Quality is king at Christmas

“There are certain traditional aspects of festive season food that are always going to be with us, but where you can be creative is in what you serve with it,” says Fonterra Foodservice Corporate Chef Peter Wright, adding that festive season catering presents great opportunities for innovation.

“A roast turkey can be very traditional or it can be quite contemporary depending on your choice of accompaniments – it’s just a question of going to a little effort and thinking about your choice of flavours.

“Fresh herbs and aromatics, vegetables glazed in butter, making sure everything is well-seasoned and using flake salt and good quality pepper – those elements can make all the difference.”

Peter argues that especially at Christmas time, quality is king – “everything has to be of the quality that the customer expects. Also, always remember that people eat with their eyes first – so make the food eyecatching and the presentation interesting.

“For festive season desserts, you can create a contemporary spin on the traditional Christmas pudding by serving individual puddings or dessert hors d’ouvres with plum pudding chocolates – there’s so many options out there but don’t make the mistake of overdoing it! Remember your customers may be going to five functions over the next six days so they’re not necessarily going to want a huge meal – but they will want great flavour and attractive food.”

You can meet this challenge by utilising flavoursome ingredients within comparatively small menu items. “Dairy products like butter have such a beautiful flavour – we all know butter makes food taste great – so I think it’s an essential ingredient especially during the festive season. Take a brand like Fonterra’s Western Star, which has 90 years of buttermaking experience behind it and a Grand Dairy Award for the best butter – it comes in so many formats, salted and unsalted, in pats and mini-dishes through to easy-spread tubs so it’s really the staple of any commercial kitchen.

“And we know there’s great demand for butter right now, so there’s no point in looking at alternative products when ultimately your diners are looking for quality and flavour especially at this time of year. The reason butter is in short supply is because it’s what consumers prefer and we chefs know everything tastes better when you use it in cooking too.

“There’s definitely a shift back towards natural foods and butter is a case in point. Parmesan cheese is another great example of adding distinctive flavour to festive season food – whether as a parmesan wafer or as an ingredient in a dish. When you’re using a quality cheese like Perfect Italiano Parmesan, you only need a small amount to make a canapé taste great, or to create a stylish cheeseboard by coupling slices of parmesan with pear.

“And of course Fonterra also has an extensive range of cheese slices such as Bega Tasty, Mainland Swiss Cheese, Mainland Light Tasty Cheese and Mainland Egmont, all of which have multiple applications across a variety of meals from quiches and burgers to wraps and sandwiches. For burgers and sliders, which are trending high with consumers right now, we have Anchor Burger Cheese Slices, which are an American style cheese with vibrant orange colour and savoury cheddar taste that have been designed to melt smoothly and evenly without any unpleasant oil-off or greasiness. So whatever type of function you’re catering for, there’s something to meet your needs.”

And as a key component of numerous sweet and savoury sauces, it’s also imperative to have good quality cream on hand. “Anchor Extra Yield Culinary Cream is a great base for making brandy custard for your plum pudding along with a whole range of delicious sauces for Christmas, and because it’s pre-reduced it’s particularly suitable for function catering as it will cut down your preparation time and remove the need to have staff overseeing the process,” Peter explains.

“When you’re under the gun and having to produce a high volume of meals in a short period, then time-saving products like Anchor Extra Yield are the perfect solution.”