3 minutes Inspiration

Making Ends Meet – January / February 2024

As we still have a few months of winter to endure, Paul Dickson demonstrates how comforting dishes can still be rich and filling without eating into your margin. This time of year, food is the fuel that gives us energy and keeps us warm. We crave rich stews and soups, filling pastry and custard. When planning menus, it’s wise to keep all of this in mind to make sure you’re including enough comfort food amongst your everyday dishes. Why not create a signature stew that customers, patients or students find themselves craving? There are ways to keep these comforting classics economical to feed a crowd, too. Here are some of my favourite winter warmers.

Don’t Forget the Dumplings

Nothing beats a good stew or casserole when it comes to comfort food in winter. However, with the rising costs of even the cheaper cuts of meat, this once economical crowd-pleaser is becoming increasingly cost-prohibitive to make whilst maintaining the quality of ingredients. It’s rare that we see dumplings on menus these days, but these fluffy, suet-rich delights will satisfy the biggest appetite. This means that you can serve a smaller portion of meat without compromising on the deep, rich quality of your stew, as well as adding another texture and dimension to the dish.
Dumplings are delicious when they soak up the juices of what they are topping, but you can also get creative with flavours. Try adding herbs and even spices to compliment what they are being paired with. Mixes, such as the Country Range Suet Mix make it a doddle to make a large batch of dumplings in advance.

Keep It Sustainable

There’s no getting away from the rising cost of fish but there are still economical ways to provide good quality fish dishes on your menu. My main piece of advice is to ensure that you’re always using fish and seafood that’s in season. At this time of year, mussels are in season and very good value. In my opinion, they’re such an underused source of protein that’s sustainable and grown in abundance along the coasts of the UK and Ireland. A warming bowl of chowder is a great dish to create using mussels and other fish that you can source. To make mussels more appealing to those who don’t like the thought of them in their shell, try deep frying them to make deliciously crispy mussel croutons.

Humble Crumble

When i it comes to puddings at this time of year, I urge you to keep it simple and not overlook the classics. With the trend for nostalgic desserts looking set to continue, you can’t get much more comforting or economical than a good old fruit crumble. The beauty of this dish is that you can use tinned of frozen fruit when it’s out of season and add your own flavours such as cinnamon and nutmeg. Use a crumble mix for speed and ease, and you can always add in some dried fruit and oats to create a more luxurious version whilst keeping costs down.