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The foodie fads that are all about fashion

By Frances Burscough

Published 09/04/2016

Frances Burscough
Frances Burscough

One thing you don’t know about me: I’m an expert in the kitchen. Or at least I ought to be, with the number of cookery programmes I’ve watched over the years.

Beginning with Fanny Cradock in the Sixties, then the Galloping Gourmet in the Seventies, Delia in the Eighties, Keith Floyd in the Nineties and then a thousand new chefs in the Two Thousands: Nigella Bites, Rick Srein’s Taste of the Sea, The Naked Chef, Barefoot Contessa, The Hairy Bikers, Two Fat Ladies, Home Comforts and the Great British Bake Off to name but a few, I’ve drooled through every episode.

But the greatest of them all, in my opinion, is good old MasterChef, which returned to our screens recently  for its 12th series.

After so many years of tweaks and alterations to the style, schedule and format they really have got the formula down to a fine art and the result is compulsive viewing. Obsessive/compulsive in my case, because I cannot bear to miss an episode.

In fact, I’ve probably seen every one of every season, from the Calling Card round and the Invention Test right through to each tense grand finale in front of the dreaded food critics.

Having given it so much of my time over so many years, I have concluded that contemporary cuisine is as much about fashion trends as any catwalk show. Obscure ingredients or methods of cooking that no-one has ever heard of before suddenly appear in one or two episodes and the next thing you know they’ve become a full-on fad gracing the latest menus of all the hippest eateries. 

So, armed with this accumulation of foodie facts, here’s my breakdown of the flavours of the month for 2016:

Samphire is a type of seaweed/herb that grows naturally around salt marshes in the UK and the powers-that-be have decided this is now an essential ingredient in seafood and shellfish dishes. Apparently it is a good source of iron, so it may soon replace spinach as one of the hipster’s five-a-days.  

Good old-fashioned plates and bowls seem to be very passé at present and some chefs will do anything rather than serve their food in something so predictable. The most unappealing and unlikely trend though has to be the use of black roof slates, which never fail to look grimy but also make a horrible jarring sound when they come into contact with a knife and fork. Remember that blackboard scene in Jaws? Precisely my point.

Offal such as tripe was the bane of the WW2 ration-book generation and hasn’t been popular since ... until now, of course. It seems almost any bodypart is acceptable including tongue, ‘sweetbreads’ (aka pancreas) and liver, as long as it’s slow-cooked until tender and, presumably, served with fava beans and a nice Chianti.

As for actual meat, well, sadly veal is making a return to the tables of haute cuisine chefs who don’t seem to mind the cruelty factor one little bit. Former poor-man’s ingredients goat and mutton are on the up, too, as well as oxtail, pork cheek, beef jowl and bone marrow. I’m sorry, but they all sound disgusting to me.

There are a lot of hip-and-happening vegetables, too, in this season’s MasterChef. These include kohlrabi, Jerusalem artichoke, fennel, celeriac, kale and the return in popularity of much-maligned cauliflower, which is now being ground up and served as a versatile alternative to rice or couscous. Other items on the up include Japanese wasabi, ramen noodles, quinoa, pin-head oatmeal, coley, savoury ice creams and anything served with a foam.

Yes, like I said, I’m a bit of an armchair expert when it comes to cuisine. 

And yet, I’d hardly call myself a gourmand, because what do you imagine is my favourite post-MasterChef snack? None other than a good old Dairylea triangle on toast with lashings of Ploughman’s pickle. Drooooooool...

That, to me, is the ultimate delicious delicacy, but I would never dare serve it to John Torode.

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