Whats in store for 2012?

So its that time again when we are bombarded with food trend predictions for the coming year – so here are mine. Some predictions, some wishful thinking but ones that are relevant to my life.

1 Cupcake Fatigue

I don’t know about you but I am sick to death of seeing cupcakes everywhere. What Bridget Jones did for Chardonnay a decade ago the onslaught of TV baking programmes have done for the cupcake.  Even the lovely Edd Kimber the 2010 Great British Bake Off winner who dislikes cupcakes “reluctantly” included 2 recipes for them in his book The Boy who Bakes.  At this years Leicester Winter Food and Drink Festival there were stall after stall of women making cupcakes that looked pretty much exactly like the next, and the next, and the next.  While I love the fact that people are taking the bowl by the horns and setting up food businesses from home, it did make me feel sad that they were all basically cookie cutter copies of each other: Bunting: check. Cutesy name: check. Vintage looking tableware bought from Argos: check. Disappointment that everyone else has also made that Lemon & Poppyseed cupcake: check. And like the ABC backlash (Anything But Chardonnay) that soon followed the Bridget Jones booze boom, I am keeping my fingers crossed for Anything But Cupcakes.

2: Own a Pig Schemes

Where last year was definitely the year of the home chicken keeper I think this coming year will see a rise in more people opting for this method of meat purchase.  If you haven’t heard of these schemes the basic gist is you pay a pig farmer for a piglet that the farmer then takes complete care of.  The pig will be a traditional, slow growing breed that you can go and visit and feed and then when it is ready (about 6-7 months) the pig is slaughtered and butchered to however you fancy and you know that you are eating meat that has lived a happy life and will taste all the better for it. Neighbours can club together for one, pubs, community groups or you can just keep all the meat for yourselves! Personally I think if you are planning on getting married this summer and want a hog roast then this is definitely the way to go!

A few Own a Pig schemes: HerePigPig, Samphire Shop, Chater Valley, Emmas Pigs, Chalk Newton. There are several dotted about the country so just google it and find one near you.

3: Chocolate

Where 2011 was the year of the salted caramel chocolate, I’m hoping 2012 will see many more experimental chocolatiers such as the wonderful Paul A Young and Boutique Aromatique appear and hopefully the high street start to catch on so more people start trying new flavour combinations.  People at home will start experimenting with making chocolates using flowers and herbs from their gardens and raiding their spice jars. Well, I will be anyway. If you are up for experimenting I have it on good authority that Global Harvest’s wild Fennel pollen is incredible in a chocolate truffle!

4: Kombucha

2011 was a big year for sourdough and now homes all over the country have a jar of sourdough starter (most likely named) in their fridges.  Well, for me at least, my new starter is going to be a Kombucha tea.  While it may look like an alien creature has been captured and preserved in formaldehyde it is actually really easy to make and keep alive once you have got your hands on a starter culture.  I first came across Kombucha tea 17 years ago on the window sill of the most wonderful hippy lady and I was completely engrossed in this brown living entity inside the tea filled jar.  She said I could have one of its “babies” if I wanted but seeing as at the time I was living in the woods in the Forest of Dean with lots of other hippies it seemed somewhat impractical! These days I have a cottage complete with a kitchen so theres no excuse but to give it a go.

5. Sheep’s Curd Cheese

This year I discovered Homewood fresh Sheeps curd and it was a revelation. It is just the most wonderful lemony, soft, creamy cheese that has that beautiful sweet sheep’s milk taste. Perfect for deserts and the cheese board alike this is a definite winner.  Soft fresh sheep’s cheese is really hard to come by in the UK as it has such a short shelf life.  I picked mine up from Neston Park Farm Shop just outside of Bath but Abel and Cole also deliver it and Tim can be found at Bath’s Farmers Market. I really hope this style of cheese becomes much more popular in 2012 so that it becomes much more widely available!

6. Better Farmer’s Markets

Earlier this year I contacted the organiser of a Farmers Market about having a stall.  I was met with the response: “sorry, we already have a stall selling those”. I was stunned. I receive emails from this Market that travels around our area that always ask for street performers to turn up in order to make the market more vibrant.  Its the stalls themselves that should be the vibrant element! Only allowing one artisan bread stall, one organic veg, one chutneys and jams, one cake etc is why the market looks so small and depressing.  Farmers markets in this country can be incredibly limited whereas if you wander around a Farmers Market in somewhere like France or Spain you find a buzzing cornucopia of stalls to excite your senses and tickle your fancy.  Times are hard for our small producers and they need all the support that we can give. You may be lucky enough to have a fantastic, vibrant Farmer’s Market that offers the shopper plenty of choice but if you don’t, perhaps ask the Market Manager why.

7. Slow Cookers

Our purse strings are tighter therefore our cuts of meat are tending to be cheaper. My kitchen has always been a lovely safe haven for underrated cuts of meat to take pride of place on the plate, but thanks to TV chefs popularising these cuts they are now (rather annoyingly for those who have always loved them) becoming more expensive! The muscles that work the hardest taste the best in my book but as a result of all that hard work they tend to need a long, gentle cook. Our time, however, is becoming more heavily demanded upon and with energy prices rocketing the Slow Cooker is the perfect solution. Oxtail stews, Beef cheek casseroles, Mutton curries, Partridge tagines, poached Ox tongue, my slow cooker revels in them all!

8. A fresh look at Ale

Ale is traditionally seen as the domain of men but according to Sara Barton, founder of Brewsters Brewery, brewers up until around 1600 were predominantly female and were called Brewsters. This year I discovered the deliciously floral Brewsters Pale Ale made down the road in Grantham by Brewsters founder Sara. This was another joyful taste discovery of 2011 and has become a firm favourite of mine.  I like my ales golden, floral and light and this was just perfect.  Also this year we made several trips to Burrough on the Hill to the Parish Brewery to stock up on Trudy’s Tipple, a beautiful Elderflower Ale brewed right next door to their pub Grants Free House.  Morrisons has been experimenting this Christmas with small batch releases of more unusual ales. Their Chestnut Ale one sold out almost immediately and they are currently selling a Chocolate and Vanilla Stout which I didn’t expect to like but actually really enjoyed.  There is a slight shift happening in the world of ales and more and more women are getting back into the craft including Claire Monk, head brewer at another local Brewery The Welbeck Abbey Brewery.  There will always be the traditional brews out there but its fantastic to see some fresh flavours coming through for palates like mine. 

9. Sweet Chestnut Honey, Dukkah, Lapsang Souchong

Ok so these are just ingredients that I really hope become more popular in 2012!  I am a huge fan of Sweet Chestnut Honey and use it in stews, deserts, drizzles, dressings you name it.  Its a powerful flavour so use sparingly.  I’m particularly fond of it on toast with a thin layer of Marmite but hey, thats just me.  Dukkah is another underrated kitchen staple.  Its ridiculously easy to make and roasted new potatoes or bread dipped into your favourite oil then into a crunchy Dukkah dip can’t be beaten.  I love making my own and throw plenty of nuts and seeds into the grinder with the spices. If you can’t be bothered to make your own then check out Gourmet Spice Co for some ready made pots of their Pukka Dukkah. I have also been having a bit of a love affair with smoked tea.  Lapsang Souchong is a Chinese black tea that has been smoke-dried over pinewood therefore giving it an intense deep smokiness that is just wonderful in cooking.  A few strands make a world of difference to stews, spirits, deserts etc.  It really is worth spending the money on a good quality tea with thick strands.  A little goes a long way and stored in an airtight jar it lasts ages.

10 A few things I’d like to see the back of in 2012

Anything thats referred to as “deconstructed” on a menu. Keep the dish  but lose the name.

Restaurants pretending to love local, seasonal food but actually sneakily buying the vast majority in from abroad (a whole separate blog post coming soon, grrr).

Cupcake craziness (also Cakepops…why?).

People making restaurant reservations and then not bothering to turn up – wishful thinking to see the back of this one but Australian restaurants are making a Twitter stand against it by naming and shaming the offenders.

Sliders. I want my burger to be roughly half the size of my face thanks.  Keep mini-food to the canapé tray please.

Restaurants putting things on the plate that you can’t eat just for decoration.

So thats my 2 pennies worth of musings for 2012. I also think Dorset and Norfolk are going to be the really important food destinations outside of London in 2012 and people are going to be getting really heavily into home charcuterie. If you fancy trying your hand at it well I can’t recommend anyone better than Marc Frederic and his book  Le Charcutier Anglais. Overall I think its going to be an exciting year for food and drink.  Happy New Year! x

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