Boost your business by tapping into winter’s seasonal trends

Key points

  • Fresh seasonal produce served up in warming, homestyle food is always a winner in winter
  • Australian-grown black truffles are in season right now and make a perfect pasta accompaniment
  • As the evenings lengthen it’s the ideal time to add hearty soups to the menu and look to braised meats such as slow cooked lamb shoulder or braised goat
  • Secondary meat cuts are great choices for pizza toppings, while traditional cream-based sauces are perfect for pasta during the colder months

WINTER’S HERE ONCE AGAIN which means an opportunity to capitalise upon fresh seasonal produce served up in the warming, homestyle food exemplified by the best of pizza, pasta and Italian style cuisine in general – and Anchor Food Professionals Executive Chef Mark Normoyle has some great suggestions of how to tap into the latest seasonal trends.

“Pizza and pasta are both year-round menu options, but it’s a good idea to change the garnishes and toppings with the seasons,” Mark notes. “Right now brussels sprouts and cauliflower are in season, and smoked ham with brussels sprouts makes an ideal pizza topping with a difference.”

It’s also truffle season, and Australian-grown black truffles from Queensland or regional Victoria make the perfect accompaniment to pasta. While these can be expensive, Mark says you need only a minimal amount to impart that distinctive “wow factor” – he also suggests shaved black truffles paired with halloumi as a beautiful winter pizza topping. “Remember, a little truffle goes a long way,” Mark cautions. “You only need to use a gram or two to get that unmistakable taste.”

As the winter days shorten and evenings lengthen, it’s time to add hearty soups served with crusty Italian style bread to the menu, and look to braised meats such as slow cooked lamb shoulder or braised goat as pizza toppings or in pizza dishes. “These are great choices for cafes and restaurants because they’re a little too complex and time-consuming for your customers to cook at home, but they’re relative easy to make in a commercial kitchen. They also have the benefit of being versatile enough to use across multiple dishes.”

Secondary meat cuts, such as lamb shanks and beef cheeks, are also great choices for pizza toppings. “Cook them nice and slow and you’ll find they’ll reheat well – you can fry them or grill them in a nice sauce or some cheese or pesto and they’ll come up really well in a pizza oven,” Mark advises.

For pasta, Mark recommends traditional cream-based sauces for the winter months and adds, “This time of year there are beautiful mushrooms around, so you can make a lovely mushroom sauce with some white wine and bacon, and that will be quite warm and satisfying without being too heavy.”

When it comes to sides, you can utilise seasonal vegetables such as cabbage and spouts – “those old-school, hearty vegies are beautiful when they’re nicely blanched and caramelised to an attractive golden brown, and as long as you cook them properly they can’t be beat.

“Arancini is another great winter choice – essentially it’s risotto balls, and you can make it with any type of braised meat, just roll it all up into a ball, crumb it and fry it and that’s another way to make use of your secondary cuts. I tend to use duck but you can also use lamb shoulder or beef cheeks – you can serve these in classical style with a simple tomato Napoli sauce and a few olives mixed through, or with a Chipotle mayo/aioli for a more contemporary approach.”

As the finishing touch on your winter menu, Mark suggests including Italian style desserts such as fresh-baked calzones made with stewed apples or winter fruits, served with whipped cream or ice cream.