Trends are cyclical by their very nature and yet some of the biggest crazes to hit the culinary scene are cyclical in more ways than one.
While seeds have been ruling the gastronomic game for the longest of times, chia seeds have been pushed off their perch for the first time this year, with a slightly more exotic – and colourful – range of replacements now reigning.
Purple potatoes, purple corn, black quinoa, black sesame seeds and the ancient Peruvian superfood seed, kiwicha are now on the up.
Kiwicha, also known as amaranth or ‘mini quinoa’ is a small pseudo cereal noted for its dense nutritional content which has seen it reach superfood status in recent years.
Black quinoa is an earthier and sweeter-tasting option compared to white quinoa and maintains its colour when cooked. As with all quinoa varieties, it’s gluten-free and packs a powerful nutritional punch.
One of the most ancient forms of corn is Kculli, a beautiful purple variety that was once an Incan empire staple. Said to contain higher antioxidant capacity and free radical fighting ability than any other grain or fruit, it is more nutritionally dense than its traditional counterpart.
Black Sesame seeds are one of oldest condiments known to man. Highly valued for their oil, they pack a nutritional punch that far outweighs their small stature.
So why not start getting a bit more creative in the kitchen with some cynical superfoods?
Monisha (Mon) Sharma hails from exotic India where food is full of soul – no superlatives will do these dishes justice. Mon has brought her heritage and her creative convictions to New Zealand and is wooing a captive Instagram audience with her culinary charm. A little bit Kiwi, a little bit Indian, a little bit hard-to-put-your-finger on, Mon’s creations are charming to mind, body and soul. Metropol talks to the fabulous foodie about her claim to social media fame.
How did ‘Mon’s Flavours’ start on Instagram?
I’m actually not a food blogger. My background was working full-time in a restaurant and when I moved to New Zealand, this all just happened. I actually wasn’t very well for a while and I started playing around with recipes at home. It was my son who said, ‘Why don’t you start Instagramming?’ and he set me up with the account. At the time, I didn’t even know what a hashtag was or how to use a camera! I started putting up my smoothies and recipes and I think this started to resonate with people. I just kept being original. I love making people laugh and smile.
Where does your inspiration for your colourful and unique recipes come from?
I do every single thing from scratch. Being Indian, I love different ingredients from my culture and also from others and like to mix and match. A lot of recipes I have created are not necessarily made from anything fancy – it could just be everyday ingredients from your cupboard – for example, my avocado smoothie. I might add in peanuts, or cacao powder, or add some magical pear. I like to create what is delicious, healthy and filling.
You are a vegetarian, how does this influence what you create?
When people ask me how I have survived being a vegetarian until now – 43 years old – I say, ‘Well, I can run with more energy than a meat eater!’ I like to prove them wrong and when I tell them I have a 21-year-old son they say, ‘Wow, you must be doing something right!’” I love to work with vegetarian ingredients. When it comes to cooking or baking you just have to love what you do and be confident in your decisions.”
If you’ve noticed the increasing number of foods that have been turning green recently, you might be forgiven for wondering what on earth is going on.
These clever little culinary concoctions have been injected with matcha. A fine green tea powder, matcha has been produced in Japan for centuries, with Buddhist monks using it to help them stay calm and alert during meditation.
Despite this illustrious past, matcha has only really hit the fore of western conscience in more recent years, where it has struck a culinary chord with the wellbeing crowd.
Its vivid green colour comes from the high levels of chlorophyll produced by growing the tea leaves in the shade, a method that also boosts its inherent antioxidants.
While matcha can be purchased in its raw form in health shops, it’s increasingly making an appearance in cafés, bakeries and even restaurants inside a daring range of baking, smoothies, desserts and plenty of other cooked creations – even burger buns!
Matcha and… well anything really, might just be a match made in culinary heaven.
When someone suggests wrapping your laughing gear around the newest culinary powerhouse ‘drinkable soup’ you’d be well within your rights to look at them like they’re a little bit bonkers for stating the obvious. The concept of drinkable soup seems pretty standard, right? Wrong.
Drinkable soup is flipping the status quo on its head. The new foodie favourite dominating the headlines has rendered spoons redundant. Just your lips or a straw are all that’s required to indulge. Dubbed the new ‘juice’, drinkable soups can be made from scratch at home and enjoyed cold or hot on the go, or alternatively, purchased from the cafes or grocers who are supporting this new wellness warrior and its super powers. Superfood power that is.
Drinkable soups are packing a super healthy punch with all their yummy ingredients – veggies galore, plus all the other goodies like kale, hemp seeds, ginger and turmeric. Marrying the best of both worlds – convenience and nutrition – they’ve moved out of the margins and into the mainstream.
It doesn’t look or sound like something you would want to ingest, however, activated charcoal is the latest culinary constituent on everyone’s lips and it’s the antithesis of the unicorn food craze of 2017.
This sooty, jet black powder has been a mainstay of Chinese medicine for thousands of years based on its detoxifying capabilities, yet discussions surrounding its health benefits have reached fever pitch recently amongst an increasingly health-conscious foodie scene.
Now local cafés and bakeries are turning smoothies, burger buns and even coffee – known as ‘gothic coffee’ – black with food-grade charcoal.
Completely different to the charcoal for your grilled barbecue or charred wood from the fire, activated charcoal has been treated by high levels of heat so its surface expands and becomes incredibly porous on a microscopic level.
Hence its use in treating cases of drug overdoses and poisoning, where it traps toxins in the intestinal tract and reduces the amount of poison able to enter the body.
The ‘activation’ process helps the charcoal bind with anything it comes in contact with, which explains its addition in many beauty products – and even toothpaste – lately, based on the idea that charcoal will bind to dirt and oils to clear your skin.
Although we don’t purport to know the efficacy of such claims, what we can tell you is that charcoal activated cooking certainly earns some culinary cool cred, at least if Instagram has anything to do with it.
Much like our wardrobes, the contents of our kitchen cupboards too are influenced by trends and, just like we freshen up our sartorial selections when it comes to the changing of the season, our culinary cravings can also benefit from a revamp.
So what’s the flavour of the month in our culinary creations? Well, topping the list of Whole Foods’ 2018 food trends list is edible flowers.
While we’ve long been seduced by the culinary cool cred of this trend through the creative efforts of Christchurch’s own Cakes by Anna, whose dalliance with decorating of the floral kind has had our mouths watering for some time, edible flowers can also be used to add flavour to salads, soups, and beverages. The Beetroot Gnocchi with goat cheese, roasted golden beetroot, toasted almonds and baby spinach by local hotspot The Monday Room, which features on our cover this issue, is a very delicious example.
Edible flowers such as lavender, hibiscus, or elderflower also make sweet additions to ice blocks or marshmallows.
However, it’s important to note that not every edible flower is alike. While some can be eaten in their entirety, others need parts removed before they can be consumed – such as roses, which need their pistils and stamens removed – so do your research first, or utilise the delicious power of flavoured teabags, with the likes of hibiscus and lavender teabags now available on the market, giving you some floral flavour without the sugar.