Want to have an idea of what we'll all be eating five years down the line? Well, don't tell anyone, but it'll be pretty much the same as it's always been. But, when pushed, a few friendly chefs have given us one or two ingredients and cuisines that they think will be "hot" by 2010.
By far the most frequently mentioned raw produce was sea urchins, particularly the ones found off the French Atlantic coast. "They're a wonderful flavour and unbelievably perfumed, with a rose/violet floral nose and taste. But you've got to eat them within the hour," says leading chef Heston Blumenthal. Sea urchin roe got a look-in, too - as did gull's eggs - but that could have something to do with the fact that Galton Blackiston is plagued by the birds near his restaurant on the Norfolk coast.
When it comes to staples in the store cupboard and coldroom, the end of the decade might see the door opening on bottargan (dried fish roe), pimenton (smoked paprika), wattle seeds, crackle crystals (aka space dust), seaweeds, tonka beans, sea lettuce, yuzu lemons, marshmallow root, pomegranate molasses, foie de lotte (monkfish liver), Kobe beef, and lactic and malic acids - both in granule form (the former to bring out the flavour in meat dishes, the latter to boost the flavour of fruit).
Fashionable cuisines? We're going to continue to be influenced by South-east Asian food cultures, with Vietnam leading the field. Why? Because the food is light (no dairy produce) and incredibly healthy. Which brings us to food fads and allergies: they're not going to disappear, and chefs will have to be aware of more and more life-threatening allergic reactions their diners might have. There is a limit, though, to a chef's patience: "There'll be an allergy to hair follicles next and a twig diet, I suppose," one (unnamed) chef remarked.
Finally, fish. With stocks in the sea continually being depleted through overfishing, new and underused species and farmed alternatives will be used. Think mackerel, hake, sea eel, skate, brill and smoked haddock for comebacks; sea bass and halibut for farmed; ling, grouper and sea crayfish for new.