Darina Allen's top food trends for 2019

From veganism to gut health to tea bars, Darina Allen unveils the year’s top food trends

I’M always excited about the start of a brand New Year, new resolutions, new opportunities, new challenges, lots of fun. So what might be coming down the line in 2019; what do we think is hot and what’s not?

Food trends are notoriously volatile but in any business, it’s super important to keep an eye on the indications relevant to your area and analyse them, but beware of following them slavishly.

In my business, keeping an eye on what’s happening on the food, farming and beverage scene is essential to staying on the cutting edge and attracting customers and students from all around the world to Ballymaloe and Ireland. I travel quite a bit, this past year I’ve travelled to China and the US — New York, Florida, Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles — Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Paris, Turin, London.

Food is my subject and so I consider travel to be a vital element in my research. Everywhere I go I meet artisan producers, farmers, fishermen, cheesemakers, visit farmers’ markets, seek out food trucks, taste street food and eat in a wide variety of cafes, neighbourhood restaurants, and fine dining establishments. I keep my eyes and ears open, ask lots of questions, take lots of photos and lots of notes. So, here are some of my predictions for food trends in 2019 based on my observations over the past year.

The number of people choosing a plant-based or vegan diet continues to grow exponentially. Countless others are becoming flexitarians and are choosing to eat less meat and are actively seeking meat and poultry that has been ethically and humanely reared. Believe me, this ‘meat-free movement’, now linked to climate change, is no flash in the pan. Pasture-raised is the buzz word here, rotating animals through lush grasslands can dramatically improve their health, and the health of the soil. Trap carbon dioxide in the soil where it belongs, help with water reduction and reduce erosion — good news for Ireland.

Expect to see more shopper support and shopping brands committed to good animal welfare practices and environmental stewardships. Businesses including farms that support programmes to relieve poverty throughout the world are also influencing consumers and has become a definite global trend. Mindful choices, waste not want not, is a growing preoccupation, consequently some supermarkets are now selling ugly and misshapen but perfectly delicious and nutritious fruit and vegetables at a lower price point.

There is a growing annoyance among consumers about excess packaging. There is a definite awareness of the damage that plastic is doing to our oceans and planet and that it is gradually leaching into our food. We will see an increase in more eco-conscious packaging, single-use plastic is being replaced by multi-use and compostable. We are all addicted to plastic so it will be a difficult habit to break.

Bringing your own vegetable bag and coffee cup is becoming the norm. Waxed canvas or silicone alternatives for sandwiches and snacks is a significant growth area for manufacturers.

A growing body of research confirms that all disease starts in the gut. The realisation that both our physical and mental wellbeing depend on the health of our gut biome has prompted a huge increase in the number of

probiotic foods that contain gut-friendly bacteria to improve the immune system. Even granola bars, nut butters and soups are fortified but my advice is to eat real food, seek out raw milk, raw butter, good natural yoghurt, original cheeses, organic vegetables – and ditch ultra-processed food.

Gut awareness continues to drive the interest in fermentation. Cool restaurants and hotels are serving house-made kefirs, kombucha, kvass, drinking vinegars, sauerkraut, kimchi and other fermented foods. Bone broths are having a tremendous revival, a very welcome trend.

Nootropics, brain food, is coming to the fore, Crickets and other insects, (a ‘new’ inexpensive source of protein) are being added to processed foods. In the US dietitians are becoming celebrities as the health crisis deepens and the rise in obesity, type 2 diabetes and autoimmune disease continue to increase at an alarming rate. We are moving towards more personalised food experience. Once again lets eat real food, chemical-free food rather than ‘edible food-like substances’ that are unquestionably fuelling the health crisis.

In the world of medicine, young doctors are calling for training in nutrition to equip them with the knowledge to advise patients on diet.

Whether we like it or not, increased automation is coming our way — and fast. Robots are already making pizza in France and coffee in San Francisco. They are taking orders and delivering room service. Hotel employees are becoming increasingly concerned about their new rivals — certainly not good news for the job market.

We are edging ever-closer to lab-grown meats becoming mainstream. Jaw-dropping amounts of money have been invested in ‘motherless meat’ in the past couple of decades. The impossible burger is now a reality, it can even bleed like a real burger if carefully cooked. However, the jury is still out on flavour. I’ve tasted three versions of what are described as ‘insanely delicious’ plant-based burgers and I can tell you ‘insanely delicious’ they are not despite the considerable hype to the contrary. Look out for sushi-grade ‘not tuna’ — made from tomatoes. It’ll be interesting to watch this space, a phenomenal investment has already been sunk into this plant-based burger. Meanwhile meat-free days are on the increase and multiple restaurants are now offering an optional meat-free monday menu.

In the US, UK and several other countries, more people are eating at home, the millennials are cooking again. How cool is that, if you’re not convinced, pay a trip to a farmers’ market in Ireland, London, New York or the Flea Market in Dublin and watch the action.

Farm to Table and Root to Shoot eating continues to gather momentum and drive purchases. Urban vertical indoor farming in cities is exploding, reducing expensive and environmental impact. Bill Gates has bought 25,000 acres to develop a new ‘smart city’ from the ground up.

At last there’s some good news for farmers and food producers, new routes to market have been developed where consumers/members order their food online, not from the supermarket, but directly from the farmer or food producer who gets 80% of the retail price as opposed to 25% to 35% through the current retail system. Farmdrop in the UK (www.farmdrop.com) is a brilliant example as is NeigbourFood launched in Cork city in late November. It’s already increasing membership and producers week by week — a very welcome development, check it out on www.neighbourfood.ie. The ‘clean eating fad’ it seems, is waning but has been partly subsumed into the vegan food movement.

On the global restaurant scene, molecular gastronomy appears to have peaked, top chefs are moving away from using spheres and extreme molecular elements and are putting down their paint brushes and tweezers.

It seems like growing numbers are annoyed by the favouritism shown by restaurant critics to avant-garde molecular food. More diners would like to see restaurants concentrating on flavour and not overly complicating dishes, just to make them look pretty. Apparently we’re also over frilly foliage and limp pea shoots but lots of edible flower petals are still in evidence. Small plates are a definite trend.

Amazon’s takeover of Wholefoods in the US is having a profound impact on retail. There are greenhouses on supermarket rooftops in Japan, and talk of being able to pick your own tomatoes straight from the vine when shopping.

Smart fridges that will automatically replenish when you are out of the branded products you can’t live without, are already a reality, along with every conceivable type of meal kit and ready meal. With home delivery of restaurant meals soon by drone rather than bike, it’s a brave new world out there.

Hot Ingredients

  • 1. Chefs and home cooks are becoming more adventurous with chilli pepper flakes, aleppo pepper or pul biber, piment d’espelette, timut pepper from Nepal and Korean gochugaru.
  • 2. Bitter greens of all kinds are on the best menus, radichios, chicory, sorrell, tardivo dandelion leaves…. amaranth is the new kale.
  • 3. Marine munchies will be big — seaweed and sea vegetables, all more nutritious than anything on land and intriguingly delicious. Try dried seaweed sprinkles, kelp noodles, samphire, dillisk soda bread. Dillisk has three times the nutritional value of kale.
  • 4. Expect more unusual herbs, lovage, claytonia, hyssop, shiso, wild and foraged, pennywort, purslane, winter cress, tagetes, ground elder, chickweed...
  • 5. Artisan bakeries will serve real natural sourdough fermented for at least 24 hours, better still 48 hours, made with flour from heritage grains.
  • 6. Tea bars are springing up serving exquisite teas like we can’t imagine, Pu-erh tea has changed my life. Check out a little Taiwanese tea bar in New York called Té on 10th Street. There are even tea cocktails now.
  • 7. Good fats are back, not just butter but ghee from grass-fed cows, organic pork lard, goose and duck fat.
  • 8. Watch out for Argan oil and MCT oil.
  • 9. Organic raw milk and raw butter (€17.59 a pound in San Francisco) is much more nutrient dense and delicious.
  • 10. Puffed and popped snacks — think organic popcorn with many flavours, sweet and savoury.
  • 11. Faux meat snacks, a big trend. …. yeuch!
  • 12. People will be ordering alcohol-free spirits, booze-free cocktails, flavoured whiskeys, artisan gins, beers and ciders.
  • 13. Natural wines and organic wines are a particularly welcome trend for those who can no longer drink the chemical-laden cheap wines.
  • 14. Hemp-derived products are exploding.
  • 15. Doughnuts are still huge, Remember the excitement when Krispy Kreme opened in Dublin.
  • 16. We’ll see more African flavours, in particular Ethiopian food.
  • 17. Flavours of the Pacific Rim (Asia, Oceanica and the western coasts of North and South America) are also a strong trend so stock up on fish sauce, wasabi, lemongrass, star anise, pandan leaves, black sesame, soy sauce.
  • 18. Mushrooms, particularly the wild varieties are naturally rich in umami flavours.
  • 19. Pulses (peas, beans and lentils) are having their moment, an important and inexpensive source of protein.
  • 20. Dried, pickled and smoked foods are more evident, smoked butter, salt, chill flakes, garlic, potatoes, carrots, black pudding — even porridge.
  • 21. Think riced and diced as a carb substitute … cauliflower, Romanesco, broccoli…
  • 22. Stracciatella is everywhere – www.toonsbridgedairy.com.
  • 23. Cold Brew Coffee – nitro coffee.

I’m running out of space but there’s so much more, meanwhile here’s what I’ll be enjoying this week….

Bitter Endive, Escarole, Dandelion or Puntarelle Salad with Anchovy Dressing and Pangrattato

Bitter greens are enormously nutritious, we need more in our diet.

  • 8 handfuls of salad leaves, cut or torn into generous bite sized bits (use a selection of bitter greens endive, escarole, dandelion, pursulane, winter cress….)
  • Caesar dressing
  • 1 -2 fistfuls of freshly grated Parmesan
  • Pangrattato OR 40 croutons, approximately 2cm square, cooked in extra virgin olive oil
  • 16 anchovies (Ortiz)

For the Pangrattato

  • 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 150g white breadcrumbs
  • zest of 1 unwaxed lemon
  • For the Caesar Dressing

    • 2 egg yolks, preferably free-range
    • 2 tbsp lemon juice, freshly squeezed
    • 1 x 50g tin anchovies
    • 1 clove garlic, crushed
    • a generous pinch of English mustard powder
    • ½ teaspoon salt
    • ½-1 tbsp Worcester sauce
    • ½-1 tbsp Tabasco sauce
    • 175ml sunflower oil
    • 50ml extra virgin olive oil
    • 50ml cold water

    Choose a bowl, large enough to hold the salad comfortably, make the caesar dressing as below, sprinkle with enough dressing to coat the leaves lightly. Add a fistful of finely grated Parmesan. Toss gently and add the warm croutons (if using). Toss again. Divide between eight cold plates. Top each salad with a couple of anchovies and serve.

    If using pangrattato instead of croutons, scatter over each of the salads and serve immediately.

    To make the Pangrattato

    Heat the extra virgin olive in a frying pan; add the garlic cloves and sauté until golden brown. Remove the garlic cloves and keep aside.

    Add half the breadcrumbs and stir over a medium heat until they turn golden. Spread out on a baking sheet, repeat with the remainder of the breadcrumbs.

    Grate the garlic cloves over the bread crumbs. Finely grate the lemon zest over the crumbs also. Toss, season with salt and taste.

    To make the Caesar Dressing

    I make it in a food processor but it can also be made very quickly by hand. Drain the anchovies and crush lightly with a fork. Put into a bowl with the egg yolks, add the garlic, lemon juice, mustard powder, salt, Worcester and Tabasco sauce.

    Whisk all the ingredients together. As you whisk, add the oils slowly at first, then a little faster as the emulsion forms. Finally whisk in the water to make a spreadable consistency. Taste and correct the seasoning: this dressing should be highly flavoured.

    Té Dates

    Té Company is a tiny secret Taiwanese tea shop on 163 West 10th Street in Manhattan with superb teas, add it to your New York list…

    • 12 Medjool Dates
    • 12 strips of homemade candied orange peel
    • 12 fresh walnuts
    • A few drops of balsamic vinegar

    Assemble all the ingredients.

    Split the dates down one side, prise open and remove stones.

    Carefully pour a drop of balsamic vinegar into each date. Tuck a strip of candied peel and half a fresh walnut into each. Press and seal.

    Enjoy with a cup of special tea.

    Hot Tips

    What are your favourite food-related podcasts? Some of mine are The Food Programme BBC Radio Four, The Food Chain, Wise Traditions from the Weston A Price Foundation, Honey & Co Delicious, Borough Market, Foodture.

    Snap up a Vacherin Mont d’or before the end of the season, crack open a bottle of natural wine and enjoy a simply delicious supper around a crackling fire.

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