The UK is riding a wave of exciting culinary delights, and the nation is hungry for more.
Britain is fast becoming a nation of foodies: from the burgeoning pack of food bloggers to the rise of food markets, exotic restaurants with increasingly long waiting lists, online specialty shops and dedicated TV channels, the fascination with food is greater than ever before. So, with the constant smell of something new wafting from around the corner, we look at what’s drawing a crowd right now, and what we can look forward to in 2013 and beyond.
Boasting low calorie counts and all natural ingredients, gourmet popcorn is the healthy snack of the moment. Fitting in to the growing trend for customised food, purveyors of the popped kernel can choose their choice of flavouring. This ranges from reinvented cinema classics to the downright exotic offerings – and often made fresh while you wait. With innovative new flavours like goat’s cheese and black pepper, wasabi, honey and hazelnut, and toffee apple and cinnamon, could this be the perfect guilt-free treat?
No weekend market worth its salt is without a churro stall these days. The fried batter sticks are a real taste of Spain, and usually come with sprinklings of sugar or cinnamon and a small pot of thick hot chocolate for dipping. Served warm, these ridged doughnut treats are also making an appearance on restaurant menus, stuffed with chocolate or cream.
No longer the domain of budget picnics and dodgy pub fodder, the humble Scotch egg has had a Michelin star-style makeover. The modern British fare is popping up in swanky food stores and restaurants across the country, offering revamped fillings such as black pudding, smoked haddock Thai Red curry and puréed crayfish, and, for the ultra posh, there are now quail and duck egg varieties. This year, one chef took things a step further; Michelin-starred head chef at London’s Launceston Place, Tim Allen, created a £500 Scotch egg. The decadent dish was based around a simple hen’s egg, which was then wrapped in 24 carat edible gold leaf, rare, rod-caught wild salmon and coated in Japanese panko bread crumbs. The egg was later raffled off at the Taste of London food festival.
Renowned chocolatier, William Curley, predicted earlier this year that salted caramel was moving on to bigger things, saying: ‘Sweet and savoury flavour combinations, particularly sea salt caramel, is becoming hugely popular and I think this will develop even further in 2012.’ And he wasn’t wrong! You know when coffee giant Starbucks launches a Salted Caramel Mocha as their new winter cheer-up, that the flavour is here to stay. For an indulgent taste of the trend, try Heston from Waitrose Salted Caramel Popcorn ice cream, £2.79, www.waitrose.com or a Rigoletto (macaroon with salted caramel ganache) from £1.15 each, www.lamaisonduchocolat.co.uk
Forget wasabi peas and nuts, the hot Japanese condiment is fast making its way into a variety of food aisles. You can now cook your dinners in wasabi olive oil, top them off with wasabi mayonnaise, enjoy a pre-packed wasabi rocket salad (the leaves have the same spicy flavour as the root), and finish off with Lindt’s 2012 Dark Wasabi Chocolate, £1.25, www.lindt-shop.co.uk And for a healthy snack, try some of the hot wasabi popcorn that is popping (literally) up all over the place.
With its complex and unique flavours, Peruvian cuisine stepped into the spotlight of the fine dining world in 2012, with two notable restaurants opening in London this year – Ceviche in Soho and Lima London in Shoreditch. But it’s not Peruvian favourite cuy (roast guinea pig) that has been causing a stir, it’s the runner up, ceviche – citrus cured fish to you and me – light, fresh and tangy. Barmen, meanwhile, are reaching for the pisco (Peruvian grape brandy), as orders for Pisco Sour flood in.
British street food used to mean greasy sausages served from a cart, but these days it is a way for cash-strapped customers to travel vicariously through food. From pop-up night markets to the more established stall-lined streets, it’s now the most exciting sector in British food (requiring minimal start-up costs), with young cooks turning out restaurant quality cuisine from all over the world, and at takeaway prices.
Tequila is not the only shot of Latin American flavour on nights out anymore; pub nachos have gone gourmet, burrito stalls are fast becoming a festival staple and, if you feeling a bit worse for wear the next day, most major supermarkets now have a dedicated Mexican dining range sure to sort you out. Think quesadillas, burritos, fajitas and spicy meat and rice dishes.
Speaking on the fiery food’s growing demand, Romilly Edelmann, product developer at Sainsbury’s, said: ‘As the trend for Mexican restaurants and food trucks is on the rise, we’re proud to have developed a range of dishes that capture the flavours and vibrancy that are proving so popular.’ And if the kids don’t like spicy food just yet, makers of Mexican cooking convenience kits, Old El Paso, have launched an extra mild version of their fajita kits this year so the whole family can be included and enjoy them.
This year has been a celebration of all things British: from Jubilee tea parties to Olympic fever, and food manufacturers have joined in the spirit with a string of revamped British classics. TV has followed suit, with shows like Great British Food Revival inspiring viewers to get patriotic in the kitchen. With a boosted national pride, the trend of hearty, traditional British fare looks set to grow in the coming months.
Following on from the success of Mexican in 2012, interest in Latin American cuisine is high: it’s relatively undiscovered in the UK – a real novelty in this time of gastronomic fervour and foodies are falling over themselves to get acquainted with authentic Brazilian fodder. Restaurateur David Ponte (owner of Brazilian BBQ restaurant chain, Cabana) says of the exotic cuisine’s popularity: ‘It’s undiscovered, yet Latin America is at the top of everyone’s thoughts: Rio is now the most visited city in the southern hemisphere.’ And with Brazil hosting the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympic Games, interest in the host country’s cuisine can only increase even further.
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