Quinoa, pronounced KEEN-wah. Do you remember it? Only a few years back, it was the “Grain du Jour”, the unpronounceable pinnacle of the newly discovered super-food market, and the name every Notting Hill woman had stashed away for their firstborn. Quinoa was embraced by artisan food producers all across the land, and Instagram boasted a bumper crop of bokeh quinoa pastries, soups and cakes. People quit their City jobs to sell quinoa. It was big business.
They might not rage about quinoa as they once did, but artisan food producers are still just as quin (get it?) about making great foods from all the new ingredients they discover. In fact, the market for artisan foods is booming. Society’s getting tired of the same-old, factory-made foods. We’re looking for something different. Something new.
(We realise you’re distracted by the joke. We’re sorry. We just couldn’t help it.) Let’s present the lowdown on this year’s artisan food market before we make another humourless slip of editorial judgement.
What is it? A fermented milk drink, from the mountains where Europe meets Asia.
From scratch, it resembles cauliflower lumps, but it’s uphill from there. As a drink, kefir is a bit thinner than yoghurt, full of similar bacteria, and it’s got a surprisingly fizzy element, just for a natural artisan pizzazz.
Is it worth it? There are a lot of people who swear by it. Artisan concoctions range from milk chocolate to cheese, so it’s worth exploring this brave new kefir-world. The probiotic benefits can get drowned out by sugary versions, so if you still haven’t shifted that box of Heroes off your belly since Christmas, ask about the ingredients!
Pronounced: Kim-Chi. Pretty easy. Or Gim-chi. Confusing.
What is it? A Korean dish made of pickled cabbage. It’s yet another food that counts fermentation among its attributes.
Mix the cabbage with salt, and as it ferments, it will produce lactic acid. Magical. And as South Korea’s national dish, it seems some people are attracted to this idea, and so should you be. It uses a bunch of fresh Asian ingredients like ginger, garlic, fish or shrimp sauce, and salt.
Is it worth it? A lot of kimchi dishes are made by artisan food producers with origins in Korea, and as a national dish, kimchi avoids feeling like a fad. The ingredients are fresh and healthy, and great for your gut, so finding a good artisan kimchi should be on the top of every foodie’s to-do-list.
Pronounced: … we’ll skip this one.
What is it? It’s the kind of water that makes the hairs on the arms of artisan food producers stand to attention. But wait, don’t go! Trust us, artisan waters can actually be quite something.
Infused with ingredients from across the planet, artisan water has a delicious habit of allowing us to taste completely new flavours. We’re talking flowers, herbs that you never knew existed and exotic plants.
Is it worth it? It depends who you are. If you’re just looking for hydration then no, of course it’s not worth it. You can get simple water from just about anywhere. But if you’re looking for something totally different to drink, with positively zero of the calories of a double caramel macchiato from your local tax-evading chain store, then yes. Try something new. Be different. Support your local artisans.
And that’s exactly the point.
Artisan foods are not your supermarket oven pizza. Sometimes you’ll try them, and you won’t like them. Sometimes they won’t cost you £1.50 and earn you Clubcard points. But artisan foods are so exciting because they are made by people with a passion for the ingredients, and sometimes a walk around the Saturday markets can uncover real gems.
These artisan food producers all have an intriguing foodie history, and the fantastic thing is that they’ll be there to chat about it with you. And you can know that when you buy a foraged mushroom pie, or an innovative mocktail, or a forget-me-not infused water, you are supporting these creators directly, AND you get a stonkingly good mouthful of food out of it too.
This is just the first of our two-part blog on artisan food. Next time, we’ll be looking at the artisan food producers in our local area, talking about the importance of their craft and the awesome products they create.