Posted on Wednesday, 8th January, 2020
With the push towards ‘better for me, better for the planet’, chefs are really digging deep to maintain a fresh approach. Plant-based dishes are featuring on menus as more than just the ‘veg option’, but are becoming hearty, flavour-packed crowd-pleasers. Any lingering perceptions that meat dishes have more flavour than plant-based options are being silenced by new interpretations and ingredients which have wide-ranging appeal, even to die hard meat-lovers!
It means that customers are now expecting that there is something bursting with flavour and creativity on the menu for everyone, regardless of dietary preferences, leading to some exciting innovations.
While the flexitarian trend, meat-free Mondays, and pescatarian diets are now all being accommodated for in the kitchen, chefs are looking past the obvious ingredient choices. Alternate elements such as pulses, seeds, vegetable oils and flours are being used to add that extra healthy dimension while adding excitement to a dish. Simple swaps like using avocado oil in the pan instead of olive oil, or a simple chickpea flour and water dough to create a French ‘socca’ flatbread, sprinkled with salt and roasted rosemary, are great examples of how to take the plant-based ideology to the next level.
We’re increasingly seeing exciting solutions like halved and grilled Japanese eggplant with a gorgeous miso-glaze (1/4 cup white miso, 2 tbsp mirin, 1 tbsp cooking sake, and a little sugar) on top, that is garnished with finely sliced spring onions and toasted sesame seeds to create a melt-in-the-mouth, almost meaty dish.
Texture is another way chefs are adding wider appeal to plant-based dishes. Puffed or toasted seeds and grains such as quinoa, amaranth, pepitas or even the indigenous wattle seed bring an extra creative dimension to simple dishes.
Paperbark is a plant-based Sydney restaurant that hits on all of the above, working with small-scale producers and using a wealth of native Australian ingredients in dishes such as sorghum, broad bean, lemon and salt bush or bullhorn pepper with harissa, puffed rice, broccoli, curry leaf and pistachio. All of which makes for a thrillingly satisfying experience for all hungry diners.
The multi-award winning One Penny Red, tucked away on a side street in Sydney’s suburban Inner West does a great job of innovative and unexpected vegetarian and gluten-free bar food. Progressive gems such as a confit parsnip, grilled sugar loaf cabbage with pearl onion & macadamia, not only taste amazing but has that added appeal of being good for you.
As protein costs creep ever upwards, venues keep prices down by using ingredients such as seasonal vegetables which can yield a higher profit margin. So getting creative with a box of cauli or cabbage in winter, or serving a summertime roasted kumera salad with English spinach, macadamia crumb with a dressing of mint, garlic, honey, mustard, a touch of curry powder, balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil is always going to be a winner, both for the customers and the bottom line.
The best thing about this next level of healthy eating, is that patrons are walking in the door perusing a menu that creates interest and excitement, then walk out feeling good about the healthy and satisfying feed they’ve just had. And the fact that plant-based eating is also better for the planet, just adds to the good feels!