St George's Day celebrations are an ideal opportunity to boost food sales and attract new customers to your pub. Lucy Britner reports
If you're planning St George's Day
celebrations, English food is a must. Classics such as shepherd's pie and roast beef are menu staples, but you could also feature English cheeses, old English puddings and speciality soups and stews.
Traditional English menu ideas that will
always be winners with customers include cottage pie, steak and kidney pudding,
faggots, hotpots and sausage and mash.
The English Beef & Lamb Executive (EBLEX) suggests menu ideas including beef stew with bubble-and-squeak patties, special mediaeval roast and spicy baron beef steak.
If you think your punters are more likely to want snack food, why not offer English
tapas boards featuring items such as English cheeses, honey-and-mustard glazed cocktail sausages, mini Yorkshire puds, pork pies and smoked kippers or eels.
Sandwich menus could focus on English classics such as succulent English roast beef and mustard or pork and apple.
Why not give dishes interesting names such as dragon stew and griffin soup? And instead of serving wine in glasses, try hiring goblets.
Licensee David Heenan from the Stagecoach Inn in Newport, Gloucestershire has introduced "the original, infamous dragon pie" to his menu. The menu description reads: "Our own creation, which many have tried to copy, but the recipe remains a secret. All we can say is that it is made with prime dragons (we use beef when dragons are out of season) steeped in red wine and lots of hot things, including whole chillies. Warning: it's hot stuff, reported to be addictive and not for the faint-hearted."
Food theatre for the event could focus on sharing, carving a roast at the table or serving a Lancashire hotpot for four in a large dish will cut down kitchen serving time and encourage customers to interact round the table.
If you don't have a chef in your kitchen, there are good ready-made one-pot dishes on
offer. Foodservice supplier Roberts of Port Dinorwic has introduced a range of 1kg
sharing dishes including chicken casserole, beef stew, and mutton with pearl barley.
Supplied frozen, the meals are defrosted
overnight, and can be served with various accompaniments, including fresh, crusty bread, salad or chips.
Sharing puddings can also add theatre. Why not create a sharing board of mini English puddings or offer classics such as apple crumble or sherry trifle in sharing sizes?
Brakes senior development chef John Homewood suggests that pubs could open early on St George's Day to offer a traditional English breakfast. He says: "They are quick and easy to cook and a really great earner, resulting in more than 60% gross profit."
Lunch and evening menus should be about provenance and celebrating English fare, according to Homewood.
He says: "We offer licensees a range of sought-after English products including English pork, Gressingham duck, Lincolnshire sausages and Red Tractor assured beef."
Pies could also bring big business to St George's Day festivities - they're cheap to make, easy to buy in and can contain almost any filling. Pieminister offers a wide range of pies, including free-range British lamb with carrot, swede, mint and rosé wine.
Sausage and mash is another English classic - licensees could make the most of regional specialities available in their area, or offer a mix-and-match board featuring a range of different types of sausages and mash.
Marston's Inns & Taverns is gearing up for St George's Day by promoting a St George's Day steak and ale pie as its signature dish across 350 managed houses. Made with Marston's Pedigree ale and prime English beef, it has a St George's cross stamped onto the crusty top.
The company is also promoting traditional English dishes across its estate. Marston's Pub Company catering development manager Ben Bartlett has designed a three-course St George's Day menu, including starters of black pudding stacked with sauté potato, and poached egg with Hollandaise sauce. Mains include Cumberland sausage with bubble and squeak, and traditional pudding favourites include spotted dick and rice pudding.
Bartlett says: "St George's Day is a key event in our calendar and one that should be
recognised in every kitchen as the ideal opportunity to celebrate all that is good about traditional English food. I have tried to include
influences and flavours from all regions."
Pritchitts head of marketing Simon Muschamp suggests devising special meal-deals to entice customers.
He says: "Try offering a set-price meal deal consisting of a traditional English main course and starter or dessert, teamed with a pint of great local beer or a glass of delicious English wine."
To finish, why not focus on old English favourites such as fools with English fruits and flummeries - a mix of oatmeal, rose-water or orange juice, double cream and honey.
If your catering resources are limited and you'd rather buy something in, Brakes offer a range of frozen individual puddings, including spotted dick and bread-and-butter pudding. McDougalls offer a range of products for chefs who need a helping hand when it comes to desserts, including crumble mix and high-yield pastry and suet mixes.
Cheeseboards by region
Try selecting your cheese board by region - have you served Lincolnshire poacher, Yorkshire Blue, Somerset Brie, Cambridgeshire Stilton, Somerset Cheddar, Cornish yarg, traditional Cheshire or Wensleydale?
If you want an award-winning cheese, you could choose Isle of Wight Blue from Isle of Wight Cheese Company, which scooped the Fortnum & Mason trophy for Best English Cheese at the World Cheese Awards 2007.
Beef and ale stew with bubble and squeak patties
For the stew
1.8kg/4lbs lean boneless shin of beef, topside or braising steak - cut into 5cm cubes
200g/7oz plain flour
2 tbsp English mustard powder
100ml/31/2fl oz sunflower oil
4 medium onions - roughly chopped
450g/1lb baby turnips - halved
600g/1lb 5oz baby carrots - scraped and left whole
1.2 litres/2 pints stout or ale
400g/14oz canned chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp runny honey
2 bay leaves
Salt and freshly milled black pepper
For the patties
2 large onions - grated
1.8kg/4lbs cooked potatoes - mashed 350g/12oz cooked spring greens or finely
shredded Savoy cabbage
60ml/2fl oz sunflower oil
30g/1oz freshly parsley - chopped
450g/1lb button mushrooms - halved
Method for the stew
Season the flour with salt, pepper and the mustard powder. Toss the beef in the seasoned flour. Brown in batches in half the oil over a medium heat. Transfer to a casserole dish.
Brown the onions and turnips in the remaining oil for three to four minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook for a further two to three minutes. Transfer to the casserole dish with the beef.
Add the carrots, stout or ale, tomatoes, honey and bay leaves to the casserole. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat, cover and simmer in the oven at 170°C/fan 150°C/340°F/Gas Mark 4, or on the hob, for three hours or until the meat is tender.
For the patties
Sauté the onion in the butter for five to seven minutes until soft, but not brown. When the onions are cool, add to the potatoes and spring greens or cabbage in a large bowl. Season. Mix thoroughly and shape into 20-24 small, firm patties. Set aside until ready to serve.
Reheat the stew in portions with a little of the parsley and mushrooms stirred through it. Heat the oil over high heat, and cook the patties for three to four minutes on each side until golden. Drain on absorbent kitchen paper. Serve two of the patties with the stew and seasonal vegetables.
Roast beef with crispy bacon an