ArchiveJune 25, 2005

There’s fashion in food

Theres fashion in food just like everything else. Foodies are always intrigued by the latest trends on the gastronomic circuit, so every year we offer a New Trends Course for those who like to keep up to date with the culinary scene. How does one get the inside track on the hottest food trends from all over the world.

Well, I keep my ear to the ground when I travel and of course I eat in a variety of restaurants. I’m also a member of the IACP, the International Association of Culinary Professionals so I’m fortunate to have a network of people around the world from Sydney to LA and from Mexico to Capetown to tap into when I need to find out what’s happening. Spain is leading the avant garde food movement with Ferran Adria of El Bulli and his acolytes pushing the culinary boundaries. His influence is growing among chefs like Heston Blumenthal at The Fat Duck in Bray in the UK.

What was interesting this year was the similarity – the words organic, local and sustainable kept coming up. The Slow Food Movement continues to gather momentum worldwide. Retro food is back so we’re seeing favourites from the seventies on many trendy restaurant menus – Prawn cocktail, Chicken Maryland, Scampi, Steak with Bearnaise, even Trifle, but usually with a twist.

As ever the top innovative chefs are creating food their own style, from the elaborate and intricate multi-course tasting menus of Thomas Keller in the French Laundry in Napa Valley and Per se in New York, to the exquisitely simple fresh seasonal menus created by Alice Waters at Chez Panisse in Berkeley. Both have their devotees – the former is an eating experience, the latter type of food is definitely a trend. Belly of Pork and offal are everywhere, I ate beef cheek and meltingly tender belly of pork at the ultra hip Gray Café in the Time Warner building in New York. It was fatter than anything even I would dare serve over here and was completely delicious. This new restaurant is much talked about not only for its food but because the kitchen has the best view in New York – some guests were peeved that the chefs have a better view than them.

Cherry Ripe from Melbourne tells me that that Wagyu beef is on every menu in Australia. Translated literally, “Wa” means Japanese, and “gyu” means cattle. The meat is deliciously marbled with fat. Wagyu is not one breed but actually four: Black, Brown, Shorthorn and polled. For a breed of cattle that didn’t exist twenty years ago, it’s becoming ubiquitous – muscling its way on to upmarket menus all over Australia. It costs 150 Australian dollars a kilo as opposed to 35 for purebred Angus. After a decade of being encouraged to think ‘lean’, chefs are in revolt. Better still, research is on their side. It now appears that while external meat fat is largely saturated, research is now showing that the internal, intramuscular fat is proportionately much more mono-unsaturated, a beneficial fat. Fifty per cent of the marbling in Wagyu beef is comprised of oleic acid, a mono-unsaturated fat. This helps explain the meat’s perceived greater “juiciness”. Wagyu are normally killed around 24-26 months (although some are kept up to 32-34 months), resulting in a ‘beefier’ taste.

Retro is also all the rage in Australia, Brunswick Street is famous for their veteran retro food, they serve 2,200 of their ‘retro brekkies’ a week at present – Bacon, Mushrooms, Tomato and Poached egg on toast with Hollandaise Sauce. Australia is also the home of Asian fusion.

Duck in any guise is very popular – braised, or with lentils….and slow roasted pork belly is also all the rage.

Zanne Stewart Food Editor of Gourmet Magazine in New York, said that when they asked about two dozen chefs around the US to send them their favourite recipes, the majority sent recipes for seafood. This would not have happened even 5 years ago, she feels its another facet of people wanting to cook things quickly. Street foods are cropping up in restaurants – sates, dosas, grilled panini sandwiches. Spanish food continues to grow in popularity – especially bocadillos and tapas, New Yorkers like small bites.

Cheese, particularly farmhouse cheese, which most Americans would scarcely let past their lips a few years ago, is now a cult food. Picholine Restaurant, Rob Kaufelt at Murray’s Cheese Shop and Steve Jenkins at Fairway are leading the way, Tom Colicchio at Craft and Craftwich has been serving family style food to packed houses for some time now.

Earlier this year April Bloomfield, formerly of the River Café, opened New York’s first gastro pub in the Village – a huge hit. New York chefs and foodies are also talking about Fergus Henderson, whose London restaurant St John, serves everything from the nose to the tail to committed foodies – this is a fascinating turn around for a country like the US, where it is rare for people eat ‘variety meats’. Maria Battali and his team continue to expand their empire of neighbourhood restaurants, Babbo, Lupa, Ino, Inoteca……Simple gutsy food, great ingredients – they have been leading the way curing their own meat, salami, prosciutto, sopressatta etc.

California used to set the food trends in the US, but according to Mary Risley of Tante Marie’s cooking school in San Francisco, after the bust and 9/11, neither the money nor the will was there any longer, people now want to go to neighbourhood restaurants or local French brasseries where they can walk to eat. Steak with bearnaise, simple pangrilled fish with lemon or beurre blanc and more recently marrow bones with parsley salad, a definite Fergus Henderson influence. Mary Risley also stressed that simplicity is the new buzzword, chefs have to be more conscious of where food is coming from and where its grown – they are increasingly linking directly with farmers and artisan producers. So chefs are talking about sustainability and Fair Trade, middle class are talking about foam.

Serious food issues are being discussed in the papers every day in the US, how pigs and chickens are being reared, conditions in the feed lots, wild salmon versus farmed salmon- this is definitely a new development, influenced no doubt by books and films such as Fast Food Nation and Super Size Me. Grass fed beef is a must – grain fed gets the thumbs down from serious chefs and foodies.

Bonnie Stern, Cooking School owner and food writer from Toronto says that big chefs are opening tapis style restaurants featuring small plates, Japanese pub style restaurants- no sushi, people want casual restaurants, more organic foods and better quality ingredients.

Alicia Wilkinson of Silwood Kitchen Cooking School in Capetown again reiterated that simplicity and organic are buzz words in South Africa’s emerging cuisine.

London is really on the cutting edge of the global food scene, some of the very best food is in gastro pubs like the Eagle and Anchor and Hope, and Borough Market is a mecca for foodies.

Other Trends –

Tea is the new coffee.

Cocktails – a huge revival

Hippest cooking method –braising meat, anything slow cooked sells – daube of beef is a best seller.

Food issues are the topic being discussed at trendy dinner parties – obesity, seed saving and loss of bio-diversity, children’s food.

Craving for forgotten flavours and skills – keeping a few chickens in your garden is the fastest growing hobby in the UK. Big demand for courses on keeping chickens, pigs and how to make your own bacon, sausage etc.

Chefs on this side of the world are following the example of their US colleagues and are employing foragers on their team so they can incorporate wild foods into their menus.

Roast Chinese Belly of Pork with Five Spice Powder and Chinese Greens

Serves 6-8
3lbs/1.3kg belly of free-range pork with rind attached
1 tbsp Szechwan peppercorns
1 tbsp black peppercorns
2 tbsp Maldon or Halen Mon sea salt
2 tsp five spice powder
2 tsp castor sugar

Chinese Greens, Broccoli or Pak Choi with Oyster Sauce
1½lbs/700g sprouting broccoli, small Pak Choi or Chinese greens
1 tbsp sunflower oil
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
3 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tbsp dark soy sauce

The day before cooking, bring a kettle of water to the boil, meanwhile pierce the skin with a skewer all over the surface, try not to penetrate the flesh. Put the pork on a wire rack on the draining board, pour the boiling water over the skin side, allow to drain, dry well.

Put the Szechwan and black peppercorns into a hot frying pan, stir around for a minute or two until they begin to smell aromatic.

Pour into a pestle and mortar or spice grinder, cool for a few minutes then grind to a fine powder. Transfer to a bowl, add the salt, five spice powder and sugar. Put onto a small tray. Rub the spice mixture well into the flesh of the pork and keep refrigerated over-night.

Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Mark 6.

Put a wire rack on top of a roasting tin. Half fill with water. Lay the pork skin side up on top of the wire rack. Cook for 20 minutes, lower the temperature to 180°C/350°F/Mark 4 and continue to roast for 1½ to 2 hours. When cooked through, increase the heat to 230°C/450°/Mark 8 for 15 minutes. The rind will bubble and crisp.

Remove to a warm serving plate. Meanwhile cook the vegetable. Boil or steam the sprouting broccoli, Calabreze or Pak Choi (use 3 tbsp salt to every 2 pints water) for 4-5 minutes depending on size. Mix the oils, oyster sauce and soy sauce together in a little saucepan, warm gently.
Meanwhile, slice the pork into 1½ inch square chunks, you’ll need a serrated knife. Drizzle the well-drained vegetable with the dressing. Taste, correct the seasoning. Serve the pork in deep Asian bowls with rice and vegetables.

Goat’s Cheese in Olive Oil (Queso de Cabra en Aceite)

Shepherds have traditionally made delicious mild and cured cheeses from goat’s milk. The wild herbs which the animals feed on as they ramble over the mountainside during the seasonal migrations give the cheese a slightly spicy flavour, which is accentuated by the olive oil, also seasoned with herbs. The oil keeps these small cheeses fresh and can afterward be filtered and used as a dressing or eaten with bread.
8 small goat’s cheese, with a diameter of about 2 inches (5cm)
4 sprigs thyme
4 sprigs rosemary
1tbsp fennel seeds
1tbsp black peppercorns
16fl oz (500ml) olive oil

Put the goat’s cheese in a sterilised, sealable glass jar with the herbs and peppercorns in between. Add enough oil to cover completely. Seal and leave for 1 month before eating. The oil can be used afterward to dress salads.

Spatchcock Chicken

Serves 6-8
1 free-range organic chicken
Extra virgin olive oil or butter
Chopped rosemary or thyme leaves
Salt and freshly ground pepper
A few cloves of garlic

Insert a heavy chopping knife into the centre of the chicken from the back end to the neck. Press down sharply to cut through the backbone. Alternatively place the chicken breast side down on the chopping board, using a poultry shears cut along the outer length of the backbone as close to the centre as possible. Open the bird out as much as possible. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper, sprinkle with chopped rosemary or thyme and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Transfer to a roasting tin. Turn skin side upwards and tuck the whole garlic cloves underneath. Roast in a preheated oven 180ºC/350ºF/gas mark 4 for 40 minutes approximately.

Note: cook the chicken on a wire rack over a roasting tin of roast potatoes or vegetables. Carve and serve hot with a good salad of organic leaves.

Olive Oil Ice Cream

Jeannie Chesterton gave me this interesting recipe when we spent a few blissful days at her tiny guest house in the middle of the chestnut forest near Aracena in Andalucia.
7oz (200g) castor sugar
4fl oz (125ml) water
4 eggs free-range and organic if possible 
1 glass of pale extra virgin olive oil
a pinch of salt
8fl ozs (225ml) of milk
7oz (200g) blood orange segments
Maldon Sea Salt

Put the sugar and the water into a saucepan. Stir to dissolve the sugar before the water comes to the boil. Continues to boil for about 5 minutes or until the syrup reaches the thread stage. Whisk the eggs in a Magimix, add the oil gradually while still running. Add the cool syrup next in a very thin stream. Finally add the salt and the milk. It’s best frozen in a sorbetiere otherwise just freeze in a covered plastic box.

Serve with blood orange segments and a few flakes of Maldon sea salt.

Foolproof food
Fruit Kebabs 
Next time you have the barbecue out try these with whatever fruit you have to hand.
Makes 16 kebabs approx.

8 Peaches or Nectarines
4 Bananas (sprinkled with fresh lemon juice)
8 Apricots
24 Cherries
16 Strawberries
Orange liqueur, Cointreau or Grand Marnier
6 - 8 ozs (170-225g) castor sugar
Whipping cream.

Cut the peaches or nectarines and apricots in halves, keep 

strawberries whole. Peel the bananas and cut into large chunks, cut each chunk into about 3 pieces and sprinkle with a little lemon juice. Mix the fruit in a bowl, sprinkle with orange liqueur, macerate for about 15 minutes. Thread the fruit on to skewers. Roll in castor sugar and barbecue for 5 - 8 minutes or until they start to caramelize. Serve immediately with a little softly whipped cream. For real excitement pour some of the liqueur over each set it alight and serve immediately. Otherwise just drink the marinade with the kebabs later on!

Cut Apple kebabs
Dessert apples cut into large chunks, or quarters 
sprinkle with lemon juice 

Just before cooking toss in or paint with melted butter sprinkle with castor sugar and thread on skewers and grill for 5 - 8 minutes or until golden and caramelized.

Note: The fruit can also be cooked in tin foil parcels over the barbecue if you wish.

Hot Tips

The spirit of innovation and diversity is alive and well in the craft butcher sector.
The annual competition to find Ireland’s best butchers’ sausages got underway in recent weeks with regional competitions in Mallow, Nenagh, Carrick-on-Suir and Kill, Co Kildare – there was a wide range of innovative speciality sausages, traditional ‘breakfast sausages’, black and white puddings and drisheen –judging by members of the Irish Guild of Foodwriters - full results on ACBI Chief Executive Pat Brady said that entries in the competition were up this year reflecting recognition of increased demand by consumers for something ‘that little bit different’.

National Finals will be held at the Retail Foodshow (incorporating Butchershow) at City West Hotel on 6th November – 

Growing Awareness – Sunday 3rd July – Manch Demesne, Dunmanway, Co Cork
At Manch The Irish Natural Forestry Foundation has established, in conjunction with the owner, a centre of excellence to demonstrate and promote Irish natural forestry that is economically as well as socially and environmentally beneficial. Manch Demesne lies three miles east of Dunmanway on the R586 road. Watch for INFF signs on the left when you reach the wooded tunnel. From Bandon, the Demesne lies half a mile beyond the Carbery milk factory on the right in the wood tunnel. Contact Ian Wright on 028-21889

Vermilion, an Indian-Fusion restaurant in the heart of Terenure Village in Dublin launched the annual Vermilion Indian Summer Festival on Mid-Summer’s Day. The festival takes place every Tuesday and Wednesday until 14th September. A new menu is introduced every four weeks in which Vermilion samples the diverse dishes from India’s five regions each week. At €38 for four courses and a half bottle of wine, this is expected to be popular with fusion fans this summer – to reserve a table call 01-499 1400 or email:  

Union Hall Vintage Festival, West Cork, 7th August
On Sunday August 7th Union Hall will have a Vintage Day with music and stalls selling various products including food. Any small food producer interested in setting up a stand should contact Con Hurley at 028 34820/33088


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