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Food trends this christmas

Celebrity Chef Vikas Kumar candidly discusses the hottest food trends that you should look out for this festive season and beyond. Read on...

Over the last many years, I have been rather fortuitous to be able to be a part of Christmas celebrations in many different parts of the world and also some in our own country. From the bikini-clad Christmas of Brazil to the bone-chilling one of Germany, from the balmy Christmas of Goa to the rather pleasant one of Puerto Rico, I have been there for Christmas, although mostly on work. In that context, I would rather shoot my mouth off and say it with some conviction that I have not seen any part of the world where Christmas is celebrated by such a multitude of citizens, mostly Non-Christians as in our country.

In my view, the Christmas that is celebrated here trumps the ones celebrated in any other part of the world, simply because here in India it has elevated itself to being a celebration of the season participated in by people of all faiths, ages and economic strengths and there is an unmistakable vibe of bonhomie and community participation which is genuinely heart-warming.

Like every other festival, food is an absolutely integral part of the Christmas celebrations and people generally want to eat out and have a good time. Almost all restaurants and clubs have Christmas special menus with an attempt to showcase the season's produce and special dishes are created to catch the spirit of the festival.

Although whenever one talks of Christmas food, the mind immediately wanders to the Turkeys, fruit cakes and eggnogs, it is true that most restaurants while keeping these traditional dishes, also attempt at creating new dishes that appeal to a wider section of diners and ones that are trendy for that period. Talking about food and drink trends, let us talk about some of the trends that are gaining traction this year and are being followed by the diners as well as chefs.

Non-Alcoholic Beverages: Although Christmas is generally associated with 'Merrymaking', meaning most people tend to be high in spirits, literally and figuratively, it is a noticeable trend that many people now want to cut down on alcoholic beverages for various reasons.

Stricter penalties on drunken driving, a general awareness about the high-calorie contents of some spirits, as well as the drinks becoming more expensive has meant that more and more diners now look forward to an exotic non-alcoholic drink as a pre-dinner drink and also as a food accompanying drink.

Many chefs and bartenders are creating tasty and low-calorie drinks that are not just tasty and healthy but also allow people to indulge in a round of drinks without being conscious of being on the wrong side of the law while driving back.

Small Portions : Although Christmas is associated with generosity and bountiful portions, the general trend is that diners want to sample various different foods and therefore want to have smaller portions as compared to earlier.

Most chefs now create tasting platters where there are various kinds of foods served in a single platter as well as create smaller portions of dishes that the diners can eat guilt free and not be concerned about finishing the entire dish. This has also meant that the restaurants are experimenting more and more with exotic and rare ingredients since it is easier and more economically viable to make small portions of these foods.

Simplicity: There was a period in contemporary culinary history where every dish had to be intricately garnished and the flavours needed to be very complex and multi-layered. The latest trend however is that of minimalism. More and more chefs are creating dishes with minimal ingredients and little or no garnishes thereby capturing and showcasing the true character of the quality ingredients.

The cooking techniques are also moving towards being simpler and quick thereby giving the chefs a better chance at creating al fresco food that is quick to make and serve.

Sourcing Transparency: A marked trend in the food service space has been the ever-growing awareness of the diners about the various kinds of food items and them demanding to know more about their food in terms of the source of raw materials and the ingredients used. Many establishments that are known for not using artificial flavours, colours and preservatives and also the ones that are known to use good quality food ingredients are being majorly benefited from this trend. In fact they are now being able to reasonably justify their relatively higher food prices as well as being able to increase awareness and demand for responsibly sourced and prepared food with limited or no artificial ingredients.

Kids' menus: In many fine dining restaurants across the world, kids are getting their due attention since festive dining is all about the family eating together and many times the kids are the decision makers or at least have a major say in the decision making process of which restaurant to choose.

By not having a kids menu, many restaurants are making themselves not being considered since the kids, for the most part, do not like the same food that adults do. Most restaurants are creating kids menus and combos that can appeal to kids while the adults can indulge in the more grown-up foods. Some restaurants are even creating separate monitored spaces within the restaurant where kids can eat separately in the company of other kids while the adults enjoy their contemporaries.

Bowl in One: Another hot culinary trend is the food bowls that the diner can assemble themselves and create unique combinations of a dish that is contained in a single serving bowl.

Spread across cuisines, food bowls are gaining popularity since it is easier to eat and faster to assemble with most pre-cooked ingredients being assembled together and some hot sauce or broth being poured over, thereby making a complete meal within a single serve.

Although there are various other food trends that are gaining popularity, the above, to me are the significant ones. In any case, since these are trends, they are by definition something that will change intermittently but definitely.

Here is a recipe of the quintessential Christmas beverage –The eggnog, with my little chocolaty twist. Do serve it post dinner and it will certainly be a crowd pleaser. You can avoid the alcohol to make it kid-friendly.

The Christmas Chocolate Eggnog

Ingredients

Egg Yolk 4

Milk 200 ml

Sugar 50 gm

Cream 50 ml

Cocoa Powder 10 gm

Mixed spice powder: 2 gm

Good quality brandy 30 ml (don't skimp on this)

Vanilla extract A few drops


Method

Boil the milk and cream together. Add the egg yolks slowly in barely simmering milk, ensuring that the eggs don't curdle. Now, add the sugar, vanilla, cocoa powder, mixed spices and lastly the brandy. Refrigerate overnight for the flavours to mature. Next day warm before serving. Serve sprinkled with a little nutmeg powder and cocoa powder.

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