Two months into 2019 we’ve identified 3 key food predictions for the year that seem to be sticking to the plate.
No.1: Pacific Rim flavour
If you thought the word, ‘fusion’ used in conjunction with food died back in the 90s, then you may fear that the term ‘Pacific Rim flavours’ is a different catchall for the same thing. Back then fusion started with blending US west coast and Australian food favourites with south east Asian elements, an initially interesting idea that unfortunately sparked an arms race to get noticed and ended delivering mash-ups like like ‘sushi pizza’.
Once again, Pacific Rim food takes its flavour inspiration from Asia, Oceania and the western coasts of North and South America, but in more authentic and less hysterical style. Think traditional Hawaiian poke bowls, which are simple, healthy dishes full of flavourful raw fish and vegetables cut to bite-size and served over rice seasoned with ponzu sauce and seaweed.
Other ingredients such as exotic shrimp pastes and even longganisa (a skinless sausage similar to chorizo that’s become traditional to the Philippines since being introduced by the Portuguese), are making a hit amongst culinary adventurers, along with tangy fruit salsas featuring exotics such as guava and jackfruit.
Middle Eastern spice
One trend that looks set to continue is our love for middle-eastern cuisine. It may be just over a decade since the now world-famous Israeli chef Yotam Ottolenghi published his first cookbook, but the taste for all things middle-eastern continues unabated and seems to keep finding new spice mixes to excite the western palate.
If the last couple of years have been all about the citrus hit of sumac and the zing of za’atar (the savoury condiment made with dried hyssop leaves, sumac, sesame seeds and salt), you’ll now find restaurants embracing equally exotic spice blends such as Baharat and Skhug.
Although far less well-known in the west than the fiery spice mix harrissa, the Baharat blend is found just as frequently throughout the middle-east and beyond (both Turkey and Tunisia have their own particular variations). In fact, if you think of baharat as the middle-eastern version of India’s famous spice mix garam-masala, you’ll get a fair indication of just how intrinsic it is to the cuisine. That’s largely thanks to baharta’s versatility; it can be used as a marinate, a dry rub, and a seasoning that works equally well on vegetables, meat or fish. Expect to enjoy more of it here over the coming months.
Skhug (also often spelled zhoug or zhug) is a deliciously piquant sauce that originated in the Yemen but has been embraced by both the Greeks and the Turks, and is becoming ever more popular in the west. Not surprising as this fiery yet intensely flavourful combo of chilli, garlic, cumin, cardamom, black peppers, cloves, coriander, lemon and olive oil, can be drizzled over just about anything you can stuff in a warm pitta bread.
Taste the Caribbean
The bold flavours of the West Indies are back with a bang this year, and though we’re all now familiar with classic staples such as spicy jerk chicken or rice and peas, there’s a whole new tranche of dishes on their way, thanks to the steadily increasing demand for goat meat.
It may only have made it’s way into the UK’s culinary consciousness in the past decade or so but goat is the most widely eaten meat in the world, and with the surplus of male ‘Billy’ goats rising in Britain (due to the growing number of goats herds supplying the artisan cheese-making industry), specialist goat meat suppliers such as James Whetlor, a former chef who now runs Cabrito Goat Meat in Devon and supplies major London restaurants, confidently predict that goat meat is going to find its way onto mainstream supermarket shelves by the end of the year.
Goat meat benefits from a high iron and protein content, low levels of cholesterol, and even less saturated fat than chicken, and it’s also been a mainstay of Afro-Caribbean cooking for centuries. Expect to find stomach-warming specials such as Trinidadian curried goat stew (served with traditional rotis for wiping up all that spicy sauce) and Jamaican jerk goat spicing up menus this summer...