnishes a are pointless fuss. Fair enough, you’re not likely to want to embellish your food for a busy midweek supper. Yet when it’s for a special occasion, simple garnishes can add that all-important finishing touch, adding contrasting color and texture to make the meal look good. A swirl of natural yogurt and chopped fresh coriander on a spicy soup; lemon wedges and parsley sprigs with grilled fish; fragrant rosemary with grilled lean lamb steaks; sliced strawberries on top of a summer fruit mousse. These extras make such a difference.

Not a natural?
If you struggle to make food look good, keep it simple. Your friend might be the best cake decorator in the country, yet if you make a simple low-fat yellow cake flavoured with finely grated orange zest, and spread the top with a frosting of low fat cream cheese and natural yogurt with more orange zest, topped with lots of randomly arranged sliced fresh strawberries, it would look fabulous! Use the same principle for decorating cup cakes or sweet muffins too. And use edible fresh flowers in the summer for decorating puddings: rose petals, marigolds, nasturtiums and violets can make a pudding or other cold dessert look amazingly arty.

On course
If you love food (and we’re assuming you do) why not brush up your skills by taking a class? Local adult education centers often have a good range to choose from, and it’s so empowering to learn something new. Besides, it might divert your focus from eating food to preparing it even more beautifully!

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