The French term Garni gave rise to what we now know as garnishing (literally to decorate or embellish) - a technique to finish a dish that’s embraced worldwide in all sorts of weird and wonderful ways.
When you put the finishing touches to a dish, bear in mind that a garnish can be used to add flavour or a decorative colour. If it’s for flavour, the garnish ingredient should work with the taste of the dish.
There are many types of garnishes. They can take the form of leafy sprouts, herbs, sauces or a jus. They may be croutons for salads or soups, or julienned vegetables or bacon bits sitting atop a dish.
Simple ideas include sliced candied lemon on a cheesecake or tomato on a pasta dish. Even a sprinkling of seeds on a dessert can be a garnish. A dash of oil around a main or chives sprinkled on seafood make a perfectly adequate finish. And don’t forget fresh fruit with cocktails.
Garnishes don’t always have to be edible, they can be flowers, or in the case of sushi the plastic grass leaf (baran). Just make sure your garnish is in proportion and adds balance.
If it’s not a sauce, you should always make the garnish removable, as not all diners actually like to eat it. Garnishing is also dependent on what type of dish you are serving – a hot dish, cold plate, a buffet or a dessert. Just step back from your dish - take a look and see if it’s visually working.
Keep your garnish simple. The adage of less is more is relevant in this situation. Plate your garnish with a light hand and take inspiration from nature. Be inspired by colours that reflect seasons and make use of shades of light and dark.
Vegetable garnishes can be made to last by flash-boiling then blanching in an ice bath for about a minute. Others you will need to keep the air away from and store in ice water, whilst some should be stored at room temperature.
Anyone prepping garnishes should always have these tools at their disposal: A corer, piping bag, knives (pairing and utility), a melon baller, scissors, skewers and toothpicks.
As a rule, garnishes should add a layer of texture and excitement to your dish and makes sense with the dish they are served with. Think of them as an understated wow factor.