BII Menu Matters: September
As the weather changes, Oliver Kay development support chef Martin Eshelby, looks at autumn dishes to helps drive pub food sales
Autumn is a time for menu changes, as the lighter dishes of summer give way to the more substantial fare needed to see us all through shorter days and cooler weather. Think pies, stews, and roasts – hearty meals accompanied by a pint of cask ale or a glass of red.
With British Food Fortnight running from 18th September to 3rd October, and Sustainable Seafood Week taking place this year from 10th to 17th September, there’s plenty of opportunity for pubs to capitalise on consumer interest in seasonal produce.
This autumn, a focus on seasonal fare and British produce will also make more sense than ever as suppliers work to deal with higher distribution costs. Pubs that can build flexibility into their menus and specials boards will be able to benefit from the best fish and seafood, meat and poultry, and fresh fruit and vegetables, as availability changes.
Meat and poultry
With prime meat cuts often in high demand, dishes that make the most of better value cuts are a great way to keep customers happy while also keeping profit margins healthy. A regular ‘Pie of the Week’ on the menu is a useful way to switch between different cuts. Add ale and stilton to beef, apple and leek to pork, or mint and potato to lamb, and you’ve got a hearty pie.
Duck is a great dish for autumn, and is good value on menus as an alternative to chicken in a wide range of dishes – anyone for duck au vin? Duck matches wonderfully with the flavours of late summer and early autumn fruits like blackberries. It’s also worth pickling berries for future use and using up the plentiful hedgerow supply. One of our latest recipes is ‘Spiced roast duck with hay baked celeriac, pickled blackberries, port sauce & duck liver toastie.’
Partridge is also in season across the autumn, has a wonderful flavour, and is a genuine special that will engage the interest of customers who may not have tried it before. This recipe for ‘Roast partridge, savoy cabbage, bacon & chestnuts, with a celeriac fondant, puree and red wine sauce’, makes full use of autumn flavours.
Fish and seafood
Fishcakes are a useful way to make the most of the high-quality offcuts left over when fish are filleted, as well as supporting the industry’s sustainability drive by using a range of the great tasting fish species landed around the coast by the UK fishing fleet.
Direct Seafoods offer fresh and frozen fishcakes in a variety of flavours, such as; Thai style, smoked haddock and spring onion, salmon and asparagus, and many more. Fishcakes are popular as a starter, a main course served with seasonal veg, or for buffet and function catering.
For Sustainable Seafood Week, consider menu ideas that encourage customers to look beyond the most familiar species. Hake is a white fish that is caught all around the British coast, with a delicate, fresh flavour. Pan fried hake with a crab and prawn croquette, and a saffron and mussel sauce, has strong menu appeal. Your fish supplier should be able to trim the fillets to size to get the best value.
Hearty vegetarian fare
Autumn sees hearty vegetables such as potatoes, carrots and swede in good supply, all of which can combined with spices and sauces to create appealing vegetarian dishes. There’s also no need to wait until Halloween to break out the pumpkins, as this recipe for ‘Munchkin pumpkin, cracked wheat, baby turnips, pumpkin gnocchi, sage & black garlic crust’ shows.
Whatever your menu style this autumn, stay in touch with specialist suppliers to make sure you’re getting the best from seasonal produce in terms of quality, value and availability.