Some like it hot

by Lauraine Jacobs / 22 October, 2015
What do spicy sauces, doughnuts and fermented vegetables have in common? They’re among the latest food trends.

For fashionistas, keeping up with the latest trends involves ripped jeans and, for men, hipster beards. The food industry isn’t untouched by fashion, either; some trends are here today, but gone tomorrow. Take the slow cooker. Just when you’ve mastered using it, it falls out of favour – replaced by a must-have gadget that purées and froths vegetables and fruit for smoothies.

Chefs drive food trends. As influential restaurant or TV chefs come up with new ideas, everyone wants to try them. However, we’re now seeing food trends that are more people-driven than restaurant-driven.

The biggest influence on the food landscape is socially conscious eating. We want to know the provenance of our food, we support producers and growers whose ethics are admirable, we dine out for a cause and we worry about feeding the hungry and needy. Schools inspire and encourage their pupils through such schemes as Garden to Table and Kids Can Cook, teaching them the value of fresh produce that’s sown, grown, harvested, cooked and eaten at school as part of the curriculum. In Auckland, the Eat My Lunch scheme will give a lunch to a child in need for every lunch that is bought from its website. Purchasers buy two lunches and one is given away. It’s run by donations, volunteers and crowdfunding.

Increasingly, we are conscious of food waste. Heard of dumpster diving? It started with people raiding supermarket and restaurant rubbish bins, hauling out edible food that had been dumped because it is surplus to requirements or past its use-by date. Now, initiatives have been set up to collect and redistribute this food. Kaibosh Food Rescue collects 10 tonnes of quality surplus food each month from businesses in Wellington and the Hutt Valley, sending it to community groups that help those in need.

Another trend is health-conscious eating. The young and the fit lead this fashion, trying diets ranging from raw food, paleo, vegan and vegetarian to fat-free, additive-free, chemical-free, gluten-free, grain-free and sugar-free. Consumers demand fresh food, preferably traceable to a local farm or factory, and shop for organic produce at specialist or health shops, ­farmers’ markets and good old-fashioned butchers, greengrocers, bakeries and fishmongers. They’re bypassing supermarkets’ shelf-stable, additive- and preservative-laden ­products in favour of fresh, refri­gerated food.

We’re eating out more regularly: most often in cafes where the food is fast and fresh; in restaurants, where shared plates and “small plates” have replaced the three-course meal; and at pop-up dining destinations that advertise through social media.

The biggest dine-out trends are cheap eats and street food, sold from hole-in-the-wall cafes or colourful food trucks.



Fermented foods: This is not just fuelled by a high interest in Korean cuisine and its staple kimchi, the fiery fermented cabbage dish. Health experts are also turning to fermented yogurt, miso, kombucha, kefir, fermented vege­tables and tempeh, which may boost the good bacteria in your digestive tract and help with a number of health problems.

Handmade muesli and porridge: Visit any farmers’ market and count the new cereals on offer. Filled with healthy seeds, nuts, grains and dried fruits, but no added sugar, these cereals are the new breakfast.

Sourdough bread: Small, bespoke bakeries are turning out handcrafted slow-rise breads full of grains and sprouted wheat that they’ve made with genuine sourdough starters. Expect to pay up to $10 a loaf. It’s worth it.

Doughnuts: The cronut – a combination of the croissant and the doughnut – was an unhealthy flop, but the doughnut is back. Decorated with fruit, chocolate, cream, custard, jelly, icing and much more, doughnuts are getting attention worldwide. One of the fastest sellouts at this year’s Wellington on a Plate was the pop-up doughnut stall, which had new, inventive flavours each day.

Vegetables: Kale, cauliflower and beetroot. If you’re not eating these vegetables, you’re missing out. The star of the plate is no longer the protein component, it’s a colourful cornucopia of ­vege­tables. My Food Bag has introduced a Veggie Bag, and leading restaurant chefs are offering ­well-planned degustation meals of vegetables.

Grains: Pearl barley and freekeh are having their moment in the spotlight. Brown rice, and ancient grains such as quinoa, amaranth, millet and teff, are popular with the gluten-free set. Also look for pasta and noodles made from non-wheat products such as brown rice, buckwheat and quinoa.

Hot sauces: Fire up your cooking with a spicy sauce. The traditional Tabasco sauce from the bayou has been joined by an array of local sauces, including the award-­winning Culley’s, Huffman’s and Kaitaia Fire.

Coconut: The jury is still out over the health ­benefits of coconut, but coconut sugar, coconut yogurt, its cream, water and milk, fresh coconut in salads, coconut ice blocks and ice-creams are all selling like crazy, often as an alternative to dairy products.

Bone broth: When did stock become “bone broth”? It’s just a rich chicken, meat or vegetable stock given a fancy name, but it is still the drink or soup you want when you crave comfort food.

Pork buns: The new slider. Soft, white ­pillowy buns (bao), usually stuffed with roast pork, crunchy crackling and a spicy Asian sauce, are the hot item in restaurants and food trucks and at farmers’ markets. There’s also a tofu ­version for vegetarians.



Kombucha: Fermenting tea or fruit juice with sugar and a “scoby” (a culture of yeast and bacteria) to produce a refreshing non-alcoholic drink has become popular. Many super­markets stock a range of flavours made by artisan producers.

Low-­alcohol beer and wines: ­Consumption of low-alcohol alternatives is soaring. Stricter drink-driving rules and the attraction of drinks with less alcohol will make these a hit this summer.

Artisan and craft beers: New Zealand’s love affair with craft beers is unstoppable.

Rosé wine: Wineries throughout the country are offering light, delicious blush-pink wines. And sparkling rosé will be the choice for summer.


Burgers: Expect to see more up­market burgers and burger destinations as we continue to embrace the idea of a simple, tasty meal. Auckland’s new Burger Burger offers a healthy, gluten-free burger in a “bunnuce” – a small cos lettuce that replaces the bun.

Southern-style barbecue: Hunks of smoky meat, slowly cooked in a wood-fired oven and served with coleslaw, collard greens and spirals of fried potato are all the rage. Also from the southern states of the US is fried chicken. Chefs soak the chicken pieces in buttermilk, then dip them in a mix of spices, herbs and flour before frying.

Middle Eastern: British chef Yotam Ottolenghi, one of the most popular authors and food writers in the English-speaking world, has influenced many menus, chefs and cooks with his take on the food of his homeland Israel and its neighbours. This food features exotic spices, lemons, wild honey, falafel, tahini, pomegranates, date molasses and much more.

Philippine, Vietnamese and ­South-East Asian: Philippine is the latest Asian cuisine to gain attention. As young immigrant chefs show off their heritage, we can expect such restaurant menu items as suckling pig, the spring roll-like lumpia, adobo – a rich stew infused with vinegar – halo-halo for dessert and plenty of tropical fruits and coconut. Vietnamese cuisine, with its emphasis on fresh herbs, is also on the rise again, and clever local chefs are bringing all South-East Asian cuisines together to create Pan-asian fusion cooking.

Peruvian food: A sophisticated new food movement is under way in Peru, where you’ll also find three of the World’s 50 Best restaurants. Culinary tourists are flocking there, keen to try everything from pisco sour – a ­cocktail with the local brandy – to ceviche, as well as causa made with heritage ­potatoes from the Andes. Forget those tales of guinea pigs.


There are plenty of gadgets to make food preparation easier, but these are three of the most popular right now.

Nespresso machine: Cafe-style coffee making in the home. These handy machines create brews from specialist single-origin coffees.

SodaStream: As sugary drinks fall out of favour, sparkling water is in. Add zing to good old tap water.

NutriBullet: This handy processor and its equivalents make nourishing liquid meals for breakfast and lunch. Soups, drinks and dinners can be whipped up in minutes.

Fermented Carrots
Fermented carrots.

Fermenting away

Cornersmith is a picklery and cafe in Sydney’s inner suburbs, much loved for its family-style food, workshops and preserves. The owners, Alex Elliott-Howery and James Grant, have a new book, and this recipe from Cornersmith (Murdoch Books, $55) is an example of the new wave of fermented food. Follow these steps to ferment any sturdy vege­table: beetroot, radish, kohlrabi or cauliflower florets. These carrots, which are quite sweet, are great tossed through a salad. If you want children to eat fermented vegetables, this is the place to start.


2 tsp salt

500ml water

500g carrots, thinly sliced

1 brown onion, thinly sliced

40g fresh turmeric, finely grated

40g ginger, finely grated

Make a brine by combining the salt and water in a non-reactive saucepan. Bring to the boil, then remove from the heat and let it cool to room temperature.

Meanwhile, sterilise some jars by boiling for 10 minutes, then leaving them to cool completely. Combine the vegetables and spices, then pack the mixture tightly into the jars. Top up with brine until the vegetables are completely covered. Wipe the rims of the jars with a paper towel, then seal.

Leave the jars at room temperature, but out of direct sunlight, for 2 to 4 days. The lids will pop up, which is a sign of the fermenting process. Transfer the jars to the fridge and leave for a week before using. Fermented carrots will keep for up to 6 months in the fridge.

Makes 4 x 300ml jars.

WHOLE: Recipes for Simple Wholefood Eating, by Bronwyn Kan (Beatnik Press, $45), features a selection of nourishing recipes from 10 high-profile Kiwi food bloggers, cafe owners and entrepreneurs. This recipe for a hearty salad packed with fragrant flavours is served at Auckland cafe Mondays, in Kingsland.


Moroccan spiced pearl barley salad
Moroccan spiced pearl barley salad. Photo/Bronwyn Kan

2 cups (400g) pearl barley, rinsed (or quinoa/brown rice for a gluten-free option)

1 litre vegetable stock

3-4 large handfuls of fresh herbs, such as mint, basil, coriander, parsley

½ cup dates, diced

½ cup dried apricots, diced

1 red onion, finely sliced

1-2 sticks of celery, finely sliced

¼ cup sundried tomatoes, finely sliced

½ cup almonds, sliced

2 tbsp sumac

2 tsp fennel seeds

1 tbsp dried chilli flakes

2 tsp cumin seeds

¼ cup olive oil

Juice of 2 lemons

Sea salt and cracked black pepper, to taste

Extra herbs for garnish

Combine the barley and stock in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Bring to the boil, then simmer uncovered until all the liquid has been absorbed – about 30 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl and leave to cool.

Add the remaining ingredients and toss well. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Garnish with fresh herbs.

Serves 6-8
Wine match: an organic sauvignon blanc

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