Latest Food Trends

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Gosh February is almost over, the weeks have whizzed past while I’ve been researching the latest food trends – what’s hot and what’s not!

It’s never a good idea to follow trends slavishly, but certainly it’s good to know what’s causing excitement and particularly important for those of us in the food business.

Let’s start with movements:

Climate change concerns are fuelling the vegan and plant based craze. Many young people are switching to a plant based diet believing it to be better for the planet and for animals. The global farming community have done themselves no favours, with intensive poultry and pig farming, raising many legitimate animal welfare issues.

Huge sums of research money continue to be invested in the faux meat and faux cheese industry. The fast food industry has also been quick to react. Sales of alternative meat products are growing in double digits.

The Impossible Whopper is now available in 7,000 Burger King locations. More recently, several variations on blended and fusion burgers have been developed with 25% mushrooms to respond to the growing numbers of flexitarians who are opting to eat less meat.

This trend is not going away anytime soon, and the products and recipes are getting better….

The multinational food products corporation Danone, famous for it’s dairy products has invested 60 million in developing dairy free products.

The Rise in Health Conscious and Socially Conscious Consumers Is driving the zero waste and reduced packaging movement.

193 member states of the United Nations have agreed to halve per capita global food waste, at the retail and consumer level, along production and supply chains by 2030”.

Scotland’s aim is even more ambitious, a  35% reduction by 2025.

Intermittent fasting is starting to gain more traction stateside.

Chefs too, are eager for us to know that they are into ‘zero waste’ …. lots of catchphrases around this topic like ‘too good to go’.

In a bid to use up leftovers deliciously, Skye Gyngell introduced the now famous Scratch Menu at Spring in London in Autumn 2017 – Brilliant value, superb food, pop it on your’ London List’.

Wonky Veg is becoming super cool… Driven by consumer demand, some supermarkets are embracing the idea at last. Socially conscious consumers are taking the local food pledge to spend 50% of their food budget on local food. Lots of new routes to market like Neighbourfood (www.neighbourfoods.ie) and Farmdrop (www.farmdrop.commaking this task easier.

 The demand for organic produce continues to grow in the US – particularly where consumers are becoming more knowledgeable about the effects of glysophate and other pesticides and herbicides on their health.

Apparently, better quality gas station food is a big trend in the US and UK particularly. Can’t say I’ve noticed, but it would be a welcome development at this point in history when so many people buy their food from the same source as the fuel for their cars.

The word sustainable, with its many confusing interpretations continues to be bandied around. However, the term Regenerative Farming – farmers determined to work with nature to rebuild the fertility of the soil and the eco-system, is now cooler and more meaningful.

Agroforestry and Synthropic Agroforestry are buzz words in farming circles. 

The campaign to ban single use plastic continues to gain traction however the global recycling system appears to be in chaos as more and more countries follow China’s lead and adopt a ‘return to sender’ policy.

The Fermented Food Movement:

The fermented food movement continues to grow…..Kombucha, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, kvass are all main stream products now.

Food to feed the gut biome is well understood and now more conversation about Food to feed the brain which is in essence the same.

In the US where they are even further down the road of desperation there appears to be a realisation that real food is what is needed.

People are desperately seeking REAL food to boost their health… Alleluiah…..!

Google searches on bone broth and collagen reached an all-time high in 2019. This liquid boosts the immune system, strengthens bones and promotes healthy hair and skin.

The Sourdough Bread Revolution continues unabated.

Artisan bakeries are popping up all over the country from Abbeyleix to Tramore with people like you and I queuing around the corner for a decent loaf of slowly fermented sourdough bread that doesn’t cause one to feel bloated or unwell…

Beware, there’s a lot of ‘faux sourdough’ around. If a loaf doesn’t cost at least €4.50, it’s unlikely to be a natural sourdough which takes at least 12 hours to ferment and should only contain flour (preferably organic), salt, water and a natural sourdough starter – no bakers’ yeast or other additives. The 48 – 72 hour feremented natural sourdough from the Ballymaloe Cookery School Bread Shed has a growing fan base. 

There’s a revolution in the drinks world…

According to Neilsen data, 66% of millennials are making an effort to reduce alcohol intake hence the demand for non-alcoholic drinks is so skyrocketing. All manner of mocktails and floral infused drinks.

Whole Foods are shifting from alcoholic cocktails to mocktails and reporting a 377% rise in Kombucha sales. Look out for Makgeolli, a Korean rice liquer. Baijiu also known as Shaojiu, is a distilled Chinese drink made from grain. It too is becoming cool, even in non-Asian countries. Mescal is cooler than Tequila…. 

Look out for Seedlip, one of the first distilled non-alcoholic spirits to the market. Kin Euphorics ‘all bliss no  booze’ and Curious Elixirs ‘booze free cocktails’. Watch out for more trendy alcohol free bars like The Virgin Mary in Dublin’s Capel Street.

Cold brews and nitro coffee sales have soared, now 50% of Starbucks orders. I’m also loving all the exciting new bitters, artisan beers and ciders.

The success of the natural wine movement continues to baffle as the demand for clean, chemical and pesticide free, biodynamic and natural wines skyrockets. Fans tell us they love the added bonus of no hangover. Organic wines are gaining devotees of whom I’m one. For suppliers, check out Le Caveau Wine Merchants in Kilkenny, leaders in the field (www.lecaveau.ie)

The ‘free from’ market gains more shelf space in supermarkets and retail outlets and as ultra-processed food becomes less and less nutritious, the supplement market grows exponentially.

A direct consequence of agricultural policy since the 1950’s encouraging farmers to produce maximum food at minimum costs – a disaster in health and socio economic terms.

All manner of dairy free milks – oat milk, cashew milk, almond milk, soya milk, directly fuelled by the diminishing quality of cows milk. What’s going on?

CBD infused ‘everything’ is big business, snacks, coffee, drinks, even pet food…and growing.

Huge investment into developing healthy snacks with less sugar. Cadburys Dairy Milk now has a 30% less sugar than before chocolate bar….

Home Meal Kits:

Home meal kits and food delivery business is off the scale, used to be just in US and UK cities but delivery bikes and Uber Eats are a familiar sight to all of us now. Interestingly Uber Eats, who have their finger on the pulse, report that customers are turning to healthier plant based options in droves.

Onto the rest of the world…. more chefs are engaging in sustainable practices. Although many more establishments are still ‘talking the talk’ rather than ‘walking the walk’.

Michelin is coming under increasing pressure to factor sustainability and kitchen culture issues into its evaluation system for awarding stars. Chefs continue to spice up food to allay consumer boredom, hyper regional food is a big trend in the US. And of course the food on the plate needs to be Instagrammable, keeps the name out there…

There are signs that the general public are tiring of ‘cheffy wizardry’, more often than not it’s an occasional or ‘once and once only’ experience, fun to tick off the ‘bucket list’ but not the type of food that people want to eat every week or month… a dilemma…

Experiential Dining is one of the hottest new restaurant trends as is more adventurous kids menus with global flavours. It’s no longer enough to offer vegetarian and gluten free options, we now need dairy free, plant based, vegan and keto options too….

Ingredients…

·       We’ll be hearing more about Reishi mushrooms, which supposedly boost the immune system – fast becoming another superfood.

·       Mushroom coffee – Chaga

·       Foodies are loving the brassica family – roast Brussel sprouts roast cabbage, broccoli…cauliflower in its many delicious incarnations.

·       Peptides, nutritional yeast, food containing gut healthy probiotics.

·       Lotus seeds, add addictive crunchiness.

·       Harissa, the North African chilli spice paste is the new Sriracha.

·       Jerusalem Artichokes – sun-chokes in the US

·       Lard, beef dripping, duck and goose fat are all super cool..

·       Seaweeds are still trending…

·       Squid ink is also having a moment, added to pasta and mayo…

·       Plant based diets are fuelling an interest in lesser known grains, farro, millet, teff, freekah, sorghum, amaranth even pearl barley….The success of the Hodmedod’s enterprise in the UK, who grow a wide range of dried pulses and grains… is a clear indication of the revival of interest in ancient grains and pulses – increasingly being regarded as super foods.

·       The acreage of heirloom wheat, oats and grains is increasing every year as more artisan bakers, mill fresh batches of flour for their sourdough breads, adding extra flavour and nutrients.

·       Pho and Banh mi sandwiches

  • Rapadura sugar
  • Winter tomatoes

·       Yuzu – a tart fruity citrus about the size of a tangerine that originated in China, we’re all loving the bright flavour.

·       Ube – a vivid, purple yam used to create violet coloured ice creams, brownies, macaron, cakes….

·       Pinsa – a Roman version of pizza, a flat bread made with a combination of spelt, rice and wheat flour.

·       Pizzetta’s – a finger food sized pizza, what’s not to love?

·       Air dried meats, like Biltong and Jerky and more fermented salami and saussicons.

·       Nashville hot chicken is huge in US.

·       Japanese fluffy soufflé pancakes are all the rage.

·       Savoury porridge with numerous toppings.

·       Dessert hummus…with added chocolate, peanut butter, cookie dough…

·       Non dairy spreads – almond butter, cashew butter, macadamia nut butter, gluten free products, psyllium, buckwheat – no palm oil and less sugar.

Winter Tomato Salad

Flavourful tomatoes in Winter sound like an oxymoron a complete contradiction in-terms but Winter tomatoes are different, These are special varieties that only reach their full flavour potential during Winter when night time temperatures drop below 5 centigrade in Sicily, Sardinia and Spain. They are still quite difficult to source over here but look out for Marinda from Sicily, Camone from Sardinia and Black Iberico and RAF from Spain. They have a crisp , slightly tart flavour and are best eaten raw in salads during the season from December to end of April. Check out Natoora for stockists…. natoora.co.uk

Serves 4-6

6 Winter tomatoes, use several varieties if available..

Flakey sea salt and freshly cracked pepper

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

A sprinkling of rapadura sugar or pale soft brown sugar.

3-4 ozs Goat curd or fresh goat cheese… St Tola or Ardsallagh…

A couple of fistfulls of leaves…..Pennyworth and/or wood sorrel leaves and a few small rocket leaves.

Coarsely chopped unskinned almonds and pistachio nuts.

Just before serving …

Cut the tomatoes in different shapes and slices for contrast of colour and flavour on a flat plate, Sprinkle evenly with salt, freshly cracked pepper and a little sprinkling of sugar. Whisk the olive oil and lemon juice together and drizzle about half over the tomatoes and the remainder over the leaves, toss gently to coat.. Divide the fresh and foraged leaves evenly between 4-6 wide bowls, top with a mixture of the nicely seasoned tomatoes… Pop a few blobs of goat curd or soft cheese on top and sprinkle with coarsely chopped nuts..

Prawns in their Shells with Watercress and Yuzu Mayonnaise

Yuzu is a deliciously fragrant citrus fruit mainly cultivated in Japan, Korea and China, it’s about the size of a tangerine, if you can’t find it fresh in Asian stores, use the bottled juice which is also very good..

Prawns are not cheap, but always a special treat. You can of course buy them pre-cooked but they are very simple to cook at home in well salted water. Add some fresh or bottled yuzu juice to a homemade mayonnaise to embellish beautiful fresh prawns. Make sure to open their heads and scoop out the soft tomalley, provide a prawn cracker to crack the claws so you can extract every last sweet morsel, then save the shells for a prawn bisque, chefs often make more money from the bisque than they do from the prawns.

Serves 8

40-48 large very fresh Irish prawns

3.6 litres (6 pints) water

3 generous tablespoons salt

Accompaniment

4-8 tablespoons Yuzu mayonnaise  

Large white plates

Garnish

watercress sprigs

4 segments lemon

First cook the prawns

Bring the water to the boil and add the salt (it may sound a lot, but this is the secret of real flavour when cooking prawns or shrimps).  Cook the prawns a few at a time in the boiling salted water. As soon as the water returns to a rolling boil, test a prawn to see if it is cooked.  It should be firm and white, not opaque or mushy.  If cooked, remove prawns immediately.  Very large ones may take 1/2 to 1 minute more.  Allow to cool in a single layer on a tray.  Uncurl the tails.  

Note: Do not be tempted to cook too many prawns together, otherwise they may overcook before the water even comes back to the boil, cook them in 2 or 3 batches.

To serve

Put 5 or 6 cooked whole prawns on each plate.  Spoon a tablespoon or two of Yuzu Mayonnaise into a little bowl or oyster shell on the side of the plate.  Pop a segment of lemon on the plate.  Garnish with some fresh wild watercress.  Serve with fresh crusty brown soda bread and Irish butter.

Shrimps are cooked in the same way but take a minute or two longer, check that there is no trace of black at the back of the head.

Homemade Yuzu Mayonnaise

I know it is very tempting to reach for a jar of the well-known brand, but homemade mayonnaise is made in 5 minutes, even by hand. If you decide to use a food processor it’s even faster and sooo worth the effort. 

As ever the quality of the eggs really matters. Use the best free-range and better still organic eggs you can find and really good quality sunflower and olive oil and wine vinegar if using.

2 egg yolks, free range or organic

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon Dijon mustard or pinch of English mustard

1 dessertspoon Yuzu juice or white wine vinegar

225ml (8fl oz) olive oil (or a mixture of olive and sunflower  6:2 or 5:3)

Put the egg yolks into a medium-sized Pyrex bowl with the mustard, salt and the Yuzu juice. Put the oil into a measure. Take a whisk in one hand and the oil in the other and drip the oil into the egg yolks, drop by drop whisking at the same time. Within a minute you will notice that the mixture is beginning to thicken. When this happens you can add the oil a little faster, but don’t get too confident or it will suddenly curdle because the egg yolks can only absorb the oil at a certain pace. Taste and add a little more seasoning and yuzu juice if necessary. 

About the author

Darina Allen
By Darina Allen

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