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.
Climate change concerns are fuelling the vegan and plant-based movement. 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 have been seeing double-digit rates of growth.
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 its dairy products, has invested €60m in developing dairy-free products.
The Rise in Health Conscious and Socially Conscious Consumers is driving the 'zero-waste' and reduced packaging movement.
“Some 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’, with 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 — for brilliant value and 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 and Farmdrop
The demand for organic produce continues to grow in the US — particularly where consumers are becoming more knowledgeable about the effects of glyphosate 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 ecosystem, 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 continues to grow: kombucha, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, kvass are all mainstream products now.
Food to feed the gut biome is well understood and there is 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 arealisation that real food is what is needed.
People are desperately seeking REAL food to boost their health ... Hallelujah!
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 fermented 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 trying 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 St. 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 LeCaveau
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 1950s 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, is 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 is going into developing healthy snacks with less sugar. Cadburys Dairy Milk now has a 30%-less-sugar-than-before chocolate bar …
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, and 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 ..
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.
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 five degrees 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 the end of April. Check out Natoora
6 Winter tomatoes, use several varieties if available
Flakey sea salt and freshly cracked pepper
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp 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 fistfuls 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.
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 beautifulfresh 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.
40-48 large very fresh Irish prawns
3.6 litres (6 pints) water
3 generous tbsp salt
4-8 tbsp Yuzu mayonnaise
Large white plates
4 segments lemon
For the Yuzu Mayonnaise
2 egg yolks, free range or organic
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp Dijon mustard or pinch of English mustard
1 dstsp Yuzu juice or white wine vinegar
225ml (8fl oz) olive oil (or a mixture of olive and sunflower 6:2 or 5:3)
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 a half to one 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 two or three batches.
To serve: Put five or six 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 five minutes, even by hand. If you decide to use a food processor it’s even faster and 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.
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.