Seasonal produce: Make your menus ‘in the pink’, by embracing vibrant Yorkshire Forced Rhubarb while still available, usually until late March. This special vegetable (yes it is!), which has PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) status, is grown in complete darkness in sheds and harvested by candlelight, to keep stems bright pink and leaves yellow. The forced crop tends to be tender and much sweeter than rhubarb produced outside, and should be used as a star player in dishes.
Bringing beautiful colour and taste to dishes, this versatile ingredient works well in dishes across the menu. For main courses use it with game like rabbit, venison - farmed at this time of year, or duck. It is also a perfect partner for pork, and for a specials board stunner use it with crispy pork belly and sweet and sour sauce.
This flavour-packed salad of Yorkshire forced rhubarb, orange, apricot and hazelnut granola and rhubarb dressing could be featured as a main, starter or side dish.
Used to create delicious bar snacks too, such as this pork, rhubarb and ginger pie, which would be ideal as a special for the forthcoming British Pie Week.
Yorkshire Forced Rhubarb is a great dessert ingredient and combines well with flavours including ginger, vanilla, lime, cinnamon and nutmeg. Cut the stalks into pieces and stew them with sugar to form a compote to use in dishes including crème brulee, rhubarb fool, or paired with custard to make the school dinner classic - rhubarb and custard tart.
Why not try this vegan-friendly dessert of Yorkshire Forced Rhubarb, galangal and cashew crumble with cardamom custard.
Purple sprouting broccoli is a handsome looking vegetable and is at its best during the short UK season. To maintain its striking colour stir-fry or roast it, rather than blanching. Serve with white flaky fish, like stone bass, which is also a cost-effective species to use. Use in on-trend Asian inspired specials too, or as a side dish with roasted almonds and brown butter.
Use spring greens to create a crispy seaweed by deep-frying, which will add a umami flavour to dishes. Serve with ribs or as a base to Oriental-inspired specials. Or simply serve Spring greens with butter as a great seasonal accompaniment to Sunday roasts.
On-trend ingredient: Seaweed
Seaweed can be used in a number of different ways to add a great umami flavour to dishes. Use it to create traditional Welsh dish laverbread, a seaweed paste created from boiled seaweed, which is minced or pureed. The paste can be used as a filling for fresh pasta or rolled in oats and deep-fried and served with bacon and cockles. It would be a great dish to feature on specials boards for St David’s Day on 1 March.
Use it as an interesting accompaniment to dishes, such as blending Nori seaweed sheets into mayonnaise for a lovely flavour to serve with seafood platters. Make a tartare sauce with it too, to serve with scampi or fish burgers. Dried kombu kelp seaweed stock is ideal for making a dashi to create delicious Asian-inspired soups and broths. For adding a fish flavour to vegetarian/vegan food, use seaweed-based product Thai Taste ‘Vegan’ fish sauce.
Event idea: British Pie Week – 2 to 8 March 2020
Now in its 13th year, British Pie Week offers caterers a great opportunity to celebrate and have some fun with this pub classic. Ideas include featuring different pies on your specials boards through the week. This could range from pie sharing boards as a bar snack/starter option, to plant-based, fish and game pies, and sweet pies for pudding. Featuring sharing pies can also add a point of difference.
The pie is a broad concept and so get your creative juices flowing. For something different offer a Bedfordshire Clanger, a pasty like dish with a suet crust that traditionally has a savoury and sweet end. A classic ‘Clanger’ uses beef in the savoury section and pears for the dessert part, but you could use any fillings such as pork with an apple focused pudding end.
Another idea is to feature a ‘Pies of the World’ menu for the week. Ideas include an aloo pie, popular in Trinidad and Tobago, similar to a deep-fried calzone and filled with spicy potato and other veg. From Eastern Europe, pirogi is a popular dish, made from yeast-raised dough. They can be filled with anything from fruits and berries to meat, fish, mushrooms, rice or potato.
It is of course key to ensure you have pies which appeal to vegans and flexitarians too. Much pre-made pastry is vegan, including that from pie week founder Jus-Rol,
Make sure your vegan pie fillings have lots of texture and flavour with ingredients such as sweet potato or butternut squash with Moroccan spices, hazelnuts, rice and vegan cheese like Violife.
Use vegan-friendly beer as an ingredient too, such as in this wild rice, button onion, mushroom and ale pie.
For a different type of pie create a savoury baklava style dish, with filo pastry layers and fillings including pistachios, spinach and vegan cheese.
Be resourceful & avoid waste: Use leftover Sunday roast peelings and veg on a Monday to make bar snacks like pakoras, to freeze and use at your pub’s next curry night.
If you have apples or pears past their best or bruised, peel and core then slice with a peeler and place in the oven on baking parchment on a low heat until the slices have dried out. Use as a garnish for puddings or drinks.
*Don’t forget to get your entries in for Oliver Kay’s ‘Vegan Dish of the Year 2020’ competition. The closing date is 28 February. For more information visit
Oliver Kay is part of the Bidfresh Group, www.bidfresh.co.uk