The Darina Allen Column

As we head into a new year, Darina has been doing some crystal ball gazing and she’s come up with some interestingly diverse predictions for the food trends that we’ll be seeing in 2022...  

• During the past year we’ve seen a considerable pandemic related shift in grocery buying habits as we adjusted to spending more time at home.

• There’s been a well-documented rise in the food to go and meal kit area and considerable innovation as the restaurant sector struggled to pivot. Food truck numbers increased exponentially and these days it’s more usual to see a coffee machine in a horse box than a horse…

• On the other end of the scale, Forbes predicts a rise in cooking robots and automation in the dining industry fuelled by labour shortages.

• Expect to see more food ATMs and vending machines. Meanwhile, anyone living in a city or big town can’t have failed to notice the stratospheric rise in delivery bikes – akin to London or LA. After an initial rise in home cooking, cooking fatigue appears to have set in.

• Nonetheless, my new book, ‘How to Cook’ - 100 essential recipes everyone should know, is getting a tremendous response from people who think they can’t cook but would love to…! I’m always happy to write a personal message on request…

• There’s a definite rise in the number of people prioritising food and drink products that promise additional health and well-being benefits. It’s difficult to get up-to-date figures on the number of vegans and vegetarians in Ireland but the increasing number of menu options and products on supermarket shelves acknowledges the growth in these areas. Plant-based ‘meats’ like the Impossible Burger and Moving Mountains Burger that sizzle and bleed continue to gain fans.

• This year, reductarianism is the new buzz word. It has been dubbed one of the top 10 trends: Reductarians are “Not ready to go full vegan but want to significantly reduce consumption of meat”. This group are determined to make more sustainable life choices and restore the ecosystem. They seek out high quality pasture fed meat produced to high-welfare standards and want to be reassured of environmentally friendly production methods. The plant-based sector and the number of ‘plant-curious’ eaters is growing exponentially. The growing number of environmentally aware consumers want to hear that farmers are making an increased effort to protect wildlife and restore ecosystems.

• According to Waitrose, nearly 70% of shoppers are going the extra mile to reduce their carbon footprint in some way or another. Research confirms that environmental awareness amongst consumers has surged during the past year with 85% of us making more sustainable life choices.

• Trend forecasters have also noted that those working from home are eating bigger and enjoying more experimental breakfasts.

• There’s been a spike in the sale of eggs, bacon and demand for all manner of exotic mushrooms is way up. Kits to cultivate oyster and lion mane mushrooms at home are all the rage. Post cereal’ snack packs to munch during the day and frozen sandwiches are emerging as lunch solutions.

Pet food sales have gone through the roof.

Urban hydroponic farming is a huge trend in cities all over the world. Everything from salad greens to exotic mushrooms. Innovation in indoor farming and growing some of our own food has skyrocketed. Some vegetable seeds were in short supply last year so order early for 2022. Supermarkets are using roof space to grow both indoors and outdoors. Hydroponics is creating a new interpretation of locally grown – Hyper local…

• Millennials and generation-Z-ers are dabbling with ‘drysolation’.

Buzz-less spirits, bottled cocktails and ready to drink cans are revolutionising the bar experience. Definitely one of the top trends and here to stay. Functional fizz infused with probiotics and botanicals to boost immunity and benefit gut health and heart health are all the rage. Water kefir, kombucha, tinctures are mainstream. It’s no surprise that turmeric, with its many health-giving properties, is popping up everywhere, not just in fermented foods. Sauerkraut, kimchi and pickles continue to gain market share.

• Our love affair with coffee continues unabated. Cold coffee is trending. Look out for Amazake-Japanese coffee, Vietnamese iced coffee.

• Plant based dairy sales are up. Potato milk is the next big thing, it will be in a coffee shop near you before too long.

Japanese, Korean and Chinese flavours are trending. Sales of umami paste are gathering momentum. Food of the Caucasus and the Levant are also on foodie’s radar. Spicy foods are here to stay from Indian garam masala to Mexican tajini (a mixture of dehydrated dried chillies, lime juice and sea salt), Indonesian sambal oleck, BBQ rubs, Japanese gochujang – all add a pop of flavour.

• Pomegranate molasses, Turkish Urfa, chilli flakes and feta are flying off shelves. Every list includes Yuzu, the sour tart tangerine sized citrus from Japan, Korea and China that’s taking the culinary world by storm. Use it in drinks, cocktails, vinaigrettes, mayo, ponzu sauce, desserts… mostly available so far as a juice or a bottled sauce.

• There’s also a craving for old-fashioned flavours that bring back memories of happier more carefree times.

• Nut allergies have accelerated the popularity of sunflower seeds – they are trending also and are great for people who have allergies to other nuts.

CBD (Cannabidiol) food products, both food and drink are moving mainstream.

Hibiscus, the red flowers of a colourful shrub, has been dried and used in tea and drinks around the world from Mexico to South Africa for years but are now included in a myriad of foods, ice-cream, cakes – high in vitamin C. Hibiscus tea is the new matcha. Moringa from the drumstick tree is being hailed as a new super food and tastes a bit like dried cherries.

Artisan bakers are burgeoning, virtually every small town in Ireland will soon have an artisan bakery and a range of viennoiseries offering natural sourdough. Market leaders are liaising directly with farmers to grow heritage grain varieties and using freshly milled flour for their loaves.

• Sales of herbs and spices are up over 40% since 2020.

• There’s more genuine concern about food waste.

Labelling is becoming more ‘homey’ with terms like 100% grown on American soil and regionally grown produce – watch that space...

By no means a comprehensive list, and it’s always interesting to keep an eye on what is trending in the US. It’ll be coming our way before too long. Continue to buy seasonal, Irish produce. We can all make a difference to local farmers and food producers with how we choose to spend our food Euro.


Sambal Oelek Chicken Skewers 
A delicious way to use your new ‘best friend’ sambal oelek, a spicy Indonesian chilli paste that is a hugely popular condiment in Malaysian and Thai dishes. If you are not a fan already, buy a little jar and start to experiment. It really adds a pop of flavour to a myriad of curries and dishes from soups and stews to scrambled eggs. Serve with sausages, hot dogs, cold chicken, turkey, burgers, pork… Makes 8

110g (4oz) light brown sugar
110ml (4fl oz) unseasoned rice vinegar
2-3 tablespoons sambal oelek or hot chili paste
50ml (2fl oz) fish sauce (nam pla)
50ml (2fl oz) Sriracha
1-2 teaspoons finely grated peeled ginger
700g (1 1/2lb) skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into 4-5cm (1 1/2 – 2 inch) pieces
12 bamboo skewers, soaked in cold water for at least 1 hour

Whisk the brown sugar, vinegar, chilli paste, fish sauce, Sriracha, and ginger in a bowl. Add the chicken pieces and toss to coat.
Allow to marinate for 15-30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas Mark 6.
Drain the chicken. Thread 4 or 5 pieces onto each skewer. Pour the leftover marinade into a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, simmer until reduced by almost half, 7–10 minutes.
Transfer the chicken skewers to a baking tray. Cook in the preheated oven, turning and baste often with the reduced marinade, cook through, 8–10 minutes approx.
Serve drizzled with a little marinade on a bed of salad leaves. Sambal oelek mayo would be a delicious accompaniment.

Exotic Mushroom Risotto
Everyone needs to be able to whip up a risotto, comfort food at its best and a base for so many good things, from exotic mushrooms, crispy pork lardons or kale to foraged nettles. Risotto is usually served immediately, but it’s handy to know that you can pre-cook the rice to finish off when needed - see below.
Serves 6

1-1.3 litres (1¾-2¼ pints) chicken or vegetable stock
50g (2oz) butter
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
400g (14oz) risotto rice, such as Arborio, Carnaroli, or Vialone Nano
50g (2oz) freshly grated Parmesan cheese or a mixture of Parmesan and Pecorino
sea salt
225–350g (8–12oz) a selection of sliced and sautéed mushrooms (lion’s mane, chestnut, oyster, porcini, chanterelles…)

First bring the stock to the boil, reduce the heat and keep it at a gentle simmer. Melt half the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan with the oil, add the onion, cover and sweat over a gentle heat for 4–5 minutes until soft but not coloured. Add the rice and stir until well coated. Cook for a minute or so and then add 150ml (5fl oz) of the simmering stock, stir continuously, and as soon as the liquid is absorbed add another 150ml (5fl oz) of stock. Continue to cook, stirring constantly. The heat should be brisk, but on the other hand if it’s too hot the rice will be soft outside but still chewy inside. If it’s too slow, the rice will be gluey. It’s difficult to know which is worse, so the trick is to regulate the heat so that the rice bubbles continuously.
The risotto should take 25–30 minutes to cook.
After about 20 minutes, add the stock about 4 tablespoons at a time. I use a small ladle. Watch it very carefully from there on. The risotto is done when the rice is cooked but is still ever so slightly al dente. It should be soft and creamy and quite loose, rather than thick. The moment you are happy with the texture, add in the well-seasoned hot sautéed mushrooms, stir in the remaining butter and Parmesan, taste and add more salt if necessary. Serve immediately on hot plates.
Alternatively, you can pre-cook the rice for finishing later. After about 10 minutes of cooking, taste a grain or two between your teeth. It should be firm, slightly gritty, definitely undercooked but not completely raw. Remove the risotto from the saucepan and spread it out on a flat dish to cool as quickly as possible. The rice can be reheated later with some of the remaining stock and the cooking and finishing of the risotto can be completed. Risotto does not benefit from hanging around – the texture should be really soft and flowing.

Winter Mocktail
When it comes to winter cocktails or mocktails, it’s all about citrus. The blood orange season is now in full swing so have fun. Fizz can of course be substituted for sparkling water…

4 freshly squeezed blood oranges
freshly squeezed juice of 1 lime
1 tablespoon honey or sugar syrup or more if required
Sparkling water

Mix the freshly squeezed juices with honey to taste. Add sparking water. Pour into a cocktail glass. Top with a sprig of mint and a thin slice of thin blood orange. Enjoy immediately.

Book of the Month: ‘We Are What We Eat’ 
When Alice Waters first opened Chez Panisse in 1971, she did so with the intention of feeding people good food during a time of political turmoil. Over the years, she and her partners realised that so many of the serious problems we face in the world today – from illness to social unrest, to economic disparity and environmental degradation – are all, at their core, connected to food. Alice collaborated with her good friends Bob Carrau and Cristina Mueller to write this Slow Food Manifesto. Buy a copy, keep it by your bedside and dip in to be inspired and comforted. Published by Penguin Press.

Grow Your Own
Get your vegetable seed order in as soon as you can. Last year, many varieties ran out due to unprecedented demand. Have fun planning…everyone can grow something even if it’s in a pot, window box, on your patio, balcony or an allotment. Join the GIY movement, lots of fun and fresh air…

Family Recipes
2022 could be the year to gather and record all the recipes from family and friends that you’ve always wanted to know. So grab a jotter from your corner shop, one that will fit into your handbag, start to ask questions and scribble…it will become a much loved and treasured family heirloom.

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