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Flowers are blooming, the birds are singing and the sun has even been spotted over Britain’s cities. Yes spring is finally in the air, and it’s time to put aside all that winter stodge in favour of something a little fresher and healthier. So whether it’s breakfast, brunch, lunch, or dinner you’re after, expect a burst of bold flavours from the Levant in the form of delicious grains and lots of fruits and vegetables.
So, what will the 2017 brunching season bring? The trends seem to be favouring regional Levantine foods. Expect to hear a lot more about Palestinian, Syrian, and Lebanese cuisine. Leading the charge is freekeh, a roasted green wheat native to Lebanon. Only a few years ago, freekeh was completely unknown outside the Bekaa valley in Lebanon; you couldn’t even find it in Beirut. Now, it seems poised to become as ubiquitous as quinoa. Its distinctive nutty taste is extremely versatile: cook it with stock and meat to produce a sort of pilaf effect or add it to salads for an alternative to couscous. Perhaps an official sign of its arrival on the scene, freekeh is frequently spotted on the menus of trendy establishments like Arabica Bar & Kitchen in London’s Borough Market, near Hotel Indigo London – Tower Hill.
Celebrity chefs and established restaurants play a large role in terms of bringing food trends to the forefront. In this regard, no one has surpassed Yotam Ottolenghi in bringing food from the Eastern Mediterranean to British tables. His restaurants, cookbooks, and television programmes have revolutionised modern Middle Eastern cuisine. He is known for blending his native Israeli cooking traditions with flavours from the broader Mediterranean, and, occasionally, the Middle East and Asia. His most recent venture, Ottolenghi in Spitalfields, features these bold inventions like avocado vol-au-vents, for example.
Ottolenghi’s menu testifies to the unique qualities of the Middle Eastern food trend. Its all-encompassing nature may prove to boost its staying power. These punchy flavours particularly shine in vegetarian and vegan food. With the help of these wholesome and delicious ingredients, this may be the year that vegan food stops being a curiosity for bearded sandal wearers and goes mainstream. Vegan consumers have become more demanding, no longer happy to eat with their consciences rather than their palates, and chefs have stepped up in response. Chef Richard Buckley of Acorn Vegetarian Kitchen in Bath uses orange za’atar, spelt, lemon zest, and Jerusalem artichokes to create his critically-acclaimed meatless cuisine.
Tables all around Britain are lighting up with freekeh, maftoul, black barley, za’atar, medjool dates, almonds, and other Levantine gems. Now, from your doorstep at the Hotel Indigo London – Tower Hill, you can take part in this new trend with a fresh Eastern Mediterranean-inspired breakfast.