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Trendy summer dishes to brighten up your specials

We’re in the busiest time of year as far as seasonal produce goes, and diners are never more open to new dishes as they are in these balmy summer months. Al fresco dining takes centre stage and everywhere from food trucks and street food markets, to pubs gardens and terraced restaurants buzz with the chatter of hungry customers. This is the time of year for more experimental dishes, where new food trends begin to emerge and foods from across the globe begin to rear their heads everywhere from festivals to pop-ups. Here we take a look at some of the exciting new foods that are getting attention right now, ideas that can serve you well on specials boards and theme nights. This is prime time to test new concepts.
Venezuelan arepas are made from a griddled cornbread stuffed with everything from slow cooked beef and beans, to fried plantains and chicken. Petare is an arepas outfit based within Pop Brixton, while Arepas Bros are serving the hoards that flock to Kerb Markets across London. However, it’s not just street food where Venezuelan cusine is hitting it big, Arepa & Co now have two brick and mortar restaurants in East London and appear to be going from strength to strength.
While ‘dirty’ food has been popular for some time, the vegan influence has taken hold and steered this rich, indulgent area of fast food in a new direction. Buffalo cauliflower wings are a particular hit right now where chicken wing sized florets are dredged, deep frying, and slathered in a Buffalo wing hot sauce and served with a blue cheese dressing. The results can be incredible and have even the most devout carnivore reaching for the bowl. We’re also seeing a rise in meat-free gourmet burgers following the cult hit of America’s Impossible Burger, a plant-based patty that has the same texture and flavour as beef, and even ‘bleeds’ just like a medium-rare burger. We’re seeing versions made with a heady blend of mushrooms, beetroot and truffles.
Hawaiian poké bowls are still going strong with more and more food service operations turning to the raw tuna and rice dish. Perfect for the warmer weather, a basic poké recipe includes cubes of raw tuna dressed with garlic, ginger, soy sauce, sesame oil, spring onions and macadamia nuts, served over fluffy white rice. One of the most exciting ingredients in the dish is actually the garnish called furikake, a mix of dried fish, seaweed and sesame seeds that adds an intense savouriness.
Indonesian is set to be the next big food trend with dishes like soto, a rice noodle soup with fried potatoes, egg and tofu, beginning to get some serious Instagram attention. We’re currently seeing soto at UK street food markets made with both chicken and the popular vegan meat replacement jackfruit. The zippy, fresh tasting dish shares similarities with another Indonesian staple, gado-gado – a robust salad containing beansprouts, potatoes and egg, dressed in a spicy peanut based sauce.
Many Ottolenghi alumni are branching out on their own with successful enterprises serving up things like colourful stuffed pitas, fatoush and even eclectic plates constructed out of cleverly preserved produce at places like the highly lauded Scully.
Summer can be an incredibly exciting time in the kitchen. With an abundance of fresh produce coming in season almost weekly, it’s the perfect opportunity to get creative with your specials and test out new concepts.