Cooking with quinoa, chia and freekeh
Caroline Velik's quinoa and red rice salad with spicy cauliflower and black lentils (recipe here). Photo: Marina Oliphant
The United Nations might have declared 2013 the International Year of Quinoa, but according to some of Victoria's top chefs there will be plenty of other so-called superfoods creeping into restaurant dishes over the coming year.
Travis McAuley, head chef at George Calombaris' Hellenic Republic says that the growing trend for superfoods in restaurants is being largely driven by increasingly health-conscious consumers.
He says catering to such diners extends further than just trimming fat from meat and reducing the butter content ''by at least half of what we previously used''. It also means serving food packed with nutrients.
Dietitian Joanne Turner describes a superfood as ''a food that is supercharged with vitamins or minerals or anti-oxidants that are going to benefit your health in some way''.
Some of the most popular superfoods right now include quinoa, freekeh (made from green wheat), amaranth grain, teff (an Ethiopian super grain) chia seeds, pomegranate seeds and Inca and acai berries.
McAuley says he serves ''lots of pulses and grains and freekeh … which is becoming really popular'' at his Brunswick East eatery.
Nick Stanton from The Woods of Windsor, on Chapel Street, says he expects the trend for superfoods to continue to grow in line with the number of people with special dietary requirements.
''We now ask people what dietary requirements they have. It's amazing how many people have them now,'' he says. ''We get a lot of vegans and vegetarians and people who eat gluten-free. The superfoods, the grains and quinoa and those things are what these people want to eat.''
Stanton's menu includes a dish of heritage tomatoes, goats feta, tomato jelly, crunchy quinoa and black olive jam and a salad of quinoa, sweet pea and pickled red onion.
But it's not just the high-end restaurants embracing superfoods. Late last year, Ms Turner worked with one of Australia's biggest kebab chains, Ali Baba, to create the Superfood K'bab - made up of quinoa, chickpeas, acai berries, blueberries, goji berries and tomato.
Ms Turner has welcomed the attention superfoods are attracting. ''People are eating out three to four times a week on average in Australia … these restaurants are actually having a significant influence on the health of our nation,'' she says.
''I think the high-end market, in particular, has realised customers want to leave a restaurant feeling good about themselves and not like 'oh gosh, I've just eaten a kilo of lard', especially if they're doing it several times a week.''