Comfort food or new flavours

This year’s culinary trends look set to pull our taste buds in many directions

by Lydia Brownlow 

Now that we have happily waved goodbye to 2020 (the nation’s annus horribilis) we can move on and turn our thoughts to 2021. Will it
see a continuation of the food trends that happened last year? With the country in another lockdown at the time of writing it would seem so. Here are a few trends that we will hopefully see continuing long after the collapse of our New Year’s resolutions.

Indulgent Treats

When times are tough, patisserie, cakes and desserts sell really well. As belts tighten and consumers give up on their dreams of expensive purchases they console themselves with sweet treats. These, combined with nostalgia for the good old days and a need for comfort food, means that trends are taking inspiration from three key areas – ice cream, classic desserts and retro sweets. Ice cream-inspired flavours such as chocolate mint, rum & raisin and Neapolitan are expected to make a comeback as well as classic dessert flavours such as carrot cake, banoffee pie or Bakewell tarts. Old fashioned confectionery flavours lend themselves well to icings due to their sweet nature, for example liquorice, lemon sherbet or cola.

Store Cupboard Staples

With many people continuing to work from home and more and more looking to replicate restaurant meals, recently fledged home chefs are gaining in confidence in their newfound skills. Having honed them over the summer lockdown they are looking to move away from the basics and try something new. Pasta, sauces, spices — the basics will never be boring again. Get ready for reimagined classics like hearts of palm pasta, applewood-smoked salt and “meaty” vegan soup. Old favourites like walnut, sesame and truffle oils are back in trend along with the new dipping oils, chilli and garlic or oregano and balsamic, to be enjoyed with that freshly baked loaf of homemade bread. For those too busy to cook or non-cooks, there has been a phenomenal rise in meal kits being delivered straight to your door.
To complete the meal there are also not just wines but craft beers and a multitude of bottled cocktails for home delivery — just don’t forget the ice.

Health

Following on from the brilliant series Blue Planet II and its role in making the nation aware of the damage that plastics are doing to the planet, we must continue to reduce our usage. With Covid still impacting our lives, we have also become more aware that our health is rooted to our planet’s. By becoming more mindful we are placing more importance on the community and have a growing respect for
key workers in the food industry and the environments in which they are working. This is also reflected in the continuing rise in popularity of smaller local shops, butchers and independent delis. Avoiding the crowds and queues by shopping locally for top quality products reduces packaging and food miles and all comes with free advice and at a fair price.

Plant-based Diets

The lines are blurring between the supplement and grocery aisles, and that trend will accelerate in 2021. That means superfoods such as mushrooms enriched with vitamins D and B12, as well as probiotics, broths and sauerkrauts. Suppliers are incorporating functional ingredients like vitamin C, mushrooms and adaptogens to foster a calm headspace and support the immune system. Plant-based diets are likely to grow in popularity as many readymade dishes are available on supermarket shelves and no longer is everything being cooked from scratch. Veggie options of meat-based snacks are also growing in popularity after the phenomenal success of Gregg’s vegan sausage roll.

Coffee

Flexible working is more popular than it ever has been, and with more people staying at home and fewer entering urban areas, cafés have seen a decrease in footfall. There is still demand for coffee but there has been a big shift towards brewing it at home, either because more people work from home, or because they feel uncomfortable going out to buy coffee. Numerous reports detail how sales of coffee have soared in supermarkets, as well as direct from coffee roasters too. Along with that, the most popular pieces of equipment
to purchase included a coffee grinder, espresso machine, coffee pod machine, and filter equipment like the V60 and the Aeropress.

Hopefully we will continue to fight our way out of this Covid corner and see a return to eating out, seeing friends and generally enjoying ourselves after so many bleak months.

Lydia Brownlow was a cookery editor at Good Housekeeping Magazine and a contributor to The Daily Beast. Latterly she has been inspiring children to cook.

More info at lydiabrownlow.com

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