What’s hot in home cooking?
We may have reduced our spending on food but we are now seeing it more as a source of pleasure, nutrition and a meaningful connection with the world
We Irish are an increasingly foodie nation. That was one of the top findings of PERIscope 2013, Bord Bia’s recently published report based on comparative research across 10 European countries. We may have scaled back our spend but we are reprioritising it too, and focusing on food as a source of pleasure, nutrition and meaningful connection with the world. Cooking from scratch and home entertaining are on the rise, and the Irish are number one in Europe for attending cookery classes. So what’s hot in the world of the home cook?
Local and real
Authenticity is prized highly, as is locally sourced food. “Real” foods are hot, traditional crafts are cool and local is where it’s at. We want small-scale farmhouse butter and slow-fermented sourdough bread. We want locally-produced alternatives to imported foods. And we’re getting them too, from Irish Atlantic sea salt and Irish apple balsamic vinegar to mozzarella produced from Co Cork buffalos.
We are increasingly using communal food experiences to build meaningful connections. Whether its dinner parties or family dinners, supper clubs or pop-ups, local food festivals or the annual Streetfeast festival (coming to a street near you this June 8th) we want to break bread and make conversation with those around us.
Superfoods go nova
The notion of superfoods (ie nutrient-rich ingredients) has been around the block but new ones pop up every year. Some superfoods court controversy around issues of food miles, while western-inflated prices of protein-rich quinoa or Omega 3-rich chia seeds are placing once-staple Latin American foods out of local reach. Others are sourced closer to home. Seaweed is finally coming of age here in Ireland, with chefs and home cooks embracing it versatility. Oily fish is back on menus around the world.
Raw grows up
Several Irish foodies are securing a place in the Irish palate for the Stateside trend of raw food. That they each look like model examples of the diet’s claimed benefits may or may not be coincidental. Katie Sanderson’s Living Dinners pop-up restaurants have wooed critics and fans alike. Natasha’s Living Food is a booming brand offering everything from sprouted hummus kale snacks to raw cacao ganache cake. Food writer Susan-Jane White’s new cookbook, The Extra-Virgin Cookbook , published by Gill & Macmillan, sees one of Ireland’s biggest cookbook publishers betting that health-focused food is going mainstream.
The winner of last year’s Bord Bia Food and Drink Award for innovation capitalises on the “food as medicine” trend. The family-owned Paganini produces low-fat, protein-enriched ice-creams marketed under the FitFuel brand for sports people and hospital patients.
In a pickle
One of the hits of last year’s Ballymaloe Lit Fest was a master class on fermentation with author Sandor Katz, the hipster king of the pickle. Fermentation is one of those lost arts which we’re realising is at the heart of many food cultures, and is the key to everything from sourdough bread, cheese and beer to sauerkraut, kimchi and miso. Combine the draw of the forgotten craft skill with the promise of beneficial probiotics, digestive enzymes and health-boosting nutrients and you have one hot food trend.
Come hell or hybrids
Love them or hate them, hybrid foods have captured our imagination, at once tapping into our nostalgic desire for the familiar and our intrepid craving for the new.
Once New Yorkers were queueing into the wee hours for their supply of cronuts – croissant meet doughnut – everywhere else had to have them. (Butler’s Cafés if you’re asking). Bleecker Street’s bite-sized Bantam Bagels, a sort of profiterole-bagel-ball filled with all things sweet and savoury, are chasing any stubborn cupcakes firmly into yesterday’s news. Can’t choose between burger joint, noodle shop or pizza? You don’t have to, thanks to the ramen burger (compacted noodles replacing the bread bun) or the pizza burger, of which there are various interpretations (pizza toppings on a burger bun, or mini burgers on a pizza). And who knows where Tacobell’s recently launched Le Quesarito (quesadilla-cum-burrito) might lead us all.