What’s Hot And What’s Not



So what’s hot and what’s not on the 2018 food scene. Much energy and investment goes into predicting up-coming trends in the many areas of food production. From multinational companies to artisan producers and supermarket chains, all have a vested in having their finger on the pulse. Chefs too are keen to keep on top of emerging trends.  So let’s have a look at what’s coming down the line.

There appear to be several strong general trends. Even though there’s a definite backlash against clean eating, veganism is still on the rise.

Uber Eats reported a 400% rise in vegan searches in 2017and sales of vegan cheese increased by 300% in Sainsbury’s in the same period. Requests for meat free veggie burgers (that bleed from beetroot juice!) continue to rise. The flavour is apparently great and it ticks all the boxes for the growing demand for “cruelty free protein”. Vegetables are set to be the “new meat”.

The concept of Meat Free Monday is gradually becoming more mainstream, though I have to say I can’t see the Irish chaps abandoning their beef habit in favour of a char-grilled cauliflower steak anytime soon.


The supercool brunch boom continues to build and the avocado toast craze is undimmed even as the avocado farmers struggle to supply the phenomenal demand.


The health and fitness trend continues to drive market share and foods that promise better or brain function and enhanced performance are still vaporising off shelves.


The growing body of research linking our gut health with our mental and physical wellbeing has piqued peoples interest, consequently foods that promise to improve gut and digestive health are a huge trend. Pickled, preserved and fermented foods are filling up fridges and making your own sauerkraut and kimchi is becoming mainstream among the young health conscious. Here at the Ballymaloe Cookery School we now have a “Bubble Shed” where all the fermented foods are made and on-going experiments and classes are conducted see www.cookingisfun.ie for details of our next Fermentation course.

Foods that promote a healthy gut microbiome, natural, organic and biodynamic foods, farmhouse cheeses and organic raw  B2 milk from a small herd of heritage breeds. Seek out Dan and Anne Aherne’s beautiful creamy milk at Mahon Point Farmer’s Market (Thursdays) and Midleton Farmers Markets (Saturdays), or visit the Ballymaloe Cookery School Organic Farm Shop for raw milk from our small herd of Jersey cows.


There’s  a growing awareness and reaction to “food waste” issues. Chefs are now proudly boasting about serving the underused cuts of meat, so expect to see more oxtail, tongue, pigs ears, crubeens (pigs feet) and a  further interest in “nose to tail eating” and “root to shoot”,  where every scrap of vegetable is used rather than just the familiar section offered on the supermarket shelf.


Watch the “grow some of your own super-food movement” gather momentum in both urban and rural areas, not just for economic, social and lifestyle reasons but for mind-blowing fabulous nutrition. Check out GIY www.giy.ie, Good Food Ireland www.goodfoodireland.ie  or treat yourself to a copy of Grow Cook Nourish, my latest tome, which was originally called  “For God’s Sake Grow Some of Your Own Food”.

It may surprise you to learn that more health conscious millennials are limiting their alcohol consumption. The rise in booze free, homemade  mocktails, fruity cordials and fizzy sodas reflects this definite super cool trend.

Chefs are buying land, growing fresh produce on their roofs or in their backyards and buying directly from local farmers and artisan food producers, will use local coast, grocers within walking distance….


Amazon has taken over Wholefoods, watch this space….


Foods to watch out for in 2018

  1. Street food inspired dishes, dosa, tacos, toastadas, falafel, shawarma, bánh mì, gyros, arepas, satay, empanadas, ramen, pupusas, noodle dishes…
  2. Veggie carb substitutes, zoodles (zucchini noodles), cauliflower rice is still up there.
  3. Homemade or housemade condiments, artisan pickles, mustard, ketchup…
  4. Buddha bowls – a bowl of greens, beans, veggies, grains, nuts and seeds with a dressing or favourite sauce – eat mindfully…
  5. Chinese dumplings, wontons, steamed buns….
  6. Poke, bowls of sushi rice, essentially sushi without the fuss, a raw fish salad with lots of yummy toppings on top (everyday food in Hawaii).
  7. Ancient grains, farro, spelt, and quinoa of course, but also kamut, emmer, teff, sorghum, freekeh in salads, breads, biscuits….
  8. Jackfruit- a hot new vegan ingredient, the largest tree fruit on the planet, nutritious, delicious with a texture and flavour of pulled pork when cooked.
  9. Smoked absolutely everything, black pudding, tomato, tofu…
  10. Goat meat, wild boar, more wild game in season.
  11. Seaweed – all type of algae, sprinkled on, and added to, almost everything from salad and bread to ice-cream.
  12. Wild and foraged foods. Look out for Winter cress, pennywort, watercress, all in season now.
  13. Ethnic dips and spreads and condiments beyond sriracha, zhug, harissa, peri peri, sambal, shichimi togarashi, pixian chilli bean paste, jocguang…
  14. Savoury jams and jellies not just bacon jam, try tomato jam, carrot jam, apple and seaweed jelly.
  15. Heirloom fruit and vegetables, not just tomatoes and potatoes….
  16. Imperfect, ugly produce, organically produced, “root to shoot eating”.
  17. Bone broths still huge
  18. Mushrooms are morphing into a superfood, even being added to coffee
  19. Regular readers will know that I’m a huge fan of Jerusalem artichokes, another brilliant super delicious and a versatile winter root, highest in inulin of all vegetables and certainly on trend.
  20. We’ll hear more of lesser known herbs, borage, sweet cicely, chervil, hyssop, lemon balm, lemon verbena, papalo and also here to fore unknown edible flowers: forget-me-not, dahlias, crysthanamums, cornflowers, daylilies…..
  21. Activated charcoal and green dusts – think matcha, ras el hanout,
  22. Ethnic kids dishes, sushi, teriyaki, tacos, tostadas.
  23. Mac and cheese, porridge, scrambled eggs and French fries are all getting a makeover, perfect bases for all manner of toppings and additions.
  24. Turmeric – the super charged anti-inflammatory, both fresh and in dried form in everything and anything.
  25. Homemade charcuterie, sausages, guanciale, blood puddings.
  26. Mill you own flour and heritage grains.
  27. Eggs from rare breed chickens and non-traditional breeds of poultry. Blue/green shelled eggs from Aracuna hens, Marrans, Leghorns, Light Sussex’s, Speckledeys, Hebden black hens

Here are a few recipes using some of these on-trend ingredients…



Rory O’Connell’s Homemade Tomato Ketchup


It’s easy to make homemade tomato ketchup, everyone will love it.  We used Cox’s orange pippin apples and had exactly the same maddening consistency as the real thing. The result is irresistibly delicious.


Makes 5 – 6 bottles (8fl ozs per bottle)


1.6kg (3½ lb) tomatoes, peeled and chopped

450g (1lb) eating apples, peeled, cored and chopped (weigh after peeling and coring)

450g (1lb) peeled onions, chopped

450g (1lb)  sugar

450ml(16fl oz) cider vinegar

1 level tablespoon Maldon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon cayenne

6 black peppercorns

6 allspice/pimento berries

6 cloves


Place all the ingredients in a stainless steel saucepan.  Bring to a boil and simmer for approx. 1 hour or until it has the consistency of a regular ketchup.  Stir regularly as it cooks to avoid sticking.  Allow to cool for 4-5 minutes.  Liquidise to a smooth puree.    If the consistency is a bit thin, return to the saucepan and cook to reduce a bit further.  Remember it will thicken as it cools.


Pour into sterilised glass bottles and store chilled.


Foragers Soup


Throughout the seasons you can gather wild greens on a walk in the countryside. Arm yourself with a good well illustrated

guide and be sure to identify carefully, and if in doubt, don’t risk it until you are quite confident.


Serves 6


50g (2ozs) butter

110g (4ozs) diced onion

150g (5 ozs) diced potatoes

250g (9ozs) chopped greens – alexanders, nettles, wild sorrel, a few young dandelions, wild garlic, borage leaves, wild rocket, ground elder, beech leaves, chickweed, watercress

600ml (1 pint) light chicken stock

600ml (1 pint) creamy milk


75g (3ozs) chorizo or lardons of streaky bacon

extra virgin olive oil

wild garlic flowers if available


Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan. When it foams, add potatoes and onions and turn them until well coated. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper. Cover and sweat on a gentle heat for 10 minutes. When the vegetables are almost soft but not coloured add the hot stock and boiling milk.  Bring back to the boil and cook until the potatoes and onions are fully cooked. Add the greens and boil with the lid off for 2-3 minutes approx. until the greens are just cooked. Do not overcook or the soup will lose its fresh green colour. Purée the soup in a liquidiser. Taste and correct seasoning.


Heat a little oil in a frying pan.  Add the diced chorizo or lardons of streaky bacon, cook over a medium heat until the fat starts to run and the bacon is crisp.  Drain on kitchen paper.  Sprinkle over the soup as you serve.  Use the chorizo oil to drizzle over the soup also and scatter a few wild garlic flowers over the top if available.

Recipe taken from Grow, Cook, Nourish by Darina Allen, published by Kyle Books. Photography by Clare Winfield and Tim Allen.


Pan Fried Haddock with Slivered Garlic, Fresh Turmeric, Chilli and Spring Onions

Serves 4


4 x 110g (4oz) portions of fresh haddock

salt and freshly ground black pepper

extra virgin olive oil

2-4 cloves of garlic, peeled and thinly slivered

1 thumb sized piece of turmeric, peeled and julienned

4 spring onions – 4 heaped teaspoons approx., separate the white and the green.

Worcestershire sauce

1 green chilli, seeded and thinly sliced


To serve

4 segments of lime

1- 2 tablespoons coriander, shredded



Season the fish with the salt and freshly ground black pepper.


Heat a little oil in a wide frying pan, over a medium heat. Cook the fish on the flesh side until golden. Flip over and cook until crisp and golden on the skin side.


Meanwhile heat a little oil in a second pan. Add the slivered garlic, turmeric, sliced chilli and white part of the spring onion. Cook gently for a couple of minutes, until tender and golden at the edges. Add a few dashes of Worcestershire sauce. Add the green parts of the spring onions. Toss for a couple of seconds.


To serve

Transfer the fish on to four hot plates. Divide the mixture between the plates. Sprinkle with the shredded coriander and add a segment of lime. Enjoy immediately.


Dilisk Bread

One can make a loaf or divide the dough into scones, one can also use a mixture of dried seaweeds.



450g (1lb) white flour, preferably unbleached

1 level teaspoon salt

1 level teaspoon bread soda

15-25g (1/2-1oz) dilisk

sour milk or buttermilk to mix – 350-400ml (12-14 fl ozs) approx.


First fully preheat your oven to 230ºC/450ºF/Gas Mark 8.



Sieve the dry ingredients into a wide bowl. Chop the dilisk and add to the dry ingredients. Make a well in the centre. Pour most of the milk in at once. Using one hand, mix in the flour from the sides of the bowl, adding more milk if necessary. The dough should be softish, not too wet and sticky. When it all comes together, turn it out onto a well-floured worked surface.


Tidy it up and flip over gently.  Pat the dough into a round about 1 1/2 inches (4cm) deep and cut a cross on it to let the fairies out! Let the cuts go over the sides of the bread to make sure of this. Bake in a hot oven, 230ºC/450ºF/Gas Mark 8 for 15 minutes, then turn down the oven to 200ºC/400ºF/Gas Mark 6 for 30 minutes or until cooked. If you are in doubt, tap the bottom of the bread: if it is cooked it will sound hollow.


Masala French Fries

The Perfect Chip


  1. Good quality ‘old’ potatoes eg. Golden Wonder or Kerrs Pinks
  2. Best quality oil, lard or beef fat for frying. We frequently use pure olive oil because its flavour is so good and because when properly looked after it can be used over and over again. Avoid poor quality oils which have an unpleasant taste and a pervasive smell.
  3. Scrub the potatoes well and peel or leave unpeeled according to taste. Cut into similar size chips so they will cook evenly.
  4. Rinse quickly in cold water but do not soak. Dry meticulously with a damp tea towel or kitchen towel before cooking otherwise the water will boil on contact with the oil in the deep fry and may cause it to overflow.


Do not overload the basket, otherwise the temperature of the oil will be lowered, consequently the chips will be greasy rather than crisp. Shake the pan once or twice, to separate the chips while cooking.



To cook the first two types: Fry quickly in oil at 195ºC/385ºC until completely crisp.


Masala Fries

This simple but totally irresistible recipe comes from the chefs in Ahilya Fort in Maheshwar in India.


Serves 2-3


500g  (18 oz) potatoes, peeled. We use Golden Wonder or Kerr’s Pink

1 heaped teaspoon garam masala

flaky sea salt


Heat the oil in deep fry to 120 C

Peel the potatoes, cut into medium size chips.

Blanch in the hot oil for 7 minutes approx.

Remove the basket. Increase the temperature of the oil to 160C . Continue to cook the fries until golden, 4-5 minutes.

Drain briefly on kitchen paper, transfer to a bowl. Sprinkle with a generous teaspoon of garam masala and some salt. Toss well to coat. Taste, correct the seasoning and serve immediately.



Penny Allen’s Kombucha


Kombucha is a fermented drink made from sweet tea.  It is said to have many health benefits when consumed regularly.


750ml (1 pint 15fl oz/scant 4 1/2 cups) boiling water

2 teaspoons loose leaf tea or 2 teabags (green, white or black -organic is best)

150g (5oz) organic caster sugar

1.25 litres (2 pints) filtered water

250ml (9fl oz) Kombucha

1 Kombucha SCOBY (Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast)


Equipment – 3 litres (5 1/4 pints/generous 13 cups) Kilner jar or large Pyrex bowl or similar. Measuring jug

(Don’t use a metal container when brewing kombucha)



Make the tea with 750ml of boiling water in teapot or bowl. Let this sit for a few minutes to infuse.  Strain the tea into your brewing vessel.


Add the caster sugar and stir to dissolve.


Add the filtered water and stir again. The temperature of the sweetened tea should now be tepid and you should have just over 2 litres of liquid.


Add 250ml (9fl oz/generous 1 cup) of kombucha and the Scoby.


Cover jar or bowl with a clean cloth tied around with string or an elastic band. Don’t be tempted to put a lid on it because the kombucha scoby needs air to thrive.


Put in a warmish place for a week to ten days. It should be out of direct sunlight and somewhere it won’t have to be moved. Use a plastic spoon to take a taste each day and after about day 7 it should be almost ready. The taste you are looking for is a pleasing balance between sweet and sour.



Lift off the Scoby and put it in a bowl with 250ml (9fl oz/generous 1 cup) of your just brewed Kombucha and cover this with a plate or bowl while you bottle the rest.


Pour the brewed Kombucha into bottles through a funnel (makes 2 1/2 x 750ml bottles), or into another large Kilner jar. You can then store this in the fridge and enjoy as it is, or you can do a second ferment to add flavour and extra nutritional benefits!


Second Fermentation


To each bottle you can add a handful of any of the following:

  • Fresh or frozen (defrosted) raspberries.
  • Fresh or frozen (defrosted) strawberries and 1 teaspoon raw cacao
  • 1/2 apple and a small beetroot chopped
  • 1 ripe peach sliced


Let this sit for 24 hours at room temperature with a lid on and then strain out the fruit (or vegetables) and bottle. Store in the fridge and enjoy Delicious!

About the author

Darina Allen
By Darina Allen


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