Annabel Langbein: Food trends (+recipes)

By Annabel Langbein

New Zealand is quick to follow the globe’s gastronomic trendsetters.
Checking out the trends at New York's landmark Katz's Delicatessen. Photo / Annabel Langbein Media
Checking out the trends at New York's landmark Katz's Delicatessen. Photo / Annabel Langbein Media

It's easy to put the idea of food fashions into the same basket as things that are transient fads (trendy, rather than actual trends).

In fact, the evolution of the way we eat, as much as anything, is a reflection of all the social, environmental and economic changes going on around us. New research around health drives some trends, others come about through immigration, climate change or, as I wrote recently, the discovery of new ingredients like the miraculous egg white substitute, aquafaba.

Trends tend to filter down from innovative restaurateurs and thought leaders in food, nutrition and the environment. Once a trend starts gaining mainstream traction, chances are big business will see the opportunity and pick it up — and bingo, it's suddenly everywhere.

A decade ago you had to hunt out Thai sweet chilli sauce out in specialty Asian food stores, then it gradually made the migration to the supermarkets. Seeing the trend, Wattie's started making it and now you will find it in most every household pantry, as ubiquitous as tomato ketchup and soy sauce.

Danish sociologist and trends expert Henrik Vejlgaard defines a trendsetter as someone who is constantly curious about what is new and innovative. Trendsetters crave change. Vejlgaard says trends emerge in seven cities in the world — San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York in the United States; along with London, Paris, Milan and Tokyo.

I don't think he looked into New Zealand and Australia, but down here at the edges of the world, unfettered by tradition and with a global food pantry at our fingertips, we have opened our hearts and our stomachs to new flavours. I truly believe this country is one of the most exciting places in the world to be cooking right now.

Having just returned home from a whistle-stop research trip that took in three of Vejlgaard's seven trend-setting cities, here are some of the top trends I've picked up locally and on my travels that will influence the way we cook shop and eat in the years ahead.


Annabel's top trends

1 Sexy Vs: vegetables, vegetarians, vegans
In case you hadn't noticed, vegetables are the new sexy. All over the globe, high-end chefs are doing fancy-pants things with vegetables, and making them the star feature on their menus. As consumers become more interested in plant-based, healthy eating and reducing their carbon footprint, vegetarian and vegan options are becoming more mainstream. Blogs such as My New Roots, Elsa's Wholesome Life, Green Kitchen Stories and Sprouted Kitchen, to mention but a few, are introducing us to new ingredients and new ways of cooking. Plant-based eating is a trend that's here to stay.

2 Back to our roots
Heirloom and heritage fruit and vegetables are on the rise - not just for their superior flavour but for their denser nutrition and the fact that they ensure DNA diversity in the food chain. Since the 1900s, some 75 per cent of plant genetic diversity has been lost as farmers all over the globe have abandoned local varieties for the high-yield, uniform crops that can withstand global transportation and supermarket shelf-life. Now 75 per cent of the world's food is generated from only 12 plants and five animal species. Farmers can grow two or three times as much as they could 50 years ago, but according to the journal HortScience, some varieties of vegetables and fruit have lost up to 40 per cent of their nutrient content.

Photo / Annabel Langbein Media
Photo / Annabel Langbein Media

3 Fermented foods
Another big mainstream Western trend. Recent research suggests that the bacteria in fermented foods and drinks such as kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha, kefir, yoghurt and blue and other cultured cheeses can change the makeup of gut microbes, leading to the production of compounds that modify brain chemistry and affect mood. How appealing to think that a pottle of active yoghurt twice a day could reduce anxiety.

4 Apps to make us all culinary stars
Combine our rapacious desire for all things new with the tools of modern technology and, hey presto, suddenly we can all become master chefs. Well, kind of... The web abounds with recipes and videos showing us new ways to cook, clever techniques and ideas. If you enjoy all the culinary backflips of spherification, sous-vide and fancy cheffy techniques, then check out chefsteps.com and its free companion app. With fab production values and hipster style, they deliver the low-down on on-trend recipes and methods. Also check out Saveur magazine's best food blog awards for the latest in the amazing blogosphere world of food (saveur.com/blog-awards-2015-winners). The 2016 winners will be announced on Monday.

5 Umami bombs
The natural glutamates in foods are known as umami - a word borrowed from Japanese that roughly translates as savoury deliciousness. The trend for chefs to layer up umami-rich ingredients - such as parmesan, fish, shellfish, miso, pork, chicken, beef, seaweed, oyster sauce, soy sauce, eggs, tomato paste, green tea and mushrooms - to create deeply flavoured "umami bomb" dishes means they don't need to add sugar or fat to deliver lip-smacking satisfaction.

6 Botanicals
As artificial flavours and colours continue to decline in popularity, we are becoming increasingly open to the novel fresh, seasonal and bright flavours of botanicals. Botanical ingredients such as guarana, green coffee beans, matcha green tea, ginseng and chrysanthemum flower convey a natural healthy image. You will start to see them in beverages ranging from cocktails and craft beer to RTDs (ready-to-drink) and functional drinks.


Vegetable Pakoras

In the movement towards consuming less meat and soy, legumes are taking centre stage as a great source of protein. People with food allergies in their households also view pea proteins as low-risk, safe and natural, unprocessed options. I like to make these tasty snacks using beer as a raising agent as it means I need less soda so I don't get that slightly sour soda taste. They are lovely and light, but you can add a little extra baking soda if you like them even lighter. Make sure you dice the vegetables very finely because they will be in the oil for only a short time to cook through.

Vegetable pakoras. Photo / Annabel Langbein Media
Vegetable pakoras. Photo / Annabel Langbein Media

Ready in 45 mins. Makes about 30.

2 cups chickpea or pea flour
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp coriander seeds or mustard seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds, coarsely ground or chopped
2 tsp curry powder
2 cups beer
½ cup chopped coriander leaves
1½ tsp salt
Ground black pepper, to taste
¼ tsp baking soda
3 packed cups finely chopped or grated carrot, broccoli, peas, pumpkin, kohlrabi or other vegetables
Grapeseed, rice bran or other neutral oil, to fry
Raita and/or tamarind sauce or chutney, to serve


Combine flour with cumin, coriander or mustard seeds, fennel seeds, curry powder and beer to form a smooth batter. Mix in coriander, salt and pepper, baking soda, if using, and vegetables. Allow to stand for 5 minutes. Heat 3-4cm of oil in a deep frying pan and fry small spoonfuls of the mixture in batches of 3-5 at a time until golden and cooked through (about 3 minutes). Lift out with a slotted spoon, shake off excess oil and drain on paper towels. Serve at once, accompanied by raita and/or tamarind sauce or chutney. They can be prepared ahead and reheated in a 200C oven for 5 minutes before serving.


Pasta with Broccoli

Using a combination of umami-rich ingredients in one dish means they enhance one another so the flavour hit you experience is greater than if you tried the ingredients separately.

Pasta with broccoli. Photo / Annabel Langbein Media
Pasta with broccoli. Photo / Annabel Langbein Media

Ready in 30 mins. Serves 6.

½ cup coarse crisp breadcrumbs
¼ cup grated parmesan
2 Tbsp finely chopped flat leaf parsley leaves
2 heads broccoli, cut into small florets
500g dried spaghetti
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 fat cloves garlic, crushed
6 canned anchovies, chopped
2 Tbsp capers
Zest of ½ a lemon, finely grated


Mix breadcrumbs with parmesan and parsley and set aside. Drop broccoli into a big pot of salted boiling water and cook for 2 minutes. Lift out with a slotted spoon or tongs, rinse under cold water to cool, drain well and set aside. Add spaghetti to pot and cook for 2 minutes less than packet instructions. Drain, reserving ½ cup of the cooking water. Heat oil in a large frypan. Add garlic, anchovies, capers and lemon zest and sizzle for 1-2 minutes, stirring to break up anchovies. Add cooked broccoli, drained pasta and reserved spaghetti cooking water. Toss over heat for 2 minutes to fully heat through and infuse flavours. Pile onto a serving dish and sprinkle the reserved breadcrumb mixture over the top.


Sweet Spiced Mango Lassi

Indian cooking has always tuned in to food as a means to good health and the traditional yoghurt lassi drink is a good example, incorporating botanicals such as cardamom, cinnamon and ginger with the gut benefits of yoghurt and the antioxidants and vitamins of fresh mango. If you can't get fresh mangoes for this cooling drink use frozen mango chunks or try canned mangoes in juice and reduce the honey or sugar to taste. It keeps in the fridge for a day or two.

Sweet spiced mago lassi. Photo / Annabel Langbein Media
Sweet spiced mago lassi. Photo / Annabel Langbein Media

Ready in 5 mins. Serves 4-6.

3 cups natural yoghurt
3 Tbsp honey or sugar
1 tsp ground cardamom
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp finely grated fresh ginger
1 large ripe mango, peeled, pitted and coarsely chopped
A pinch of salt
2 ice cubes


Place all ingredients in a blender and whizz until smooth. Divide between glasses and serve immediately.


Vegan Bliss Balls

These vegan bliss balls encapsulate the trend for high-nutrition foods that avoid highly processed ingredients like refined sugar. If you prefer you can press the mixture into a sponge roll tin, press LSA, coconut or nuts over the top to coat then chill and cut like a slice. For a more decadent version, drizzle balls with melted chocolate.

Vegan bliss balls. Photo / Annabel Langbein Media
Vegan bliss balls. Photo / Annabel Langbein Media

Ready in 20 mins. Makes about 14.

1 cup dried apricots
1¼ cups mixed nuts, such as roasted cashews and walnuts
¼ cup each brazil nuts and desiccated coconut
2 Tbsp maple syrup or agave syrup
1 tsp cinnamon
½ cup LSA (ground linseed, sunflower seed and almond mix),
Desiccated coconut or finely chopped nuts, to coat


Place apricots in a bowl, cover with boiling water and allow to stand for 15 minutes. Drain well, place in a food processor with all other ingredients except LSA, coconut or nuts to coat, and whizz until smooth. Form into about 14 small balls and roll in LSA, coconut or nuts to coat. Store in the fridge for up to two weeks or freeze until needed.

- Canvas

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