If you love garnishing your food and you’re often rummaging through Pinterest posts for new ideas to try, you’re in the right place.
Always plan your garnish as part of your dish, not as an afterthought – remember people eat with their eyes first. Making a dish visually appealing doesn’t have to be difficult or time-consuming or require any artistic skills. So, even if you’re new at this sort of thing, you’ll enjoy the simple and delicious garnish examples I’ve shared below.
Keep in mind that garnishing should enhance the flavour of a dish and make it stand out while inviting people to dig in. That’s the main difference between garnishes and decorations, which serve only as a visual element.
Garnishing in the Middle East
If you were to remember just one thing from this article, I hope it would be this advice: always plan your garnish as part of your dish, not as an afterthought—remember people eat with their eyes first.
While garnishing is an essential part of Middle Eastern cuisine, most people generally tend to overlook it as it’s so traditional.
Thinking back to my grandma’s or mum’s cooking, they always garnished the food either with veggies that complimented the dish or with herbs, paprika and that final drizzle of olive oil. In fact, wherever you went or were invited to, garnishing was naturally placed on food, even if it was just a mint leaf.
Inspired by my travels and dining out, I’ve started using more modern-day garnishes for our food. I sometimes also garnish food with traditional ingredients while adding a twist when it comes to the presentation.
When I’m in a hurry and I need to come up with a quick garnish, fresh herbs are my go-to, along with sweet paprika or even white and black sesame seeds.
Types of Garnishes & Creative Food Presentation Ideas You Must Try
Whether you’re hosting a dinner party or simply cooking for your family, here are 7 types of garnishes you can use to turn a plain dish into an appetising meal:
Pickled turnips will add a vibrant pop of colour and a bit of heat to a dish such as hummus, baba ganoush (eggplant dip) or baked falafel quiche. The same goes for radishes. Combine them with greens such as rocket leaves or parsley for a contrasting effect.
When it comes to cream soups, you can add either chopped spring onion on top, a couple of sautéed mushrooms, a few carrot curls or broccoli florets, depending on the soup you’re making—the main ingredient of your soup can also become the garnish.
Berries are a lovely garnish for cheesecakes and other desserts, such as the popular Arabian milk pudding (Mhalabiyeh). They’re also an elegant decoration and give a fresh summer flavour to any sweet treat.
You can also garnish drinks, desserts, salads, dips and meat dishes with juicy pomegranate seeds. I love to use these when decorating because they add a tangy flavour, as in the case of the baked eggplant with tahini sauce.
The olive is a fruit (yes, you read that right) and a staple in our cuisine that can be used as a garnish on salads, pasta, cocktails and dips such as labneh.
A great way to let your creativity go wild when decorating with fruits is to put together a grazing cheese board for your family and friends gatherings. Check out the step-by-step process and have fun creating your own cheese platter in just 15 minutes.
3. Nuts and Seeds
Crushed pistachios are very popular when it comes to garnishing traditional desserts such as baklawa, knafeh, shay’biyat or caraway spice pudding (see image above). Their mild flavour works very well with the syrupy pastries and adds some extra crunchiness.
4. Herbs and Spices
I like to use fresh micro-greens when garnishing as they’re very versatile—they add a rich flavour to lighter dishes and balance heavy ones.
One of the most common herbs used in Middle Eastern recipes is parsley, which is often chopped and sprinkled on top of soups, hummus, meat, fish, grilled vegetables, and almost every main or side dish you can think of. Similar to lemon zest, parsley has a bright, slightly bitter taste that enhances the other flavours in a meal.
When it comes to spices, a sprinkle of sweet paprika or za’atar will turn your plain breakfast eggs, homemade hummus or labneh into something special.
5. Edible Flowers
There are many flower varieties out there that are edible, including citrus blossom, roses, pansies, lavender, lilac, nasturtium and cornflower. They make delightful garnishes for desserts, fruit salads, cheese boards and even dips such as hummus.
One important thing to remember when garnishing with flowers is to check that they’re grown without pesticides or other chemicals. You should always buy them from trusted sources such as grocery stores or local farmers’ markets. Or you can also grow them in your garden as I like to do.
My top favourite edible flowers to garnish with include pansies, which come in so many beautiful colours and have a fresh, slightly grassy flavour, and dried roses, which have a strong floral scent and quite a fruity flavour.
6. Fried Bread
Crispy breadsticks are the homemade alternative to the common store-bought croutons. They are great for garnishing soups or salads such as the roasted chickpea and hummus salad and the traditional fattoush salad when entertaining.
7. Olive Oil
If you’re familiar with my recipes, you know that they often end with a drizzle of olive oil, be it a dip, a soup, a salad or even a side dish. High-quality olive oil will enhance the flavour of your meals and give the food a lovely golden shimmer.
There’s Always Some Time Left for Garnishing
I hope this article inspired you to go and have fun garnishing your meals. You can use all the tips you’ve learned to create your own grazing table and impress your family and guests.
Garnishes—love them or can’t be bothered? Let me know in the comments below.