Is food still a bit 2019 in your house, or has 2020 arrived? Jane Pikett serves up a guide to how we eat now…
If 2019 was all about sustainably sourced food and plant-based diets, then 2020 is all about sustainably sourced food and plant-based…oh, hang on.
Okay, nothing has changed regarding those two trends, which continue to grow, but are we really heading into another year of lecturing and hectoring from health and eco-warriors, or are we allowed to live a little too?
Of course we are, and 2020 will herald a new decade of culinary adventures, some informed by concern for the environment, and others simply for the love of food. So here it is, a sample of what’s hot in 2020…
Algae: Into the blue
If foodie trend setters are to be believed, ‘would you like some algae with your avocado…?’ will soon be as everyday as an invitation to take salt with your chips.
Algae is very 2020, as it shifts from the preserve of the uber health-conscious to tables populated by the rest of us.
One of my close friends, who has been sprinkling green powder over her morning porridge for years, now appears mainstream in her approach, as algae (marine micro-plants high in antioxidants) become widely used for their health-boosting properties and futuristic hues.
When you serve up spirulina, chlorella and blue-green algae, you’re following the ancient Aztecs, for whom spirulina was a staple, and NASA, which is looking at growing algae in space for astronauts.
Algae health benefits are much talked about (though the pregnant, those suffering auto-immune disease, and people with iodine-sensitive thyroid conditions are among those who should avoid them). Devotees advocate blending algae powder into smoothies and ice cream, chia puddings, energy bars and chocolate truffles. Vivid green, algae-infused hummus is now very much a thing, while algae can lift your pesto, pan-fried tofu, homemade pasta and bread to another level.
Turn to our breakfast feature on p26 and you will find a breakfast bowl of spirulina blue happiness, while spirulina ice lollies could be almost as mainstream in 2020 as Mr Whippy cornets.
Add spirulina to raw chocolate brownies, vanilla cheesecake or American pancake batter for a futuristic blue-green hue, or add algae to energy balls made with puréed dates, nuts, coconut and other natural ingredients. If you find the earthy sea vegetable flavour off-putting, balance it with sweet fruits like bananas, pineapple, and mango – and enjoy!
The trend for plant-based eating shows no sign of slowing up, with predictions of us all being vegan by 2070 more likely by the day. In the meantime, plant-based and partially plant-based/flexitarian diets are very much the thing, as more of us experiment with plant-based foods.
If you’re new to vegan eating, it can seem much more daunting than it is. Thanks to a huge array of plant-based milks in every supermarket, for example (oat, almond, soya to name a few), with a little experimentation, you will find one you like.
Plant-based spreads are also widely available (some, notably Flora Buttery, better than others) and coconut and soya-based yoghurts are widely available.
Eggstra special. But what do you do about eggs? Okay, that one isn’t so easy, and there is many a would-be vegan who falls off the wagon for a chocolate brownie or an omelette. But it’s surprisingly easy (if a bit weird first time, but bear with me…) to make an eggy alternative with chia or flax seeds.
First, grind the seeds finely in a pestle and mortar or coffee grinder. For a quantity equivalent to one egg, combine 1 tbsp seeds to 3 tbsp water, mix well with a balloon whisk, refrigerate and, after 10 mins or so, you will have a gooey texture you can use instead of eggs in brownies, biscuits and waffles, or as a binder in veggie burgers.
If you like your eggs in the morning, following a vegan diet can seem like a challenge too far, but chunks of firm tofu, seared golden brown over a high heat having been coated in a minimal spray of oil and dusted in paprika makes a wonderful partner for shop-bought vegan sausages, mushrooms and baked beans.
Meanwhile, for egg-free meringues, take the water from a 400g tin of chickpeas, beat into soft peaks with an electric whisk (this does take much longer than eggs – about 10 mins), adding 100g caster sugar gradually. Pipe or spoon onto a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper and bake in a preheated
oven (not a fan oven – the mixture is so light, it can blow away) at 110C/Gas ¼ for 75 mins. Cool and serve with dairy-free cream and fruit.
Nice cream So far, so good, but what about ice cream? This is easy – just freeze a banana overnight, whiz up the flesh in a food processor with a splash of plant-based milk and a dash of vanilla extract and serve with fruit for a gorgeous creamy alternative.
Chickpea ‘tuna mayo’: Many vegans miss a good old tuna mayo sandwich, but chickpeas provide a fine alternative. Simply cut a nori sheet very finely, add to a bowl with a 400g tin of chickpeas (drained – use the water for meringues), 2 tbsp tahini, 2 tbsp lemon juice and salt to taste, mash together and use instead of tuna mayo. Add capers or sweetcorn if you wish.
Cheesy does it. More supermarkets are now stocking vegan cheese alternatives, though most are nothing like the real thing, which can be a bit dispiriting. However, the brilliant Tyne Chease, based around the corner from Appetite HQ in Stocksfield, Northumberland, is renowned for its award-winning alternatives. Try the distinctive Garlic (made from organic cashew nuts, water, garlic and Himalayan pink salt), and the gorgeous cashew-based Ethiopian Spice,
plus more, all available at www.tynechease.com
Nose-to-tail eating is everyday among carnivores, as is the use of every bit of the veg for veggies, who embrace the love of carrot peel and cauliflower leaves.
But gill-to-tail eating for fish lovers? Well yes, apparently it’s all the rage among foodie trend setters, which means it’s going to spread to North East shores any day now. Whole-fish cooking is de rigeur, a reaction to statistics like those of Seafish UK, which says that just 43% of each UK trawler’s haul ends up on the table.
Think about it, when you fillet your favourite fish, what happens to the head, bones, organs etc? In Australia, Asia, coastal Africa and Iceland, livers and eyeballs are very much the thing. The Scots will tell you there is nothing like a good cod roe on hot buttered toast, while the Norweigans treasure poached cod liver and the Spanish feast on cod tripe.
Serve up meaty cheeks from larger fish heads pan-fried, as you might scallops, use up fish trimmings in fish cakes, and anything you can’t serve as a meal as a base for bouillabaisse. Larger heads from salmon and trout are wonderful whole – simply pop an onion or half of a lemon in the mouth, drizzle with olive oil or spread with butter, season and grill or roast in the oven for wonderful finger food (fish fingers like you’ve never had them before).
You know about charcuterie? So try seacuterie, beloved in Australia, where pickling, fermenting, smoking and ageing seafood is all the rage. Salmon pastrami, anyone?
Butter it up
So you still think almond butter is the epitome of trendy toast toppings? Think again, dear reader. While natural nut butters such as those made in Northumberland by the excellent Nut Roaster
(www.thenutroaster.co.uk) continue to grow in deserved popularity, they are set to be joined by a new penchant for spreading all sorts of seed and veg-based butters on our (artisan, naturally…) bread.
Pumpkin butter will be a thing, as will avocado butter, tahini butter, sunflower and mixed seed butters and more. The shop-bought ones will avoid palm oil, which is great news for the world’s orangutan population, while the potential for you to experiment with your own blends at home is almost endless. Try these:
Sunflower seed butter. Pop roasted sunflower seeds into a food processor and blend until a butter forms (5-10 mins). Be patient and do not add oil; just let the seeds do their thing and, after turning into what looks like sand at one point, it will eventually blend into a gorgeous butter.
Avocado butter. Put the flesh of a large avocado in a food processor with 2 tbsp butter, lime juice and salt to taste and whiz to combine. Turn out onto a piece of clingfilm, roll into a log and refrigerate until firm. Gorgeous spread on toast and melted onto corn, fish or steak.
Tomato butter. Place ripe tomatoes on a baking sheet lined with foil, tuck a couple of garlic cloves in-between a couple of the tomatoes, drizzle with a little olive oil, place in the oven at 190C/Gas 5, and roast for 15-30 mins (depending on the size of the tomatoes) until the skins start to blister. Leave to cool, remove any stalks, and put in a food processor with approx. 2 tbsp butter (adjust for consistency), salt and pepper and paprika to taste. Roll into a log in clingfilm and refrigerate until firm. Spread on toast, melt over seared scallops, or serve with warm cheese scones.
Smoked paprika and rosemary butter. Take a block of unsalted butter and use a fork to combine with 1 tbsp minced rosemary, 1 tsp smoked paprika and ½ tsp salt. Roll in clingfilm and refrigerate, then use to sauté prawns.
Orange honey butter. Take a block of unsalted butter, use a fork to combine with 1 tbsp honey and 2 tsp finely grated orange zest, roll in clingfilm and refrigerate. Serve with toast or on crispy baked potatoes.
The NEW alternatives
If there are two things which have gone from the everyday to the alternative, they’re flour and milk.
To take flour first, the days of plain and self-raising being the only types in the pantry are long gone. Coconut flour took off in 2019, and 2020 will see a rise of this and more fruit and vegetable flours like banana and protein-packed lentil, chestnut and chickpea.
The choice can be mind-numbing, but experimentation is well worth the time involved, particularly for the gluten-intolerant.
For example, rice flour adds stability to gluten-free baked goods and is well-suited to dumplings and noodles. Tapioca flour, meanwhile, is the gluten-free foodie’s friend in baked goods. Peanut flour adds a toasty flavour to sauces, stews, baked goods, breads and beyond, while hazelnut flour transforms a pie crust or chocolate brownie.
Meanwhile, in the land of milk-style drinks, pea ‘milk’ is set to be 2020’s big thing, joining almond, oat, soya and multiple other plant and nut-based alternatives which are growing exponentially in popularity. Made from yellow split peas, pea milk boasts one of the lowest environmental footprints of any of its type.
Other popular alternatives include almond milk for its slightly sweet, nutty flavour. Oat milk is mild and neutral in flavour, like oatmeal, and is sublime in porridge and muesli. Hazelnut milk is brown in colour, creamy, nutty in taste and slightly bitter, so it works well in coffee.
White rice milk is mild in taste and naturally sweet in flavour, much like rice pudding, while hemp milk is a bit hay-like in aroma and has a skimmed milk texture and a subtle, cereal flavour.
Again, like flour, experimentation can take time, but the rewards are worth it.