CHEF JP AND HIS 2023 CULINARY CRYSTAL BALL
WORDS AND IMAGES: CHEF JP LE ROUX
This week Chef JP talks about the latest in world food trends and the unexpected rise of the humble cricket in culinary circles. The big question is whether this is foodie fact or foodie fiction.
The radical need for diversifying how we eat, what we eat and balancing the ever teetering cost of living globally has certainly started the year with a bang. In South Africa, where load shedding is really hitting the kitchen and appliances are falling like flies, this first month has certainly left us spinning at a rapid – and, dare I say, more tilted – rate around the sun.
As each supermarket trolley exits with an ever increasing till slip in its wake and we are ultra-aware of all the health issues that are stalking us, I guess we are going to have to take more and more educated guesses (rather than make messes) when it comes to the foods that we eat. Most importantly, we are going to have to pay attention to detail, especially when it comes to what lands on our plates.
For me, trend setting when it comes to food has pretty much come full circle and I think we are now awaiting the re-birth of some of the earliest trends. Food and fashion evolve as the years go by and, each year, there’s a change in mood, a need to dress our plates with more colourful, vibrant ingredients or a call to return to softer tones.
I guess I’m starting to sound like a fashion forecaster!
Our food predictions may have started with the basics and then flown to the more flamboyant over the years but, perhaps, we are now ready to return to what is simply good. Over the years, we have harvested a lot of good information when it comes to food. Now, it is time to return to those ever important basics.
A CRICKET IN MY KITCHEN
A good example of just how crazy the culinary world can be arrived a few days ago in the form of a breaking story. Apparently, the EU has given the green light for people to eat crickets which can be served as snacks or included with pizza or pasta. The official line was that permission had been granted for the addition of domestic crickets to baked goods, pasta and other semi-finished products” for the general public” – with no specific warnings on labels either.
I guess that, if you have been to South East Asia, you will know that creepy crawlies have always been in vogue and on the menu. But, a few health eyebrows will certainly be raised this time round and I am not so sure that everyone wants to sample a Bear Grylls like feast without even knowing it!
Turning to the World Food Organisation where there appears to be a little more culinary sense to be served up, it seems that the protein of the year is – wait for it – oxtail.
Another 2023 favourite is expected to be pickled goods with fennel on the top of the list. So, in 2023, I guess that getting pickled takes on a whole new meaning!
At the same time, it seems that when it comes to grocery shopping, even the smallest thing becomes an issue- even when it has nothing to do with food. I recently read a hilarious story where the world’s largest confectionary company, M&M, were criticised because of the colour of the females’ shoes on its ads. Apparently, the footwear had gone from green sneakers to purple stilettos. According to the company, the
reason for the change in footwear was to empower woman in the creative workspace. But, alas, they had to put an end to these so-called polarised purple images on their new packaging.
Who knows what would have happened if they had introduced some of those inimitable crocs we see in South Africa. Would this be encouraging stereotyping or wild life trafficking – or simply poor taste taken to new levels. Whatever it is, to me, that’s just not cricket!
Instead, just as I have parked the notion of New Year’s resolutions, I am going to find my own way and just get on with dishing up my own version of modern day food trends, all well- seasoned with a lot of kitchen fun.
Although the past few years have curtailed our travels somewhat, I’m still going with global gastronomy. I have chosen the five continents and created five dishes – somehow also inspired by each individual land mass. Some are a tad enhanced and some down to earth. But my message remains the same, no-one should dictate what we should eat and we should always seek to achieve a healthy but flavourful balance and pay attention to the small print. We need to make the right choices – er, cricket soup or pickled bugs, anyone?
Now that we’ve announced the specials for the year, I’m going to return to home grown. The world and its supply chain remains in a muddle, grain and cooking oil prices are still the casualties in the Ukraine conflict, so I’m using local ingredients – even if the recipes themselves are travellers from Africa, South America, North America and Europe. I guess that changes the term fusion cuisine for 2023.
OUT OF AFRICA
An interesting agricultural fact is that, out of 446.550 km² of land in Morocco, only 22 % is actually arable. But, only in Africa, 90 present of this country’s exports are vegetables and fruit, so there is hope for us.
From basic citrus fruit and the golden spice saffron, it shows you how diversified North Africa is. The reason for choosing this country as a recipe inspiration is to showcase the simplicity of their food. This country has kept up its belief in humble food – like cous cous and eggplant (aka baba ganoush) and kept to tried and tested, healthy and hearty trends that date back to ancient times. No futuristic surprises here.
So, today, we are meeting Mr Baba Ganoush personally and, with a healthy future in mind, we are using stone milled gluten free flax seed bread as a base and some ripe aubergines.
FROM YOUR AFRICAN PANTRY:
2 medium aubergines
1 Tablespoon of Spanish olive oil (because Spain had some influences as a Mediterranean neighbour)
100 grams low fat yoghurt
1/2 of a freshly squeezed lemon
3 grinds black pepper
a pinch of salt
1 finely diced garlic clove
FOR THE GARNISH:
some flax seeds, chives and some lemon zest
Dice your eggplant into small cubes and place them in the fridge with a fresh salt sprinkle. After 5 minutes, slow cook them until they are browned and juicy. Let them rest while you mix all your remaining ingredients together in a mixing bowl. Add the cooled aubergines to your mixture and serve up on your healthy bread. This is slow cooked, fast food that will keep you healthy and your tummy full.
AMERICANO FAST FOOD SALAD
This is how to confuse the Yankees – with an avo salad…
Did you know that California is the world biggest exporter of avos across the globe? On the Baja Peninsula, I watched an interesting food documentary that showed how food packers use sound at the end of the conveyor belt along which their avos are travelling to determine the ripeness of each avocado. The fresh produce is then grouped accordingly. Take that all you culinary gurus who spend time listening for rattling pips or gently squeezing their avos to determine if they are ready to eat.
By the way, if you are still using local produce, the good news is that there is still hope for avo whisperers and a course is now available on Amazon.com!
Actually, this is definitely a salad that comes up Trumps – there’s a bit of heat as well as a Twitter of healthiness.
The avo, in my personal experience as a restaurateur, is much like petrol – the prices fluctuate hugely. From the days of paying R6 for avo two years to my utter disbelief when I forked out R74 for two avos yesterday. I get that they are seasonal and that there is a word like inflation – but haibo!
I call this my Americano fast food salad as it only takes 2 minutes to prep and 2 minutes to plate. That means you only have to take five minutes to find a healthy alternative to a greasy, take away lunch!
FROM YOUR AMERICAN PANTRY:
100 g egg free vermicelli
1 large overpriced avo
20 grams nut mix (consisting of flax, wheat germ and pumpkin seeds)
2 Tablespoons grapeseed or hempseed oil
1 Table spoon of olive oil (for the pasta)
10 grams fresh bean sprouts
a head of a crisp cos lettuce
salt and pepper to taste
chilli flakes (optional)
Heat some water with a dash of salt and cook your thin vermicelli for two minutes. Strain and rinse in cold water. Add some olive oil and toss. Plate your dish using my picture a reference – and enjoy fast food the healthy way!
“South we shall sail and conquer another,” Mr Columbus might have said. This dish is my take on the northern part of the South Americas with the quant old fishing villages that have prevailed for centuries on the edge of the Pacific Ocean.
I have combined a vegetable with a fruit with a hint of a char.
The Spanish word for mackerel is pescado caballa – a cold water Atlantic fish that is also much loved by South Americans. The twist to this dish is that I used a tropical fruit to add more flavour and some colour. Because this is quite a salty fish, I decided to char some watermelon to complement this dish as the natural sucrose is enhanced by the sugars in the fruit.
FROM YOUR COLUMBIAN PANTRY:
2 fillets mackerel, skin on
1/6 of a watermelon
2 Tablespoons olive oil
10 grams unsalted butter
2 medium cooked beetroots
5 ml beetroot juice
2 grams fennel seeds
6 fresh raspberries
20 ml red wine vinegar
salt and pepper
some micro greens and beetroot sprigs
Thaw your delicate mackerel fillets, season them with fish spice and some green onion MSG-free powder. Heat a medium frying pan and grill them skin up in your butter, olive oil and fennel seeds, 3 minutes a side. Then, flip them skin down to sear and crisp the skin. On a medium to hot skillet, grill / char your beetroot slices and your bite sized watermelon with a dash of olive oil.
Make a quick raspberry vinaigrette with some crushed raspberries and 20ml of red wine vinegar. Once your fish is ready, you can plate up, adding some coarse salt and ground pepper. Garnish with some micro herbs and drizzle your vinaigrette and the balance of the beetroot juice over the beetroot.
FRUIT FOR THOUGHT: North certainly meets south in this delightful, Atlantic meets Pacific, collaboration of saltines and sweet fruit.
Here the devil really is in the detail. I pretty much chose this little island very south and Down Under as there is a distinct continental shift reflected in this dish. This comes with a combination of Asian influences and a dash of Oceania.
As the main land has its own trends, so, too, do the islands. Since I was very young, I have always had both the passion and ability to serve up good seafood and all my friends just love my mussels.
I usually make my sauce with white vino and fresh cream, but, today I’m reviving an old classic and perhaps even starting a new one with a chilli Neapolitan sauce with saffron. I guess that I do love playing with flavours when it comes to crustaceans and shellfish. Again, it all comes down to a balancing act – not letting your sauce over power the seafood and vice versa.
Going back a few years, clams were oh so in fashion, hence the clam chowder in the seventies. For me, this is the decade for Tasmanian mussels.
Mussels have very delicate membranes and flesh and over cooking them is sacrilege. I find that steaming them has a better end result than boiling them in hot water. Although fresh closed mussels are in the front seats, frozen half shell is the best we can get from down under (Tasmania) and New Zealand, countries that are known for best mussels on the planet due to the reefs and the cold water.
After you have cleaned your half shells and rinsed out the grit, soak them in salt water for a few minutes. Then, rinse them again. They are now ready to go into the steamer (only the half shell with the meat). The rest is used as the proverbial spoon for the sauce.
CHEF’S NOTE: Never eat mussels with any form of cutlery. It’s hands only – okey dokey, Oh well, maybe just a fork if you must.
FOR THE MAGICAL SAFFRON SAUCE:
1 can of your favourite peeled tomatoes
1 red chilli, pipped and diced
1 red onion, diced
5 grams palm sugar
15 grams butter
a handful of fresh basil
250grams double cream
4 saffron strings
Mix the ingredients and then put them into a large pan. Let this simmer slowly while your 250g of mussels are steams away for about 10 minutes.
Remove the mussels and place them face down into your sauce. Crank up the heat for two minutes to make it bubble and then reduce the heart to a slow simmer. You are now ready to plate and serve. A nice, fresh brioche bread is perfect to suck up the left over sauce. Season with some salt and black pepper and some fresh basil leaves.
Sad to say, Europe started the colonisation of many a continent, countries, as well as small islands. Most of the major wars started there. Now this happening again – so, come on guys, make peace and join us for some pasta!
To change things up a bit, I’ve created a cold flash in the pan, not a war dish!
The Italians, made this lovely word for the ever hungry media infamous, and notorious, as they did with their pasta. Today, we are presenting to you, while the flash lights are going ballistic (drum roll), a cold pasta Roman style
This simplified dish is perfect for those hot Mediterranean lazy luncheons – served, of course, with a crisp pino grico, a newcomer to the trendy wines for 2023.
My take is that any wine is trendy and in fashion …always…. Rigatoni-23 has over the last couple of month go my attention. I’ve enjoyed it a few times this week, and I can’t stop.
I’ve cooked my pasta al dente and let it cool dawn. Then toss your cooled pata in some egg yolk powder to give it a vibrant, rich yellow colour. After that, add your fresh tomatoes, sliced red pepper and fresh green beans before seasoning and drizzling with some Italian virgin olive oil. Then add the pesto sauce.
FOR THE PESTO SAUCE:
a hand full of fresh basil, crushed
a dash of olive oil
a couple of pine nuts
a hint of ground garlic
salt and pepper
As we start to conquer the new world dynamic for 2023 and try to pinpoint what’s to hit our dining tables this year, we need to remember that enjoying a good meal has more to do with what we love eating than what we would love to be seen eating.
Fashion – even in food circles – is really just a quazzi way of trying to tell us what’s in and what’s out rather than encourage us to carefully think about what we eat and why. My message or 2023 is that, given the state of the economy and our ever tighter purse strings, this year will be less about ordering or preparing fashionable dishes and more about thinking about your pocket and your health.
In short, don’t get fooled by the new world food order!
In these crazy times, we need be conscious and sensible when it comes to food. My humble advice as both a chef and a person who enjoys good food is to carefully calibrate your food needs and those of your family… and to have culinary fun by keeping things simple.
I did just that by doing my take on the so-called crickets on a pizza. I made one with some unusual sea creatures as an alternative to land insects – some roasted eel – which I piled up on my small homemade pizza. Who would have thought?
Either way, during 2023, create your own trends, live those special moments and always love your food.