There’s been a sizeable shift towards plant-led eating over the last two years and this, coupled with a newfound awareness of food waste and sustainability, is set to shape the new cuisines of 2020. Here’s what we’ll see on our menus:
Mexican food has been gathering momentum for a while, with trailblazers like Martha Ortiz of Ella Canta and El Pastor giving us insight into authentic indigenous ingredients and more nuanced flavours. In 2020 look out for Mexican produce being used both in new Mexican restaurants and by chefs who prefer a more global approach. Korexican may soon be trending. Huitlacoche, also known as ‘corn smut’, is an edible fungus that grows on corn and maize. Dubbed the Mexican ‘truffle’, it is regarded as a culinary delicacy in South America and, when cooked, has a flavour described as mushroom-like: sweet, woody and earthy.
To continue with the Mexican theme, Santiago Lastra, Mexican consultant chef to Noma’s pop-up in his native Mexico, is opening Kol in Marylebone which centres on Latin American inspired food, especially dishes from Yaxunah and Oaxaca, made largely with British produce including foraged food from the woodlands of Kent and shellfish from the Scottish coastline. Dishes will include langoustine tacos with sea buckthorn, lamb leg tostada cured in gooseberries with walnut oil and fermented chilis, kolrabi ceviche and tamal served with corn-husk ice-cream.
Purple yams, a root tuber native to South East Asia, and now cultivated worldwide, promises to be the kale of the next decade. Co-founder of no-alcohol cocktail bar/wholefood, vegan Redemption, Andrea Waters was already talking up purple yams midway through 2019 as tasty and ultra-nutritious: packed with vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidents and a helpful way to lower blood pressure. Good looking with its vivid purple flesh, it cooks soft and fluffy like a potato with a nutty flavour. It is exceptionally versatile as an ingredient in savoury and sweet dishes. In the Philippines , purple yam is turned into a flour, sold as ube and used in dramatic desserts. Try ube doughnuts with purple yam ice-cream and Bilog Pandesal milk bun toasted ice cream sandwiches, even brownies at Mamsons in Soho. Romulo Cafe also serve a vibrant cheesecake made from ube.
Mould-breaking chef Josh Niland who trained at The Fat Duck is sending shockwaves through gastronomy with his groundbreaking new way to think about every aspect of fish cookery – from sourcing and butchering to dry ageing to concentrate flavour. Look out for recipes in his The Whole Fish Cookbook from fish eye chips made with tapioca flour to monkfish guanciale and swordfish bacon as the UK’s leading seafood chefs from Nathan Outlaw at The Goring to Rick Stein use 2020 to experiment. I predict too the rise of “seaganism”, a vegan diet, with sustainable seafood thrown in.
The return of garum, an ancient Roman fermented fish sauce condiment, is another indicator of a reappraisal of fish. Colatura de Alici, made from fermented anchovies is a favourite ingredient of James Lowe of Flor and can be purchased at Casanova & Daughters in Seven Dials, a deli/wine bar and suppliers to restaurants including Sketch and Ducasse at the Dorchester. Colatura features on the new menu at Dinner by Heston at The Mandarin Hotel created by Heston Blumenthal with Ashley Palmer-Watt inspired by Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum’s museum major exhibition “Last Supper in Pompeii.” The menu includes a seafood casserole of octopus and mussels with a lovage, garum and mussel emulsion and oyster leaf and chicory salad. Doug McMaster, hero of game-changing zero waste restaurant Silo in Hackney serves buttermilk garum with grilled old dairy cow.
Similarly Stevie Parle is talking about garum made from barley as his newest condiment craze at Craft – his restaurant in London’s Greenwich.
Presently and shockingly, we depend on four crops for 60 per cent of our calories (wheat, maize, rice and potato) – reason enough to rediscover forgotten grains.
Einkorn is the oldest known to man and an especially resilient grain. Try its nutty, earthy taste in the wonderful einkorn soda bread at 26 Grains Stoney Street where Henrietta Inman (author of Natural Baking) is the head chef. Brett Graham of two Michelin star The Ledbury is a fan of Orkney beremeal which he serves as a dumpling with muntjac.
Look out for grains from West Africa, whose cuisine is, at last, being taken seriously on the world scene. Chuku’s, the popular Nigerian tapas bar, is opening a permanent site in Hackney early in the New Year and this will afford the ideal opportunity to taste the tiny, super nutritious teff (brilliant ground into flour for cakes as well as more traditionally in fermented injera bread used to scoop up Ethiopian wats/stews). Teff seeds, actually a grass seed, produces a harvest proportionally hundreds of times greater than wheat or other staple grains and can withstand high temperatures in which to grow. It has much to offer nutritionally with a particularly high calcium content plus plenty of iron and protein; it is gluten-free and varies in colour from white through to very dark brown. Look out for sorghum and millet too.
Get puckering – fermented, acidic, tongue tingling flavours will be assaulting our taste buds this year. Chefs are looking to adventurous, plant-based restaurants in the US, including Squirl in LA (a signature dish is a sorrel pesto bowl with lacto-fermented hot sauce) and Dirt Candy in New York for inspiration. Amba is a pickled, tangy mango condiment of Iraqi origin and also popular in Middle Eastern and Indian cuisine, typically made of green mangoes, vinegar, salt, turmeric, chili and fenugreek, which will be making its way on to menus.
For more sour inspiration, delve into food writer Mark Dianoco’s book “Sour” for his gut-enhancing, life-affirming recipes from fruit kimchi to Persian fish stew with black limes. Besides much use of ferments, Dianoco unearths more arcane ingredients including amchoor (dried mango powder) and anardana (dried pomegranate seeds).