Tips for Food Safety
People don't pay attention to the importance of food safety, mostly because they are not aware of the concept. They mainly think that washing your hands, keeping tools and utensils clean, and putting food in the fridge or freezer is all it takes. But actually there is a lot more to it.
To avoid cross contamination between different types of raw food, use colored chopping boards, red for meat, yellow for chicken, white for fish, green for vegetables. Also try to use different knives and different containers for each type. Work on each item separately and wash your hands well with soap and warm water after you finish the item and before working on the other item.
Store uncooked meat, chicken and fish as well as cheeses, cold cuts, yoghurt and cream in a maximum temperature 5 degrees Celsius. It is also preferable to slowly defrost meat, chicken and fish in the fridge overnight rather than keeping them at room temperature for a shorter time.
In the fridge arrange cheeses and cold cuts on top shelf, then bread and yoghurt, then cooked food, then raw food. Always put raw food at the bottom shelf to avoid the spilling of blood or liquids on cooked food or other food items. Put milk and anything in jars, bottles or glass containers in the compartments in the fridge door to avoid spilling and breaking of the glass containers.
Don’t refreeze items after they have been frozen and defrosted. It is always advisable to keep frozen food in the fridge overnight to defrost it rather than keep it for a shorter time at room temperature.
Don’t leave food at room temperature for more than 2 hours. This provides a good environment for bacterial growth which causes stomach diseases and food poisoning. Quick cooling of cooked food and eating or putting it in the fridge before 2 hours is a must.
Don’t reheat cooked food more than once. If you cook a large quantity of a certain item and you want to use only a small amount, reheat just this small amount separately and keep the rest in the fridge. Reheat food until boiling or until steam comes out.
One of the most popular dishes you can find at every type of occasion; you see people gathered around it, having conversations about it, and mostly enjoying it. No matter what other delicious dishes you may be serving, the cheese platter always gets the biggest applaud.
The cheese platter is often seen in brunches, high teas as a main player on the table and also in lunch and dinner parties served as a starter or at the end of the meal. It really doesn’t make a big difference the occasion where you serve a cheese platter, the important thing is that you serve it right. Here are some tips to help you serve the best cheese platter.
- A perfect cheese platter would contain 5 types of cheese, but having 4 types would also be OK. Some people say that cheese platters should only contain an odd number of cheese (3, 5, 7,…etc), but I think 4 or 5 is just right.
- The portion of cheese would be 150 - 250 grams for each kind depending on the number of people you are serving.
- It is best to serve cheese as blocks and not have it cut into bite sized pieces. This helps the cheese to keep its moisture, looks more fresh, and also giving people some fun with cutting it using different type of knife for every cheese.
- There are 5 main categories of cheeses. When building your cheese platter try to include one of each category. Make a combination of textures, flavors and colors in the type of cheeses you select and arrange them in the platter from milder to stronger.
1. Very soft: like ricotta, boursin, chevre, and cottage cheese
2. Soft and creamy: like brie, camembert, feta, and mozzarella
3. Blue: like Roquefort and gorgonzola
4. Firm (yellow): like Gruyere, gouda, emmental and goat cheese
5. Aged or hard grating: like Parmesan, old Amsterdam, and aged cheddar
- It is nice to include several types of milks used in the cheeses like using goat cheese, and cheese from buffalo and sheep milk.
- Flavored cheeses are nice but serve only one kind that is flavored, the others are preferred to be plain. Try to put a label each kind of cheese.
- It could be fun to include a different type of chees that is not very common or a cheese that is homemade or brought from a farm or a special town.
- Put a separate knife for each type of cheese. Choose the appropriate knife that suits each kind of cheese.
- Serving the cheese can be on a variety of platters; a wooden board acting as a platter to look rustic, or a special platter for cheese to look ideal, a black slate, or just a flat platter to be practical.
- Have the cheese arranged on the platter and keep it well wrapped in the fridge so it stays fresh and doesn’t dry out. Get it out 15-20 minutes before serving. Cheese should be served at room temperature.
- Bread: sliced white and brown baguette, plain crackers and some breadsticks are the best accompaniments to cheese. Seeded and flavored bread is ok but not recommended. Remember the bread’s job is to bring out the flavor of the cheese and not to overwhelm it.
- Pickles: like olives (kalamata black or stuffed green olives), small sweet onions, gherkins.
- Vegetables: like cherry tomatoes, roasted peppers, beetroot and cucumbers
- Honey, jams and chutneys
- Fruits: fresh like grapes, figs, cherries or dried like dried apricots and prunes.
- Nuts: like walnuts, pistachios and pecans. They can be salted or caramelized.
- Put the accompaniments some in separate bowls and arrange them around the cheese (like pickles, vegetables and jams) or sprinkle them over the platter (like nuts and fruits).
- For the bread; you can serve the baguette whole on a woodenn board with a knife or sliced in a basket. It would be better to serve the crackers in the same platter of the cheese. Bread sticks are best served in a glass on or beside the platter.