Essential  Cuisine

Essential Cuisine

Premium Supplier 17th January 2011


According to research, pub diners still want classic dishes and the bite of the recession has only intensified this demand as they seek out dishes that offer comfort, familiarity, warmth and reassurance. Pies epitomise this, but a disappointing line-up that would barely meet the approval of Mrs Lovett is hardly going encourage repeat business at a time when pubs need to entice customers back through the door. Essential Cuisine is on hand to ensure pubs can fulfil the three golden rules of good pie-making with the minimum of fuss…
 Heart of the perfect pie
In an economic downturn, experimenting is the last thing on consumers’ minds, according to research. In pubs, pies remain a top trump card when it comes to classic food, from blue cow pie laden with stilton to a bubbling steak and Guinness pie topped with flaky puff pastry. The secret is to ensure every component of your pie is memorable for the right reasons.
“The secret to a seriously great pie is getting the three key ingredients right; the pastry, the filling, as in braised meat or veg etc - and the sauce or gravy,” said Nigel Crane, Dorchester-trained chef and managing director of Essential Cuisine, expert stock and gravy maker for the professional chef. “Get any one of these wrong and you have yourself a poor pie which won’t be forgotten in a hurry.
“You can make a stew-like sauce for your pie in the classical way, putting the meat in a pot with the veg and other ingredients and adding a good stock, bringing it to the boil and simmering until the meat is tender, thickening with gravy, if necessary. If you want less margin for error, however, you can add gravy from the off. 
“If you are doing it this way, the last thing you want to do is spoil your beautiful pastry and other ingredients with something bland, salty or artificial tasting. Because of time constraints and rising energy costs, many chefs now put their faith in readymade products, many of which leave a lot to be desired in the commercial gravy market.
“Our job is to create gravies that ensure pies taste and smell of the stockpot, are free of nasty ingredients and allow chefs to use their own creativity. We haven’t lost sight of what gravy is all about; a rich, tasty and moreish accompaniment to a classic, with our meat gravies contain stock and dripping for that inimitable, great gravy taste, complemented by a rich gravy suitable for vegetarians and those with special dietary requirements.”
 Gravy of choice at St Austell Brewery
The food operation of St Austell Brewery’s 25 managed pubs is overseen by catering development manager Paul Drye and, while he insists each pub retains as much autonomy as possible, a re-evaluation last Autumn flagged up areas where business could be improved.
One area was the procurement of cupboard and freezer essentials, which Paul felt could be more cost-effective for the managed estate as a whole and on an individual pub basis.  At the top of the list were gravies and stocks or bouillons, with his band of chefs generally buying a mix of premium brands to use in a host of dishes including their selection of pies.
“We spend £20,000 on stocks and gravy over the managed estate each year and buying through lots of companies as a ‘free for all’ isn’t cost-effective, with consistency also an issue,” said Paul. “If possible, I was keen to find one supplier offering quality at a good price.
“The challenge was that chefs are quite pernickety about certain products and I didn’t want to dictate what they should use. A blind tasting session seemed to be the best solution.”
With 13 chefs from across the managed estate lined up as tasters at St Austell Brewery’s Pescadou restaurant at the Old Custom House in Padstow, plus Stephen Brown from Cornish ambient and chilled foods supplier Chaffins, Paul invited three foodservice producers to put their stocks and gravy ranges to the test, including Essential Cuisine’s Beef, Chicken and Vegetable Stock powder and No1 Beef Gravy, Chicken Gravy and Savoury Gravy.
Six products from each company were put to the test, with each producer preparing their own samples as per instructions on the packaging in one kitchen, adding nothing but water. The same plain bowls were used across all products, numbered 1-3, with the three producers kept in another room to ensure no outside influence. Chefs were given a tasting sheet to mark products from best to worst with marks out of 10.
Nigel said he was delighted to win five out of the six categories. “I created these stocks and gravies for my own use as well as for other chefs, so know they are good,” he said. “It is, however, always a proud moment to get feedback like this and we hope the results speak for themselves.”
Paul said: “It was quite unique having the three companies in the same kitchen in a head to head situation, with the winner decided in a purely democratic way. Some of the chefs went into this exercise as loyal users of the more well-known brands, which shows it’s amazing what marketing can do.
“Essential Cuisine might be considered a new kid on the block, but this was a completely blind taste test. Coming first in five out of six categories, we now have this company’s products listed as the preferred gravies and bouillons across the managed estate.”
Doesn’t everyone deserve the perfect pie?
By nature of their ‘meatiness’, many pies are just not an option for some pub diners.  However, with a tweak of ingredients and a squeeze of imagination, pub chefs can open up this Pandora’s Box of a dish to a whole new customer base, increasing trade and margins by acknowledging the dietary needs of modern day consumers.
For the perfect finishing touch, Essential Cuisine has added a whole new dimension to its portfolio of unbelievably rich tasting gravies with the launch of No1 Savoury Gravy.
Gravy as it should be, No1 Savoury Gravy sits perfectly alongside No1 Beef and No1 Chicken, while answering demand for a premium gravy made to a vegetarian, gluten-free recipe.
The newest addition to the hit range of balanced, rich tasting gravies is made with the finest ingredients for the perfect pour every time, doesn’t thin during service, and is perfect for roasts, grills and pies. Costing around £11.50, it comes in 1.5kg pots, making 20ltrs of gravy.
Nigel said No1 Savoury Gravy, which contains no added MSG or preservatives, added breadth to the No1 range and offered a product for vegetarian and coeliac customers.
“There really is nothing like it on the market,” he said. “Gravy may make or break the meal experience, but it typically represents just two percent of the ingredient cost of a carvery meal, so the key is to always use the best tasting gravy. It really will pay. No1 Savoury Gravy answers this demand and is so versatile, chefs can add their own touches to it. No1 Savoury Gravy has superior bain-marie holding qualities and is freeze-thaw stable.

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