Demand for Shared Plates on the Rise Among Aussie Diners
SMALL PORTIONS OF FOOD shared around the table has long been a staple of many cuisine styles, and is making a resurgence in today’s market.
From Italian antipasto and Spanish tapas to Asian yum cha, the shared plate of food resonates with customers because it highlights the social aspect of dining out, and is also a perfect fit with the Instagram generation’s passion for uploading photos showcasing both food and those enjoying it.
“Sharing plates is certainly something that today’s diners enjoy and whatever you can do to facilitate that is a good thing,” emphasises David White, Executive Chef at Simplot Australia. “It’s part of the rise of casual dining, and shared plates in particular present the opportunity for tactility, using your hands – it’s all about being relaxed and sharing the buzz of the moment with good food and friends.”
In recognition of this growing trend, Simplot has introduced a new range of frozen char grilled vegetables under its Edgell Chefs Grill brand. David White explains the impetus for the development of the range was the ongoing focus of major manufacturers like Simplot on finding solutions to some of the problems that face foodservice professionals.
“Drawing on my own chef experiences, I know that chargrilling vegetables is one of the most arduous jobs in the kitchen. It’s very intensive, time-consuming work, and when you factor the labour in, it’s quite a costly exercise. It’s also a problematic one in terms of consistency, because some chefs chargrill better than others. And then there’s the factor of the fluctuating price of raw vegetables – capsicums, for example,
vary in price throughout the year depending on availability. That makes menu costing difficult.
“So we identified those were some of the issues and there were not a lot of solutions available in terms of readymade product. The majority of pre-grilled vegetables come pre-marinated in oil or vinegar, and while that may be alright when you’re serving Italian antipasto, for other applications it can be surplus to requirements and difficult to remove.”
David cites the applications of salads, wraps and rolls, and pizzas and pizettes as examples of where chargrilled vegetables minus the oil are useful ingredients. “The other benefit of removing oil from the presentation is that you can make your own marinade if desired – you don’t have the flavour profile being dictated by the manufacturer. So you can make a balsamic marinade or a rosemary or garlic and then add our chargrilled vegetables to that.”
The range includes yellow and red capsicums, zucchini slices, eggplant slices, grilled onions and two mixed varieties, one a smaller cut which is suitable for stir frying and in tapas style dishes, or Mexican meals like burritos; the other a chunky mix ideal for pubs and clubs that want a side of chargrilled vegies to serve alongside steak or other centre of plate protein.
As the Edgell Chefs Grill chargrilled vegetables are individually quick frozen, they have a frozen storage life of 18 months. “Just defrost what you need and keep the rest frozen until required – you’d never know they’re a frozen product, because they really deliver on quality and flavour.”
Sharing plates are also in demand in the catering market – with ‘grazing platters’ of one or two metres in length now a drawcard of functions such as wedding receptions or birthdays. In such cases, the emphasis is as much on presentation as it is on flavour. It’s for this reason, says Carolyn Plummer of Riviana Foodservice, that antipasto style vegetables with their typically vibrant colours are popular choices.
“From Sicilian olives which are bright green, to cherry tomatoes and pre-made Dolmades, much of the appeal of antipasto is built around the visual – although of course the flavour needs to be satisfying too,” Carolyn says. “At the core of your antipasto offering should be the staple ingredients such as olives, artichoke hearts and sundried tomatoes. To these you can add cured meats like prosciutto and salami, cheeses such as Bocconcini, and a selection of breads and dipping sauces. Riviana Foodservice’s En Placé Pesto Alla Genovese, which is a classic Italian style pesto, makes an ideal accompaniment to set off your antipasto plate, and a small bowl of extra virgin olive oil is another traditional accompaniment, used on bread in place of butter.”