A little taste of Europe Smallgoods have a big following

THOUGHTS of the Mediterranean and the south coast of France conjure up images of lazy days relaxing on beaches, cruising around on luxury liners, and the tempting culinary delights.

Olives and other antipasto smallgoods, such as cacciatore and marinated artichokes, were being consumed in these parts centuries ago with a flair and flavour we Aussies are only now slowly developing as part of our culture.

Smallgoods are becoming more familiar to most Australians, with an increasing collection of Mediterranean and European cured meats and other such delights served at cafés, restaurants and in homes around the nation.

While I have talked about cheese on a toothpick as an Australian icon in the ’70s, pre-dinner drinks these days lend themselves to so much more. Multicultural diversity has introduced many of us to a trend that is modern in this small corner of the world, but old school in the homes of many of our European families.

Hitting the town and enjoying a bottle of vino or a few beers on a Friday night, you will often find yourself enjoying the delights of a tasting plate. Overflowing with dried sausage, marinated artichokes, olives, semi-sundried tomatoes, fetta cheese, even a plate of Turkish bread and an array of dips.

It is a culture that most are taking to like ducks to water, but where are the best places to find these delights when you want to entertain at home?

There are a number of variations on the antipasto or tasting plate. There are no hard and fast rules when putting one together, just have a look at some of the ingredients you can combine and have a go.

Anchovies: Love them or hate them, fresh anchovies make a great addition to a tasting plate.

Artichoke: The humble marinated artichoke is one of my favourite additions to an antipasto platter. They are available in most growers’ markets behind the deli counter at Herdsman, Claremont and the Re-Store, for example.

Asparagus: Asparagus is always a welcome addition when in season. Gently steamed with a drizzle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Coppa di Pama: Traditionally cured with salt, pepper and nutmeg, same sweet taste as prosciutto but with a tad more fat. You will find good coppa at Mondos and Torres butchers, among several others in town.

Olives: Now everyone loves olives, don’t they? Good olives are to be found in most fresh food places. Kakulas Brothers and the Re-Store have some of the best supplies.

Prosciutto: Good prosciutto is salted and air-dried for up to 12 months. See your favourite butcher.

Sausage: Dried sausage … a wise old Italian told me the further south you travel in Italy, the more seasoned the salami. Look for good examples of cacciatore, and corrizo in the Re-Store and some harder-to-find dried meats at Dubrovniks.

Tomatoes: Sundried or semi dried, they make a welcome and refreshing addition to a tasting plate. Available at the growers’ markets.

Eggplant (aubergine): Fantastic when marinated in balsamic vinegar.

Fetta: Helpful in mopping up all the oils and marinades left on the tasting plate, some of the local fetta is worth seeking out.

Mushrooms: Again, marinated, but try some different types away from the standard button variety and marinade them yourself.

Sardines: Pilchards. Grill them and serve them warm as part of the tasting plate. Fresh at the markets.

Squid and octopus: Get your local fish monger to prepare for you. I find them a tad fiddly to deal with but, marinaded and cooked fresh, they’re delicious.

A tasting plate, or antipasto plate, is a relaxing way to enjoy a bottle of wine or two and will quite often suffice as a light meal. Have some of the above on your weekly shopping list. It is a great way to impress when friends drop in and you are able to whip up tasty nibbles in a couple of minutes. The only problem is, they keep just dropping by each week.

Some local places where you are able to find these delights.

Kakulas Bros

183 William Street

Northbridge 9328 5285.

Frank Torre Quality Butchers

318-320 Bulwer Street

Perth 9328 7596.

Dubrovnik Butchers

204 Railway Parade

Meltham 9272 1453.

Herdsman Fresh Essentials

9 Flynn Street

Floreat 9383 7733.

Fremantle Markets

South Terrace cnr Henderson

Fremantle 9335 2515.

Boatshed Fresh Markets

40 Jarrad Street

Cottesloe 9284 5176.

The Re-Store

Oxford Street

Leederville 9444 9644.

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