FOODLOVER talks to Liam Finnegan, Head Chef at The Castle Hotel in Taunton, about his predictions for 2019’s hottest foodie trends..
I find that ‘new trends’ are often dictated by a combination of the weather and what was popular during the latter part of the previous year, says Liam. Increasingly, it’s heavily influenced by what’s in the public domain as well; from television, cookery programs and health advice from the NHS. Healthy eating is always high on the agenda. With the NHS looking to tackle childhood obesity and the British government implementing sugar taxes, there will be another major push on healthy eating this year and beyond. Most supermarket chains are increasing their healthy eating alternatives to ‘fast food’ and they are also including more vegan and vegetarian options. Here are just a few of Liam’s predictions for what we might be finding on our plates in 2019…
What is fermentation? Fermentation refers to foods that are produced or preserved by the action of microorganisms. The process of fermentation promotes the growth and life cycle of good bacteria which transform the flavour and shelf life of ingredients. Kimchi, sauerkraut, tempeh, kefir grains and kombucha are all examples of fermentation.
Liam Says: Scandinavian food has been influencing professional kitchens for the past few years and with winter months getting colder, we will have to preserve and cure a lot more in our larders. The late summer and autumn harvest will, and should, be used more carefully so we can keep the nutritional benefits of our produce and enhance the flavours as well. Fermenting is a great way to do this. Processed food is increasingly frowned upon due to its negative impact on our health. However, if these products are substituted with fermented foods, you’ll get the benefits of increased probiotics, which are not only good for the palette but also help improve the immune system.
What are naked foods? A nutritional approach to food that is centred on whole, unprocessed or minimally processed whole foods, including vegetables, fruits, whole grains, seeds and nuts.
Liam says: I always had the perception that ‘naked food’ was a bit of a fad that would come and go. However, at the 2018 Feast Festival, Phil Howard of Elystan Street created a starter of cashew nut hummus with roasted vegetables, light curry sauce dressing, nut milk and lime. It was a gluten free, vegan dish that could be adapted to be ‘naked’ and the dish was a real eye opener for me. The lack of cooking helps to preserve nutrients and vitamins which has massive health benefits. This trend started in California for the purposes of ‘healthy eating and wellbeing’ and I think it’s going to be even bigger in 2019. A lot of chefs will frown on trend, as many will see it as being ‘lazy’. But with minor adjustments and smart planning, it can yield amazing and healthy results.
Transparency in Food
What does transparency mean? Clearly labelled food packaging and restaurant menus.
Liam Says: Food allergies have become a major concern within the country and is a major concern for retailers; particularly in the wake of recent fatalities as a result of poorly labelled products. All food operators should wake up and take note. Clearer information on packaging and training for all food sector workers is incredibly important. I personally think that within the next 6 months all menus should aim to highlight ‘the big 14’ allergens. More training and information should also be available to food providers on food substitutes.
Liam Says: I know it seems bizarre to talk about ice cream in the middle of winter, but sitting in front of a warm fire with a pot of ice cream when it’s cold outside is a beautiful thing. I recently met Amanda Stansfield of Granny Gothard’s and we spoke about the nutritional aspects of using unpasteurised milk in their ice cream. Not only is this their unique selling point, but the method has amazing health benefits too. In my home town in Ireland and across the UK, ice cream shops are popping up with frozen yoghurts, free-from varieties and sugar-free alternatives, all of which are changing the perception of ice cream being unhealthy and something you have by the seaside.
Liam says: The popularity of gin has not stopped or slowed down throughout 2018. With the ease of distilling and the instant return, it is ever popular with micro-breweries. This in turn has had an influence on drinks and food that are popular and trendy. Think chicory, kohlrabi, citrus fruits, chocolate, coffee, cabbage, mustard and Green tea.
Liam says: African food has been on the rise for many years, but in 2019 it’s likely to gain wider popularity. With our palates adapting to appreciate spice and heat, I recommend searching out the cuisines of Western and Southern Africa. African cuisine in particular utilises local grains, meats, vegetables and fruits. I love the simplicity and hearty clean flavours. The cuisine doesn’t rely on flavour additives or thickening agents and therefore remains true to the produce and flavours of the local area. The food is based on one pan wonders and uses most things with little food waste. If there are leftovers, tub it and put it in the fridge for next day’s lunch.
Feel Good Food
Liam says: This is a bit of a broad one but in the media last year there has been a lot of focus on the damage we are doing to our environment and waters with plastic and non-renewable energy. I think fast foods and supermarkets will be put under increasing pressure regarding food packaging. There’s going to be a ban on plastic straws this year and a lot of suppliers to restaurants are cutting down on their packaging and re-using plastic crates. Arthur David, our fruit and veg supplier here at The Castle, uses recycled paper bags for all our loose fruit and this is gaining momentum. Friska café in Bristol is doing an amazing job of promoting feel good food. They focus a lot on current issues, such as offering nutritional ‘fast food’ alternatives, recyclable goods, ensuring animal welfare, dietary awareness and partnering with charities that support coffee producers in Africa. Feel good food is about reducing food waste and doing our bit to help our environment through our positive choices.