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1996: WHAT'S IN ...

Lamb: enjoying the huge advantage of not being beef; and perfect for middle Eastern dishes

Poulet de Bresse: posh chicken that has never been near a battery farm (and is also not beef)

Exotic, fiery flavours: chillis, star anise, wasabi, harissa

Scented aromatics: cardamom, cumin, saffron

Exotic salads: mizuna, jaba, mache, orache, tatsai, shungiko, plus coriander leaves

Couscous: the simpler face of middle Eastern cooking

Citrus marinades and vinaigrettes

Rustic cheeses and big fish: swordfish and tuna steaks, big prawns, all ideal for Pacific Fusion eating

Sundried tomatoes: once could do no wrong, though they have been described by Nigella Lawson as "like blood-flavoured chewing gum"

Thai: now being churned out by every pub in the land; and lemon grass is in plentiful supply in every supermarket

Balsamic vinegar, polenta, crostini, bruschetta: easy to cook, but hardly cutting edge any more

Baby things: baby squid and baby vegetables Rocket: even if it's called arugula

The Fifties: roast was still the great British staple. Chicken was considered a bit of a luxury and vegetables were boiled to death. The hostess trolley was the last word in kitchen gadgetry.

The Sixties: tastes became more cosmopolitan. Melon with port was smart; peppers, broccoli and avocado were exotics and spag bol was the classic supper-party dish. In restaurants, flambeing food at the table was considered the height of sophistication. Indian and Chinese restaurants sprang up, and Pizza Express and Wimpy opened their first London outlets.

The Seventies: pasta and lasagne become more popular. There was a fondue set on every wedding list. And welcome to McDonald's.

The Eighties: kiwi fruit became the ubiquitous garnish. Nouvelle cuisine - tiny mouthfuls of raw steak elegantly garnished with strawberry coulis and julienne of courgette - swept the nation; fish came into its own, as did vegetables, which became important in their own right By the end of the decade, superchefs were persuading us that classic British food - bangers and mash and faggots and peas - were worth another look.