Nine mad food trends that will influence the Irish food scene in 2017
From edible cannabis to cooking with a conscience and unami fever... the flavours and fads coming in 2017.
Seaweed is being hailed as the new kale, largely thanks to a recent ramen craze that has gone global. Here in Ireland, seaweed has found itself some influential supporters, with books like Sally McKenna's Extreme Greens: Understanding Seaweed and Dr Prannie Rhatigan's Irish Seaweed Kitchen spreading the love for these diverse and abundant super-greens in which flavours range from spicy (pepper dulse) to nutty (wakame).
Look out for seaweed turning up in everything from shortbread cookies to breakfast muesli or experiment at home with dried seaweed from companies such as Sea of Vitality, This is Seaweed, Mungo Murphy and Islander Kelp.
What do ramen noodle soup, cured charcuterie and pickled vegetables like kimchi and sauerkraut all have in common - apart from being hot food trends?
They're all fermented foods and bursting with umami, that 'fifth taste' closely associated with Asian staples like miso and traditional soy sauce but also found in Parmesan cheese, anchovies and kalamata olives. Expect things to get even more umami-tastic, as seaweed becomes mainstream and the cheffish cult of koji (Aspergillus oryzae, the mould that gives us sake and soy sauce) goes viral.
Colour me new
If 2016 was the year that Instagram fell in love with 'unicorn toast' (think cream cheese coloured with beet juice, turmeric or spirulina) and rainbow sushi, then things are about to turn darker. Purple Brussels sprouts made their Irish debut this Christmas, heralding a trend for all things purple and vegetal, with US retailers Whole Foods banking on an appetite for purple cauliflower, sweet potatoes, corn and asparagus in the year ahead. Black is also big, with black garlic, black sesame tahini and even black ice-cream (created with charred coconut shells) bang on trend.
Ireland recently passed a bill to regulate, for medicinal use, marijuana, but we're unlikely to see its culinary use hit these shores any time soon. Over in the US, however, underground supper clubs are putting the high into haute cuisine. New York-based Sinsemil.la boasts seasonal tasting menus that explore both the flavour profile and psychoactive properties of edible cannabis, with heady pairings like Slow-cooked Catskill pullet egg with crispy asparagus and Lemon Mazar Hollandaze.
Chefs have been getting increasingly competitive about just how well-hung their beef is. Northern Irish butcher extraordinaire Peter Hannan helped push the boundaries in recent years with his Himalyan salt chamber, in which he hangs locally reared, grass-fed, rare-breed shorthorn beef for up to 45 days or more. Recently, Sean Kelly of Newport in Co Mayo has developed a system for ageing sirloin steaks for a whopping 56 days, during half of which the steak is sealed in a suet casing.
But a new taste for retired dairy cows, sometimes as old as 18 years, has been pushing those barriers even further, with restaurants such as Taberna do Mercado in London's Spitalfields serving Basque-style txuleta steaks that have been aged for 100 days or more.
The hottest kitchens?
Chefs finding more excuses to get out of the kitchen, not because they can't stand the heat but because they want to keep things hot. This year René Redzepi of Noma takes his entire restaurant on a Mexican adventure for a seven-week beachside residency in Tulum before moving into their new Copenhagen home complete with its own urban farm.
Meanwhile, here in Ireland, some of the most exciting food of 2016 was delivered far beyond the confines of a traditional dining room - at festivals like Body & Soul, Ballymaloe Litfest and The Big Grill, and at street food market spaces like Bodytonic's Eatyard, which will return in spring with another round-up of the best Irish food trucks.
When his restaurant Osteria Francescana was voted number one in the world in 2015, Italian chef Massimo Bottura capitalised on the exposure to launch Food for Soul.
This non-profit project fights and highlights hunger and food wastage through running avant-garde soup kitchens that repurpose surplus food from large-scale events like Milan Expo and the Rio de Janeiro Olympics. Expect to see more examples of that can-do approach to reducing food waste, such as at The Fumbally Café where they transform their baristas' leftover milk into a fresh cheese for their chefs to use.
Cooking with a conscience
"Cooking," Massimo Bottura says, "is an act of love and a call to action." He might easily be talking about Our Table (www.ourtable.ie), a Dublin-based project that seeks to end Direct Provision and to support the integration of the refugee community in Ireland.
Having recently run a pop-up café in the Project Arts Centre, the collective are seeking a permanent home for their restaurant. In the meantime, you can catch their monthly cookery classes and dinners in the Veda Space Community Kitchen, starting on January 18 with a focus on Syrian baking and Middle Eastern cooking with Our Table participant, Khoula Ali.
Dinner delivered, but not as you know it
Forget stodgy takeaways with their built-in guilt factor: clever food entrepreneurs are responding to a growing appetite for deliciously healthy convenience. Piply offer guilt-free takes on curried chips, raw Pad Thai-inspired salads and baked chicken wings, all delivered to your door. Or meal kit companies like Dropchef and The Wholefood Revolution will deliver boxes of pre-prepared food complete with a recipe, ready for you to transform into a home-cooked meal.
Trendy tipples we'll be toasting with
Real fruit ciders
Well-made cider has been making a serious impact in recent years, with the members of the Cider Ireland collective arguing that real cider is Ireland's answer to wine, being fermented (as opposed to brewed) from indigenous fruit. But this year's Blás na hÉireann awards saw several new flavoured ciders sweep the boards, with the medium-dry Stonewell Rós Apple & Rhubarb Cider winning Supreme Champion, and Best Artisan award going jointly to Tempted Cider Company for their Elderflower Cider and MacIvors Cider Company for their Plum & Ginger Cider.
Sour beers - or lambics - are predicted to take 2017 by storm once the warmer months kick in. Of course in an Irish context, we could be waiting a little longer than most, but if we do get any kind of a summer there are some fine Irish sour beers to keep you refreshed from the likes of White Hag and Kinnegar. In the meantime, Metalman's Heat Sink is a smoked chilli porter designed to warm the cockles (and available in party-friendly cans too).
Rise of northern European wines
One of the silver linings of the Brexit fallout and the weakened sterling is that increasingly well-made English wines have become more accessibly priced for us Eurozone wine drinkers. Meanwhile, a combination of global warming and modern wine-making methods have encouraged some Danish dabbling in vinicultural pursuits. There are even some optimists exploring the idea of commercial Irish wine-making - although the most successful experiments to date have been enjoyed by Wicklow Way Wines with their Móinéir range of fruit wines.
Forget the kind of fizzy pop that gives you a sugar rush-and-crash combination - there's a new thirst for soft drinks that keep you buoyed in a sustainable way, thanks to their natural health promoting properties. Fermented probiotic drinks like kefir and kombucha are on the rise, as are fruit shrubs (drinking vinegars) and cold-pressed shots of raw cacao, hemp protein or chlorella. And Ireland now has two locally crafted tonic waters to add to international choices, the kefir-based Herbel Crest and the rosemary and orange-scented Poacher's Premium Irish Tonic Water.
Ones to watch
Miyazaki’s talent is far from undiscovered. Named Chef of the Year 2015 by the McKenna Guides, his extraordinary Japanese food is deliciously captured in regular Instagram postings from his small and humble but critically acclaimed Cork restaurant, Miyazaki.
Following his involvement in two of 2016’s most unique dining experiences – a pop-up dinner in Mitchelstown Caves and a Fumbally Stables collaboration with Katie Sanderson – Miyazaki’s plans for 2017 include more collaborations and the hunt for a premises for a more upmarket kaiseiki-style restaurant.
The Malawi-born activist has been an energetic voice for the End Direct Provision campaign and a dynamic team member of the Our Table project (see ‘Cooking with a conscience’, above).
This January, she begins a three-month residency at Ballymaloe Cookery School as a guest of Darina Allen.
Kisyombe hopes to use the experience to empower young people to open their own food businesses. “And I would love to cook for Michael D some day,” she says. “I love that man.”
James Kavanagh & William Murray
They may have been defeated at the semi-finals of RTÉ’s Taste of Success, but there’s no doubt we’ll be seeing more of Ireland’s favourite millennial culinary couple. James is a well-established Snapchat sensation (jamesksnaps), William his Ballymaloe-trained food-loving partner, and together they are the team behind Currabinny, a start-up catering outfit with big aspirations — including talk of their own café and a cookbook planned for early 2018. Watch out for more events like their recent harvest feast at Teeling Distillery.