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You adjust your menu for the warmer months with salads and fresh vegetable dishes. But have you taken the time to think about how you’ll transform your offering this winter?
Winter is well and truly here. Temperatures have dropped, hot beverage orders are on the rise and the demand for true comfort food has arrived.
But when it comes to offering comfort food to your customers, you need to think outside the box. While there will always be a place on your menu for deep-fried goods or slow-cooked meats and roast vegetables, there is one style of comfort food that is regularly forgotten.
And that is the classic soup. Soup is the ultimate winter comfort meal – so why are many of our venues leaving it off their menu?
When we think of soups, there is no mistake that our minds instantly go to the same-old options that we’re used to hearing. Chicken soup. Vegetable soup. Pumpkin soup.
We’ve heard (and tried) them all. But customers want a soup that screams excitement; they want a dish that offers them a sense of satisfaction every time they take a spoonful.
A well-created soup should be the winter wonderland of your menu. So, how do you make your soup a standout?
Well, you start here – our ultimate guide to the trendiest soups that are shaking up menus, not only here in Australia but also aboard.
If you’re looking for a simple soup to make, you really can’t go past this spiced carrot and ginger soup. This Moroccan inspired dish is creamy and smooth in texture and has a fragrant aroma with an earthy but slightly sweet flavour, thanks to the use of carrots. This take on the classic carrot soup is a comforting and delicious winter treat and will sure be a sure crowd-pleaser for your customers.
Pumpkin soup is a classic meal that has been on menus for decades. But why not spice up your offering with a Thai infused pumpkin soup? By adding red curry paste and coconut milk to your pumpkin soup it adds a little spice to the sweet nature of the soup and provides a unique, flavoursome experience. To add some additional texture and to bulk up your pumpkin soup, you can also add chickpeas or sausages.
Cauliflower rice has become the new “it” product for many dishes. But now, cauliflower soup has earned the name as the true winter comforter, but with a sweet twist – cauliflower and apple. This unique flavour combination was made famous by chef Daniel Boulud when he first added it to his menu over 30 years ago. “I created this soup at Le Cirque in the fall of 1989 after receiving beautiful Hudson Valley apples and fresh Long Island cauliflower,” the restaurateur told Insider. “It quickly became a favourite and, to this day, the cauliflower-apple soup still makes an appearance on my restaurant menus.” This cauliflower and apple soup releases a mild nutty taste due to the cauliflower, while it generates some sweetness from the apple.
Every kitchen has tomatoes, garlic, basil and onions – so when it comes to making this trendy tomato and basil soup, there’s really no reason not to. Made with real, rich tomatoes and fresh herbs, this soup is strong in flavour and smooth in texture. To add a creamy component to the dish, garnish it with some lightly grated parmesan or a spoonful of cream or milk to take it to the next level.
For decades, lasagna has been the go-to comfort food for many patrons. But building the perfect lasagna takes time and effort – two things many chefs don’t have. Now the signature Italian dish has been turned into a soup, which is easy and quick to create while still filled with all the classic flavour components of a lasagna. This unique soup is made with a rich tomato broth and contains shredded Italian sausage and dollops of cheeses like ricotta, to create the thick, creamy texture provided by the pasta dish. For the pasta component of the soup, noodles can be used, but if you want to present the true illusion of a lasagna, opt for mafaldine, a ribbon-shaped pasta. Due to the nature of the dish, if you’re making it in bulk, make sure you store and heat the pasta and broth separately to ensure the quality remains to a high standard for your customers.
Not all soups are sold hot, and this traditional Spanish dish is one of them. Gazpacho is a cold soup that is commonly sold in the warmer months but has been found to make the perfect starter or entree dish, no matter the time of year. It is commonly made from raw vegetables, such as tomato, cucumber, onion and garlic and can be served either alone or with hard-boiled eggs and chopped ham, almonds and mint as an extra layer of garnish. In Sydney, popular Spanish restaurant Casa Asturiana serves this cold tomato-based soup to their patrons as a side dish alongside their traditional tapas-style meals.
Yes – pizza soup is a thing. This warm, hearty soup is the pure definition of comfort food. To create this new menu must-have, simply flavour your vegetable broth with pizza sauce, tomatoes and parmesan cheese, which will provide a creamy texture. Then, add your toppings. From bell peppers, mushrooms, pepperoni, sausage, olives, white beans and spinach, the sky’s the limit. If you’re after a stronger, meaty flavour but don’t want to overdo it in the toppings, simply add some fennel seeds.
Mushrooms have become a trendy vegetable in recent times, so it’s no surprise consumers are ready to dig into some mushroom soup this winter. With its thick, creamy texture, this type of soup releases an earthy flavour and works well with a rich broth, such as chicken. For some additional creaminess, drizzle some cream over the top and finish it off with some fresh parsley as a garnish.
Oxtail soup is a favourite amongst chefs in the industry as it helps provide venues with a point of difference, while also being cost-effective when looking at it from a cost per serve perspective. This dish is made from beef tails, combined with beef stock and fresh vegetables such as peas, beans, pumpkin and potato. When whipping together this recipe, chef Melanie Jackson explained to Goodman Fielder Food Service that “oxtail soup is a great healthier option [as it’s] packed full of vegetables and paired off nicely with the bread rolls. It’s definitely a crowd favourite.”
Learn how to make oxtail soup here.
Minestrone is a classic Italian soup that is commonly found in Italian restaurants across the world, especially during winter. This dish is a hearty version of vegetable soup and is warm, filling and has a thick, dense texture. Commonly, it’s made with white beans, carrots, celery, tomatoes, herbs and spices and roasted chestnuts. While it can be left as a vegetarian offering, you can also add pancetta into the mixture to help bulk it up. It’s also recommended to begin your minestrone recipe in advance so that beans and chickpeas can soak through for added flavour. Finish with parmesan to really hit the mark.
French onion soup is a famous dish that is offered to customers around the world. The best thing about this dish is that it is made with very few ingredients – butter, flour, broth and of course onions, which are caramelised and the hero of the dish. Famous French-Australian chef Manu Feildel explained that venues “can serve onion soup as a warming starter but it’s filling and nourishing enough to be an entire meal. Remember that it’s important to start with a great stock for the best flavour.”
So, you’ve perfected your soup dish, but have you thought about what you could serve on the side to provide more substance? We’ve uncovered five sides that should accompany your soups to provide that extra level of comfort.
While a grilled cheese sandwich is the perfect snack option for many cafes and bars, it’s also the most popular side dish for soup, especially tomato soup. Many venues offer this sandwich that incorporates bacon, sun-dried tomatoes and pesto as it provides a rich, tangy flavour when dunked into the meal.
Not only is this pear salad a great summer offering, but it also makes a perfect side dish for your soup menu. The sweetness of the pear and the rich, creaminess of the gorgonzola (blue cheese), makes this salad a perfect match for your traditional French onion soup.
Cheesy garlic bread is commonly linked to crunchy, delicious pizzas. But have you ever considered pairing your cheesy garlic bread with pumpkin or pizza soup? Topped with parmesan cheese, this toasty side adds some extra flavour to your soup, complimenting the sweetness of the pumpkin or the meaty flavours of the pizza.
Sour cream and cheddar biscuits are the ultimate accompaniment for any soup, but they’re commonly linked to onion-based soups, such as French onion soup. Made with plain flour, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, cheddar, milk and butter, these biscuits are not overpowering in flavour and make the perfect dipping side – promising to soak up all your soup’s goodness.
Pull-apart breads have become one of the biggest trends at home events. And now it has officially reached our kitchens. The pesto-take of this bread trend has recently been linked as a side dish for the favourite minestrone as it complements the strong Italian flavours and ingredients. To make this, coat your loaf with a light layer of pesto, along with sundried tomatoes, roasted red peppers and for some extra impact you can also add olives, parmesan or mozzarella cheese.
Each summer you dedicate the time to creating a menu that features several different, flavour-filled salads and light treats. So why not give your menu the attention it deserves in the cooler months also. By adding one, two or even three winter warmers, such as a rich tomato soup or a veggie-filled minestrone, you will attract customers searching for that perfect, tasty winter comfort food.