How to make your Summer menu look stunning

One of the great joys of summer is being able to serve up crisp salads and vibrant summer vegetables against a backdrop of sunshine and balmy evenings. Whether you’re thinking of hosting a dinner party in your dining room, conservatory or perhaps even al fresco in the garden, there are a number of ways you can make your food really shine.

Here’s a simple guide to presenting your food effectively, so that it looks as fantastic as it tastes.

Serve up colourful, summery food. Food presentation begins with your recipe choices, so pick dishes that will show off vivid colours, interesting textures and seasonal ingredients. Summer dishes should be full of reds, yellows and fresh greens.

Take a look at our Summer Shopping List for a guide to the vegetables that are flourishing this season.

Use complementary colours. Each of the primary colours: red, yellow, and blue, work best with the secondary colour produced by mixing the other two together. For example:

Red is complemented by the mixture of blue and yellow: green.

Yellow is complemented by the mixture of red and blue: purple.

Blue is complemented by the mixture of red and yellow: orange.

Red and green is the easiest colour combination to work with: try serving a tomato, mozzarella and avocado salad, or perhaps strawberries and kiwi with a mint garnish for a refreshing dessert.

For yellow and purple, try serving a rich soft cheese with figs, or a red cabbage and sweetcorn salad. Alternatively, bread and butter pudding made with raspberry or blackcurrant jam is an especially decadent and delicious way to pull off this colour combination.

Choose the right tableware. Overly detailed or busy plates can distract from the food itself, so make your food the star of the show with simple white plates.

 Remember, the plate is your canvas. Avoid having food hanging off the side of the plate, but also ensure there’s not too much blank space.

Overlap your ingredients. You can break up strong, geometric shapes by layering ingredients on top of each other – for example, by arranging tomato slices in a neatly curving fan.

Get some height on to the plate. Having a variation of height around the plate makes for a visually interesting composition, and you can do so easily by stacking ingredients or using decorative garnishes. Adding the third dimension to food makes it spring to life.

Present ingredients in odd numbers. Grouping ingredients into threes or fives is much more appealing to the eye than twos or fours. This is one of the simplest, yet most effective tricks in food presentation.

Use contrasting rows of diagonal lines. Parallel lines will always draw the eye and create a focal point, and this technique works especially well on square plates. Griddle marks offer an easy way to create a lined effect, and contrasting rows are often used in sushi and canapé presentation.

Garnish everything. It can be as simple as some roughly chopped parsley on a stew, some microherbs on a salad, or some shaved chocolate or berries on a dessert. Minimum effort for maximum impact.

Dare to drizzle. Often used with purees, fluid gels and aiolis for savoury courses, and things like chocolate sauce and coulis for desserts, drizzling is an excellent way to add some aesthetic flair to your dishes. This can be as simple as a small zigzag or swirl – just remember that thicker sauces work best, as they hold their shape on the plate.

For more inspiration on how to make food look stunning, watch our video guide: