Food service is often the difference between a good aged care facility and a great one. In this second article of my three part series on food service in the aged care industry, I’m sharing the classic food dishes that are perennially popular.

To gain insights from an expert, I turned to Carolyn Brasher, founder of recipe website myfoodbook. With myfoodbook, home cooks can collect favourite recipes, create their own recipes and organise them into their own cookbook collection. With access to the most clicked and cooked recipes from myfoodbook’s thousands of recipes, Carolyn is the perfect person to advise on popular classic dishes.

Springtime favourites

“As the weather begins to improve we are seeing a move away from hearty winter dishes,” says Carolyn. “In winter, slow cooker meals, and rich dishes like ribs, shanks, and shoulders of lamb are popular. Now we are moving into spring, those richer meals will be replaced with lighter, fresher dishes.”

Warm salads made with cous cous and pasta like penne or risoni are popular for spring, says Carolyn. “Warm salads are great for spring as they have that element of winter warmth, with roasted root vegetables like beetroot, pumpkin or sweet potato but feel lighter and healthier when served with proteins like poached chicken or salmon.”

Italian always pleases

“Italian is never far from any list of popular classic dishes,” says Carolyn. “Risottos are a great favourite, as there are endless flavour combinations. Make them less heavy when you use spring vegetables, chicken tenderloins and spinach or bacon and tomato. The great thing about Italian is the communal dining aspect – place a bowl of pasta or a pizza in the middle of the table, alongside a light green salad and you will always have happy diners.”

Modern twists

Classic dishes can be spruced up with a modern twist to make them new and exciting too, says Carolyn. “Make a modern pesto, like blended avocado with pine nuts and herbs and add to a cooked pasta, use cauliflower as a base for pizza or use a spiralizer to make zucchini noodles for a fresh and healthy take on classic meals.”

Mexican must-haves

“Mexican has been trending in Australian homes and restaurants for a while now,” says Carolyn. “Tacos in particular continue to be popular. Nachos and burritos are favourites as well for easy dining with families. As it gets warmer, we really embrace the fresh and zesty flavours such as fresh fish soft shell tacos with coriander and lime. They taste great and are good for you too.”

Absolute Classics

“Of course ,no matter what the season, or what’s popular right now there are some dishes that never lose their appeal: roast beef, chicken parmigiana, crumbed fish and chips, spaghetti Bolognese – these meals are always in demand and it’s easy to add a little twist to them to make them seem different,” says Carolyn.

“When it comes to dessert, you can’t go past the classic cheesecake – everyone loves it. Other favourite desserts are pavlova, chocolate pudding and lemon tart – they are always crowd pleasers. The trend with these desserts is to create mini versions in jars and glasses topped with seasonal berries or flaked coconut”

Lessons for the aged care industry

So how can these insights help the aged care industry improve its food service? Embracing seasonal trends will please the palates of diners. Taking note of popular dishes and ensuring those crowd pleasers are permanent fixtures on the menu is a great idea. It’s important to keep variety as well, by adding new variations and seasonal elements to keep the menu fresh and interesting.

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