Nutritionist Cynthia Sass writing in Shape Magazine, is of the opinion that local, seasonal superfoods will gain popularity this year. That's right up my street as these foods are healthy, tasty and eco-friendly. (See what I wrote just a month ago..I knew it would catch on!) She also writes about whole grains such as quinoa, black rice, teff (an Ethiopian superfood grain which is suitable for coeliacs) and sorghum as they have multiple health benefits and can be substituted for commoner grains. Personally, I'm up for anything that moves us away from that total dependence on wheat for grains; it's time to see wheat as just one of many grains we can choose from, all with their own unique nutritional profiles. According to Sass, plant-based diets are getting a lot more popular, so expect to see more milk-substitute products such as sunflower seed milk and pea protein powder: all great news if, like me, you are trying to be vegan. Exotic herbs and spices will continue to expand our cooking repertoires, with relative newcomers on the scene such as sumac and hyssop. Their health benefits will become more well-known, just like turmeric's did last year.
I also took a look at Huffington Post and saw the following vegetarian items in their list of ingredients to try this year: cardoons, parsnips, kale, Chinese broccoli, persimmons, red quinoa, unhulled barley, spelt flour, leatherwood honey, fresh chamomile, long beans, fresh lychees, mangosteens, congee (hot rice porridge) for breakfast (or dinner), hibiscus, coconut oil and coconut water. They also predict hummus made from anything but chickpeas (check out my broad bean hummus!) pappa el pomodoro (Italian tomato soup), edible wild plants and South Indian dishes. There are also apparently jams/ jellies made of vegetables and beans in general. Watch out, too, for upside-down foods (Great! I have this daydream about a dinner party consisting of savoury vegetable cupcakes and sweet lasagne...) and "pantone" produce. (This means that we may see purple carrots and yellow aubergines.)
My final source is http://www.foodnutritionscience.com/ ,which amongst other things tells us that ethnic foods will gain popularity in 2012, as will thrifty home-cooking in these economically-challenging times. Finally something sensible! Spiritual practices aside, my large family just wouldn't survive financially if we ate out or bought ready-made foods. Interestingly, this site also talks of the move towards natural sweeteners and clearer labelling of sugars in supermarket products.
.. And my own predictions for 2012?- Well, the recipes which have been most popular on my blog lately have been: the cake made with buckwheat and a kind of Pan-European fusion meal of fassoulakia made with helda beans and pumpkin potato rosti. From this I have deduced that we're all getting creative with wheat alternatives (see above) and combining dishes from different countries on the same continent. Another hot tip-excuse the pun ;) - for 2012 may well be the latest in super-strong chillis, the "ghost chilli" or nag bhuta/ naga jolokia. "Nag bhuta" refers to its possible origins in Naga Land or Bhutan, and has been mistranslated as "ghost". Mind you, it is hot enough to scare any ghost away! It once topped the hottest chillis A-list but now holds fourth place. We've been growing these little orange beauties in our polytunnel for a couple of years now, but this year you can find them in supermarkets too, so they are bound to find their way into may recipes this year. My husband makes an astoundingly sweet and spicy pickle with ours. Like all chillis, they freeze well which is very convenient as you only need a very small amount to set your tastebuds ablaze. As for me, I'm going to carry on using our own homegrown produce for inspiration- you can't get more local and seasonal than that. I'll also keep scouring the Chinese supermarket for interesting bean products to play with.... happy cooking in 2012!
And do feel free use the comments to let me know what's in and what's out for vegetarians in your part of the world.