Poke BowlIt's that time of year when, Christmas and New Year celebrations behind us, it's time to see what the year has in store for us and make some educated - and maybe some uneducated - guesses as to what lies ahead in the world of food, cooking and cheffing and... knives.

A few months ago we spotted a trend - that looks like it's set to continue - of woodsmoked and barbequed food, and so we introduced a range of professional knives suited to this (see Six new IO Shen knives join the lineup). It's already pretty big in the UK and US and is almost certain to continue here in Australia.

This year is also likely to see the continuation of a few other food trends that we noticed - and wrote about - last year, for example sustainable and organic food and novel ingredients such as hemp (see Hemp, restaurant kitchen culture, organic food and more).

Here are a few other trends we've come across...

Poke
This is a raw fish salad served in a bowl called - as you might expect - a Poke bowl (pictured). The dish actually originates from Hawaii where the word 'poke' (pronounced po-kay) means 'to slice' and came from the practice of fishermen making small snacks from offcuts of fish they had just caught. It became a bit of thing in the US about five years ago and has now made its way to Australia. Poke bowls feel like a new take on the sushi experience, except you get a fair bit more food in the bowl than with traditional Japanese sashimi.

Protein alternatives to meat
Meat alternatives suitable for vegetarians have been around for a long time, but to the carnivores amongst us, they've always seemed... yuck. Now chefs - and food companies in the US like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods - are looking to make vegetable based foods actually taste, smell and look like meat. So watch out next time you order that juicy burger at an upmarket restaurant - there might not be any meat in it at all. Although perhaps we should remember that twenty years ago the European Union classified the British banger as a vegetable product due to its lack of any discernable meat - a product ahead of its time!

Gut friendly food
Medical science now knows that we are in fact only 10% human - of all the cells in our body, only 10% are ours, the rest are all the microbes living in our gut (and apparently they're telling us what to eat, not the other way round). With increased awareness of the importance of gut health, more people are opting for 'gut friendly food' - and fermented foods are the ones that tick all the right boxes. Anything from yoghurt, to kimchi (Korean pickled vegetables), sauerkraut (German pickled cabbage), miso (Japanese fermented soybean paste) and kefir (fermented milk drink from the Caucasus) are all good. Yet to hear whether beer makes the cut.

Four meals a day
A trend spotted by UK supermarket Waitrose for 2018 is the 'fourth meal'. They put this down to busy lifestyles making it hard to fit time to eat into your average day. It's ironically not really about eating more food, just eating smaller meals more frequently. A cynic might say that a supermarket chain has a 'healthy' interest in seeing their customers eat four meals a day rather than three - a 33% increase in the need to shop for food!

Robots in the kitchen
Funnily enough this isn't one we think will happen in 2018, but we already have Google Home and Amazon Echo that you can now ask for recipes, although you still have to prepare and cook them yourself. Even with the much vaunted Thermomix you still have to chop the food before you put it in. But maybe 2018 will see the next step - a home kitchen device like the Thermomix but where key ingredients are perhaps kept in hoppers above and automatically added to the mix when needed. Here are two products in the US that are getting close - Pantrychic and GammaChef.

What have we missed?

Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/saechang/7193749724