10 food trends you need to know about
From activated nuts to smoked ketchup, Aoife Carrigy brings you the foods that will be filling restaurant menus - and Instagram feeds - this autumn
Food was always subject to fashion. There was a time when the done thing was to serve tablefuls of sweet and savoury dishes all at once, before the influential 19th-century set decided that this service à la Francaise was so yesterday and that we all must opt for service à la Russe instead (the now-standard approach of starters, main course and dessert being a straightforward example). More recently, we've seen 1970s classics such as prawn cocktail get shunted out into the cold for a couple of decades before being ushered back in a rush of retro nostalgia.
But in today's ultra-connected world where even the most minor of repasts are posted on social media (heavily filtered of course, and hash tagged for optimal reach) it can often feel like the vagaries of food trends have become more whimsical than ever. One minute everyone's getting giddy over spiralizers and cold-pressed juices, nut milks and imported quinoa, the next thing clean living and caveman-influenced diets are being called into question.
Some of the latest trends are certainly whimsy -though nonetheless fun for it - but there are others that are a reflection of our changing relationship with the world around us, and our understanding of how Mother Nature can support us if we take care of her, and each other.
Here, we bring you the top 10 food trends that everyone will be talking about this autumn.
1 Fermented foods
Most probably the biggest trend informing how we eat is the craze for fermentation. Once the preserve of the sandals-and-socks brigade, fermentation is going mainstream as sauerkraut becomes the coleslaw de jour.
So what's making everyone fermentation mad? It's not simply that it gives chefs such as pop-up queen Katie Sanderson the opportunity to play with flavour, texture and colour (as she does in her latest venture, White Mausu, which is a street-food stall serving up rice bowls with Korean kimchi, pickles and taberu rayu chilli sauce at festivals and markets). Nor is it just that accessorising your restaurant or café with jars of fermenting pickles lends instant colour, character and kudos (as in Co Down's Wine and Brine which was named Best Local Restaurant in the UK by the Waitrose Good Food Guide). It's also down to the considerable health benefits of eating probiotic-based pickles that have been fermented in salty brine rather than simply preserved in a sour vinegar. Fermented foods help to alkalise high acid levels in your system and introduce battalions of good gut bacteria to counterbalance the bad ones. To try your hand at it, consider a workshop such as with food writer Val O'Connor next Saturday, September 10, as part of the Airfield Festival Of Food (airfield.ie).
Instagram it: Cork-based clinical nutritionist April Danann sells fermented foods under her Rebel Foods brand; follow her @aprildanann
Try it: Fermentation can bring simple dishes such as potato bread to new heights, as proved in Forest & Marcy (forestandmarcy.ie) where they pair it with bacon and cabbage like you've never eaten it.
Cook it: Novices looking to immerse in this particular rabbit-hole would do worse than to pick up The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Katz, the international guru of fermentation.
2 Activated foods
Another rising trend for 'optimising' or getting the most goodness out of ingredients is what is known as activated foods. This is nothing new: it's akin to what whiskey producers do to barley when they malt it by soaking to germinate, hence waking up the dormant grain and encouraging certain enzymes to develop. If you've ever wondered what makes an authentic Mexican tortilla taste so particularly good, it's the ancient 'nixtalimisation' process by which 'masa' (corn flour) is transformed into 'masa harina' (corn flour that has been soaked overnight in a lime solution). This process helps to loosen the hulls, soften the corn and make the nutritious niacin more readily digestible, and gives the resulting tortilla or papusa a distinctly earthy flavour.
Similarly, activating food sources such as nuts and seeds makes the natural nutrients more readily accessible. The thinking goes that nuts contain enzyme inhibitors and phytic acid, while soaking helps to remove these toxic and bitter protectors and to wake the life-force within. Several innovative Irish brands now offer pre-activated nuts and seeds, including Dragon's Den discovery, Nutmost (nutmost.ie), which does a mean take on tamari marinated almonds. Meanwhile, Nicoya is a new product line inspired by the primitive nourishment wisdom of indigenous tribes and our own ancestors: it features activated porridge oats and nut butters amongst its extensive range.
Buy it: The Nicoya range has been launched in selected Donnybrook Fair stores and will roll out from there, see nicoya.ie for more details.
Cook it: Not only will the lovely Lily Ramirez of Dublin's Picado Mexican Pantry (picadomexican.com) sell you the masa harina, her blog will also provide the recipe to transform it into authentic tortillas: amexicancook.ie/recipe/magic-tortillas
3 Real Bread Rising
Avocado toast may be taking a slagging of late, with food writer Joanna Blythman questioning the human cost and ecological sustainability of Mexican avocado production, but it's still a staple in hipster-villes worldwide. But even if trend-setters tire of avocado, the toast itself seems here to stay. Fancy toast - or 'elevated toast' as it's dubbed in San Francisco - has become 'a thing': basically, we're talking toast with toppings, so not unlike a good old open sandwich or the Belgian-style tartines sold at Le Pain Quotidien in Kildare Village.
Key to this trend - and indeed a growing trend in itself here in Ireland - is the quality of the bread, with sourdough reigning supreme. The linchpin of good sourdough is allowing time for slow fermentation, something side-stepped by the modern Chorleywood bread-making method used in commercial industrial bread-making. There's a growing cohort of the gluten-insensitive devotees who are realising that 'real bread' (as advocates call it) is significantly easier on their digestive system. The same goes for pizza dough that features a sourdough starter and has been allowed time for slow fermentation, which is one of the reasons that pizza from Real Bread Ireland members such as Dublin's Gaillot et Gray and Donegal's Scarpello & Co goes down so darn easy. Throughout the month of September, all members of Realbread Ireland will be offering free sourdough starter to any customer interested in trying their hand at making it at home.
Instagram it: Yep. There's actually an Instagram account dedicated to 'All Avo Toast. All Day.' It's called @avocadotoast and has almost 33K followers.
Try it: Find your nearest Real Bread Ireland member at realbreadireland.org/members-and-a-map
Cook it: Once you get your free sourdough starter, you can follow a straight-forward recipe on riotrye.ie/common-loaf
Forget kale: seaweed is the new green. Edible plankton is being used by cutting-edge kitchens to add vibrant colour and intense flavour to a dish (not to mention the health claims for this latest 'super food'). But if single-cell sea-greens are a step too far, there are seaweeds - or sea vegetables, as fans call them - of all shapes and sizes to choose from. And it seems that everyone's developing an appetite for these super-greens.
Many leading chefs are fans, such as the award-winning Jess Murphy of Kai in Galway who often features locally harvested sea spaghetti in a monkfish and cockles broth. Nearby in West Clare, visitors can book a Loop Head Food Trail experience at The Old Schoolhouse B&B to learn how to make hand-made ravioli filled with St Tola goat's cheese and locally harvested sea lettuce. Entrepreneurial companies such as Sáile Irish Seaweed Foods are using Irish carrageen moss as a setting agent in innovative products such as an organic Chocolate Mousse Mix, while Irish seaweed is turning up in everything from Galway Food Company's Connemara Seaweed All Butter Shortbread to Sea Bee Tree Fruit & Nuts Muesli With Irish Seaweed.
Instagram it: Follow the Cork-based Japanese chef-extraordinaire Takashi Miyazaki at @miyazaki_cork for his inspired handling of seaweed, such as his extraordinary looking sea grass tempura.
Buy it: Sea of Vitality, Wild Irish Sea Veg and The Laughing Oyster all do a good range of dried seaweed that has been milled to a sprinkle or powder, perfect for seasoning soups, stews and even scrambled eggs.
Cook it: Try Prannie Rhatigan's superb Irish Seaweed Kitchen or the more recent and equally excellent Extreme Greens: Understanding Seaweed by Sally McKenna, a book described by BBC Radio 4's The Food Programme as "a new bible for seaweed cookery".
Part of the revival of ancient arts of food preservation has been a newfound appreciation for all things charcuterie (or cold meats that have been cooked or cured). Top chefs like Daniel Boulud have put charcuterie back on the global food map, and it fits as a snug companion to well-bedded trends such as nose-to-tail cooking and the love of all things fermented and cured.
Here in Ireland we're putting our own special twist on the more traditionally 'continental' tradition. Pioneers included Fingal Ferguson of Gubbeen Smokehouse who experimented venison salami and a boldly spiced chorizo, and Frank Krawczyk, whose son Rob Krawczyk is carrying on the family tradition down at Tankardstown House. The Restaurant Association of Ireland's Best Leinster Chef 2016, Rob is not the only Irish chef taking the DIY route: the ultra hip wine bar Forest & Marcy also serve house-cured charcuterie.
The rest of us have a wealth of excellent Irish charcuterie to choose from: McGeogh's Connemara air-dried lamb; Ballinwillin wild boar salami; Coopershill smoked venison; Forage & Cure (pictured above) salami and chorizo; and the new Killenure Dexter beef jerky, chorizo or salami produced with indigenous Irish cows reared in their original home of Dundrum, Co Tipperary.
Other hot products include n'duja, an Italian soft chorizo-spiced paste that is turning up in pastas and on pizzas countrywide, and guanciale, or cured pig jowl, of which Co Down butcher Peter Hannan made a Great Taste Awards Supreme Champion winning version in 2012.
Buy it: Stalwarts of Irish chorizo and salami like Gubbeen Smokehouse are being joined on local supermarket shelves by newbies Forage & Cure, now part of SuperValu's Food Academy.
Cook it: The River Cottage Curing and Smoking Handbook is the culmination of a decade of author Steven Lamb's working at Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's River Cottage.
The doughnut craze shows no sign of going off the boil. First there was the cronut, a tastier-than-it-sounds cross between a donut and a croissant that was brought to these shores by early-adaptors such as Dublin's Marker Hotel.
Then doughnuts got all gourmet on us, with fancy-schmancy shops out-doing themselves to invent the craziest toppings, such as the maple bacon bar doughnut of Voodoo Doughnuts in Portland, Oregon.
This year, Dublin embraced the glazed and filled doughnut trend, with Dublin Doughnut Company supplying the likes of Hazelnut Praline or Key Lime Pie doughnuts to various city cafés, Aungier Danger (pictured above) popping up in Arnotts and not being allowed to leave, Krust Bakery selling out within hours of opening and Revolution Bakery food truck selling their sticky wares at Sunday's Herbert Park food market.
Others went a different route, with Stoneground Donuts in Kildare Village producing old-school ring doughnuts served hot to order and topped with Irish Atlantic Sea Salt caramel or Big Red Kitchen seasonal jams. Meanwhile The Rolling Donut - a fixture on O'Connell Street since 1988 - are holding their own with a new store on Bachelors Walk.
Next up? Sushi doughnuts are apparently 'a thing' - and donut walls are the latest must-have treat at Instagram-friendly weddings.
Instagram it: Follow @slicedublin7 and their #durtydonutthursday for weekly updates on their latest doughnut offering, inspired all summer by some of our favourite ice-creams (a 99 doughnut anyone, or Loop the Loop?) but moving to chocolate bars for the autumn season.
Cook it: You'll find recipes for Vegan Pokemon and Pikachu Donuts at 'Ginger Vegan' Instagram account.
Try it: Offbeat Donuts serve up creations such as a Ferrero Rocher donut to sugar-needy commuters at Pearse Street Dart Station in Dublin.
7 Smoke and Fire
Netflix's hit series Chef's Table has a lot to answer for. As does one of the stars of its first series - the incorrigible free spirit that is the fire-loving Argentinian chef Francis Mallman. The low'n'slow barbecue craze that was already sweeping the globe was further fanned by Mallman's unique outdoor pursuits of slow cooking beast-based feasts over an open fire.
Now it seems we're all tripping over fire pits and batting off flying chickens, as anyone who visited the recent Big Grill festival in Dublin's Herbert Park will bear witness to. In its third year, the festival has been fostering lots of home-grown barbecue talent. One of the festival's original stars and former head chef at Jamie Oliver's Barbecoa, John Relihan now heads up Holy Smoke in Cork (pictured above), while the festival organiser, Andy Noonan, is behind Fowl Play in Dublin's Hogan Place. This poultry-focussed eatery offers spatchcocked chuck cooked rotisserie-style over an oak fire-pit.
That full-blown love of fire is coupled with a growing love of all things smoked and charred. Don't be surprised to find smoked salt or smoked butter gracing your dinner table or smoked ketchup turning up in your burger. And while the likes of leek ash have been counted amongst the gastronomic arsenal of Michelin-starred chefs such as Mikael Viljanen of The Greenhouse for some years now, we're seeing more and more charred or burnt vegetables and even fruits appearing on the plate.
Instagram it: Follow @francismallmann for some concentrated shots of bucolic escapism and vicarious living.
Buy it: If smoked ketchup sounds like your kind of must-have condiment, get yourself some from Three Men in a Trailer (3men.ie/get-some)
Cook it: Another graduate of The Big Grill and pit master at Barbecoa, Irish chef Mark O'Brien blogs at oaksmokeandbbqsauce.com
8 Plant power
Where the terms 'vegetarian' and 'vegan' once evoked a diet based on exclusion, the common contemporary descriptors of 'flexitarian' and 'plant-based diet' suggest an inclusive philosophy based on discerning choices. For many of the new breed of veg-centric chefs and home cooks, it's about placing vegetables such as hero celeriac or aubergine centre-plate - and perhaps using meat as a garnish or a seasoning support to the main act, or perhaps not. Today's vegetables often substitute for both protein (think cauliflower steaks) and carbs (courgette spaghetti). The appreciation for heirloom varieties has expanded from imported tomatoes to local Irish fruit and veg such as apples and potatoes. And edible flowers are prettying up plates coast to coast.
Meanwhile, a new breed of casual dining cafés, trucks and delivery services are focussing on healthy veg-centric dishes. Piply, the latest venture from Garret Keogh of Brother Hubbard and Sister Sadie, will deliver the likes of hummus with crispy chick pea granola and edamame beans (pictured above) straight to your door, while the former pop-up Sova Food: Vegan Butcher has found a permanent home next door to the vegetable-loving Meet Me in the Morning café on Dublin's Pleasant's Street.
Instagram it: Keep an eye on @veginitydublin to stay up to speed on the weekly menus rolled out at this Dublin-based vegan food truck, which have recently included rarities like Ethiopian injera with misir wat (fermented teff-based bread with berber-spiced lentil stew).
Try it: Order the Buffalo Cauliflower Wings with Homemade Chips & HappyMayo / Ketchup €7.50 from HappyFood on Camden Street (available with Deliveroo).
Cook it: Edible flowers, available in the likes of Fallon & Byrne, can be preserved for a later occasion within the clever petal-strewn popsicles found on chewtown.com/2013/09/edible-flower-elder flower-popsicles
9 Responsible Eating
From Michelin-starred chefs to savvy consumers, the question of how to eat responsibly is informing several sub-trends. Leading Californian chef Daniel Patterson has headed up a revolutionary fast-food chain, Loco'l, to bring nutritious affordable food to the most underprivileged neighbourhoods. Italian chef Massimo Bottura (pictured above), currently dubbed the world's top chef - and one of its most popular too thanks to his charm offensive on Netflix's Chef's Table - has coordinated the transformation of waste food from large-scale events such as the Olympics in Rio and the Expo in Milan into delicious and nutritious food for those citys' poorest. Bottura will appear as one of 50 international chef speakers in Galway next October at Food on the Edge, a kind of Ted Talks for cutting edge chefs interested in considering the theme of the Future of Food.
Also in Galway, chef Enda McEvoy's Michelin-starred Loam restaurant has become Ireland's first independent restaurant to achieve three 'Food Made Good Stars' from the UK-based Sustainable Restaurant Association. The Loam kitchen team employ a nose-to-tail and leaf-to-root philosophy, using as much of each animal and plant as possible. They send compostable waste back to their fruit and veg suppliers, Leaf and Root, to help grow next year's crop at this Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm in Loughrea, Co Galway.
Instagram it: Follow the @foodmadegood team for their recommendations for sustainably run eateries.
Try it: Airfield Estate in Dundrum, Co Dublin will host a Trash Bash Supper next Friday, September 9, described as a "sumptuous supper from unloved surplus food from around Dublin". See airfield.ie/whats-on for details.
Cook It: The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eating by Fergus Henderson (2004) proved a seminal cookbook in changing people's mindset towards eating all parts of an animal.
10 Craft drinks
Non-alcoholic craft drinks have become a new frontier for experimentation in restaurants, cafés, food stalls and trucks. Fermented drinks are particularly hot, with stalls such as the Cork-based My Goodness refreshing and re-alkalising festival-goers with their elaborate kefir-based fruit sodas. (Kefir can be milk-based too, prompting a new Irish kefir ice-cream offering a gut-friendly treat; kefi.ie.) Kombucha is the tea-lover's choice, with options such as Watermelon-Ginger & Green Tea Kombucha drawing regulars at Dublin's Veginity food truck, while the Fumbally Café offers a range of seasonal homemade probiotic drinks.
Traditional drinking vinegars are making a comeback too: this weekend, Shannen Butler-Keane's demo at the Electric Picnic's Theatre of Food celebrates the rise of shrubs (a style of flavoured vinegar-based syrups recently revived by moustache-touting mixologists) and switchels (an electrolyte-boosting blend of cider vinegar, maple syrup and ginger).
'Sober cocktails' are holding their own on carefully considered drinks lists, whether using pre-prepped house syrups (as in Charlotte Quay's delicious hibiscus spritzer, the Queen Medbh) or made-to-order mocktails (such as Bow Lane's Not So Bloody Bleedin Maire, a kick-ass spiced tomato juice). Ireland now boasts several new tonic water brands that are good enough to drink solo, including the rosemary and orange-flavoured Poachers and the kefir-based tonic from Herbel Crest (pictured above), as well as 'optimised water' brands such as Nué featuring Irish Atlantic sea minerals.
Try it: Check out a recipe for kefir and kombucha ohmygood nessfood.com/fermentation or pick up a kombucha starter pack from one of their Cork market stalls.
Buy it: Wild Irish Foragers & Preservers shrubs are pro-biotic organic Irish apple cider vinegar flavoured with everything from gorse and honeysuckle to elderberry and dandelion petal, wildirishforagers.ie