Happy New Year, Thursday Food family! I wish for each and every one of you an amazing year filled with peace, progress and most of all, lots of love. Each year, varying culinary media publish lists of food trends for the New Year. Sometimes they are a hit, other times they are a miss. To be honest, I much prefer years in review rather than forecast trends because, first of all, who are the ones driving opinion of what we should eat, and what is their agenda? And two, they tend to generalise and include only what the privileged few are eating in major food cities rather than what the masses really eat. What I digested was much of what has been predicted before and not really new, just a continuation of what has been touted for the past couple of years. The great thing is that they are mostly positive trends and take into account health, environmental sustainability and diversity.
Take for instance, Asian food. How can it be claimed to be a trend, when it is now more mainstream? It's been a global favourite for years, so I think it has gone beyond trendy. For instance, sushi is no longer a novelty, nor are noodles; curry, ditto. However, the truth is ethnic food is trending. By "ethnic" they mean everything outside of European food, which is a bit of a misnomer because the entire globe is compromised of "ethnic groups", but I digress. People across the planet are much more comfortable eating the foods of other nationalities. Exposure, whether through travel or television and the Internet, has made this possible. International trade and supermarkets have provided a variety for us to choose from. Look for a rise in African cuisines such as Ethiopian and Moroccan, for example, and those from the Middle East, outside of Asian and European food.
Local eating, another recurring trend, is also here to stay. Sourcing of sustainable local seafood and meats helps both local farmers and fishermen, boosts the economy and reduces climate impact on the environment because the produce covers less mileage. Of course, negatives like overfishing have to be controlled and combated and the humane treatment of animals is paramount. That's why you are seeing more labels such as line-caught, free-range, organic, etc. We have to protect Mother Nature and our sourcing and extraction of the foods we love must be done responsibly and within reason.
Whole grains have been appearing on most food trend lists; with the rise of health consciousness many grains are becoming more visible. Grains like millet, quinoa, spelt, teff, for example, are replacing the regular rice and potatoes. Legumes such as lentils, chickpeas, and all sorts of beans are also getting a lot of spotlight. Likewise, carbohydrates are shedding their often unfair demonisation. Like any other food group, they have their place. Here in Jamaica, the use of yam, dasheen and coco is gaining popularity with local chefs who are becoming more creative with these indigenous foods.
This trend also pairs with another, which is the rise of meat-free meals. Many thought this was a passing fad, but the movement is gaining traction, especially Meatless Mondays, around the world as vegetables become more valued and respected. Vegetables are no longer stereotyped as boring. Chefs and home cooks are now experimenting with meat-free options as people become conscious of healthy benefits and costs. As red meat and fish become more expensive, people look for alternatives and realise more and more that vegetarian cuisine can be exciting and less expensive, and you do not have to become vegetarian to appreciate meat-free meals.
So this new year, forget the trends and do what pleases you. Not because a list touts hamburgers as the new "It" food must you gorge yourself on them to prove your "foodie credentials". At the end of the day food is love, and food is sustenance. Eat well on what your personal budget can afford, experience what is possible in your area and beyond, but most important, have fun cooking!
JuicyChef's Simple Chickpea and Feta Salad
Legumes are important for a healthy diet. Always have chickpeas in your pantry to rustle up a quick salad, soup or hummus to nibble on. This salad makes a great side dish or a main course paired with green salad and bread.
1 can of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1/2 standard block of Feta cheese
Handful of mixed herbs, finely chopped
1 lemon, juiced Salt and pepper, to taste
2 Tbsps extra virgin olive oil
In a bowl add chickpeas, feta cheese, and mixed herbs.
Add lemon juice and olive oil, season with salt and pepper
Mix everything together and serve.
JuicyChef Fish Fillets in Tomato, Onion and Thyme Sauce
My easy and healthy fish meal is prepared in a flash. Use any local white fish fillet you fancy and serve with soft white yam, brown rice or wholegrain pasta and a side of green vegetables.
4 fish fillets
1 can diced tomatoes in sauce
1 onion, sliced
1 tsp brown sugar
1/2 hot pepper, finely chopped (optional)
1 fat fresh sprig of thyme, leaves stripped
A few pimento grains, crushed
Salt and pepper to taste
In a large saucepan, fry onion slices in a little olive oil until turning golden.
Add tomato sauce, sugar, hot pepper, thyme and pimentos and bring to a boil, then simmer over medium heat.
Add fish fillets, submerge in sauce and simmer for between 8 to 10 minutes.
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