Food trends (+ recipes)
It's easy to put the idea of food fashions into the same basket as things that are transient fads (trendy, rather than actual trends). In fact, the evolution of the way we eat, as much as anything, is a reflection of all the social, environmental and economic changes going on around us.
New research around health drives some trends, others come about through immigration, climate change or, as I wrote recently, the discovery of new ingredients like the miraculous egg white substitute, aquafaba.
Trends tend to filter down from innovative restaurateurs and thought leaders in food, nutrition and the environment. Once a trend starts gaining mainstream traction, chances are big business will see the opportunity and pick it up — and bingo, it's suddenly everywhere.
A decade ago you had to hunt out Thai sweet chilli sauce out in specialty Asian food stores, then it gradually made the migration to the supermarkets. Seeing the trend, Wattie's started making it and now you will find it in most every household pantry, as ubiquitous as tomato ketchup and soy sauce.
Danish sociologist and trends expert Henrik Vejlgaard defines a trendsetter as someone who is constantly curious about what is new and innovative. Trendsetters crave change. Vejlgaard says trends emerge in seven cities in the world — San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York in the United States; along with London, Paris, Milan and Tokyo.
I don't think he looked into New Zealand and Australia, but down here at the edges of the world, unfettered by tradition and with a global food pantry at our fingertips, we have opened our hearts and our stomachs to new flavours. I truly believe this country is one of the most exciting places in the world to be cooking right now.
Having just returned home from a whistle-stop research trip that took in three of Vejlgaard's seven trend-setting cities, here are some of the top trends I've picked up locally and on my travels that will influence the way we cook shop and eat in the years ahead.
Annabel's top trends
Sexy Vs: vegetables, vegetarians, vegans
In case you hadn't noticed, vegetables are the new sexy. All over the globe, high-end chefs are doing fancy-pants things with vegetables, and making them the star feature on their menus. As consumers become more interested in plant-based, healthy eating and reducing their carbon footprint, vegetarian and vegan options are becoming more mainstream.
Blogs such as My New Roots, Elsa's Wholesome Life, Green Kitchen Stories and Sprouted Kitchen, to mention but a few, are introducing us to new ingredients and new ways of cooking. Plant-based eating is a trend that's here to stay.
Back to our roots
Heirloom and heritage fruit and vegetables are on the rise - not just for their superior flavour but for their denser nutrition and the fact that they ensure DNA diversity in the food chain. Since the 1900s, some 75 per cent of plant genetic diversity has been lost as farmers all over the globe have abandoned local varieties for the high-yield, uniform crops that can withstand global transportation and supermarket shelf-life.
Now 75 per cent of the world's food is generated from only 12 plants and five animal species. Farmers can grow two or three times as much as they could 50 years ago, but according to the journal HortScience, some varieties of vegetables and fruit have lost up to 40 per cent of their nutrient content.
Another big mainstream Western trend. Recent research suggests that the bacteria in fermented foods and drinks such as kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha, kefir, yoghurt and blue and other cultured cheeses can change the makeup of gut microbes, leading to the production of compounds that modify brain chemistry and affect mood. How appealing to think that a pottle of active yoghurt twice a day could reduce anxiety.
Apps to make us all culinary stars
Combine our rapacious desire for all things new with the tools of modern technology and, hey presto, suddenly we can all become master chefs. Well, kind of... The web abounds with recipes and videos showing us new ways to cook, clever techniques and ideas. If you enjoy all the culinary backflips of spherification, sous-vide and fancy cheffy techniques, then check out chefsteps.com and its free companion app.
With fab production values and hipster style, they deliver the low-down on on-trend recipes and methods. Also check out Saveur magazine's best food blog awards for the latest in the amazing blogosphere world of food (saveur.com/blog-awards-2015-winners). The 2016 winners will be announced on Monday.
The natural glutamates in foods are known as umami - a word borrowed from Japanese that roughly translates as savoury deliciousness. The trend for chefs to layer up umami-rich ingredients - such as parmesan, fish, shellfish, miso, pork, chicken, beef, seaweed, oyster sauce, soy sauce, eggs, tomato paste, green tea and mushrooms - to create deeply flavoured "umami bomb" dishes means they don't need to add sugar or fat to deliver lip-smacking satisfaction.
- Umami-rich ingredients in this pasta with broccoli really enhance each other.
As artificial flavours and colours continue to decline in popularity, we are becoming increasingly open to the novel fresh, seasonal and bright flavours of botanicals. Botanical ingredients such as guarana, green coffee beans, matcha green tea, ginseng and chrysanthemum flower convey a natural healthy image.
You will start to see them in beverages ranging from cocktails and craft beer to RTDs (ready-to-drink) and functional drinks.
In the movement towards consuming less meat and soy, legumes are taking centre stage as a great source of protein. People with food allergies in their households also view pea proteins as low-risk, safe and natural, unprocessed options. I like to make these tasty snacks using beer as a raising agent as it means I need less soda so I don't get that slightly sour soda taste. They are lovely and light, but you can add a little extra baking soda if you like them even lighter. Make sure you dice the vegetables very finely because they will be in the oil for only a short time to cook through. Get the recipe
Using a combination of umami-rich ingredients in one dish means they enhance one another so the flavour hit you experience is greater than if you tried the ingredients separately. Get the recipe
Indian cooking has always tuned in to food as a means to good health and the traditional yoghurt lassi drink is a good example, incorporating botanicals such as cardamom, cinnamon and ginger with the gut benefits of yoghurt and the antioxidants and vitamins of fresh mango. If you can't get fresh mangoes for this cooling drink use frozen mango chunks or try canned mangoes in juice and reduce the honey or sugar to taste. It keeps in the fridge for a day or two. Get the recipe
These vegan bliss balls encapsulate the trend for high-nutrition foods that avoid highly processed ingredients like refined sugar. If you prefer you can press the mixture into a sponge roll tin, press LSA, coconut or nuts over the top to coat then chill and cut like a slice. For a more decadent version, drizzle balls with melted chocolate. Get the recipe