Here it is at last, our brunch menu for next weekend. I’ve been really enjoying cooking with seaweed recently, so that is making a headline appearance, along with lovely winter veg, new season Kent rhubarb, last season’s pickles and some glorious local seafood. We’re bringing back the Ruby Chai Bloody Mary, because it was a fiery hit and there will be tea pairings with every course, once Debonair Tea Company’s tea sommelier, Louisa, has had a chance to wrap her head around the menu. More than half the tickets have gone already, so book soon.
I often cook for Folkestone Fringe. We have a kind of shared view of the joy of coming together over dinner and our ethos of sustainable, local sourcing and supporting the community we work in runs in parallel with their approach to working with artists. They have
also supported me in my ‘other life’ as an artist (although I am working hard to fuse this all together into one practice!), enabling me to create a show during last year’s Triennial about feminism and place/space (The Architecture of Anxiety). So lots in common.
Folkestone Fringe asked me to cook for a group of thirty artists and curators connected by a new trans-European artist residency programme, Magic Carpets, and brought together on the Harbour Arm on Monday after a week of working together in Folkestone. I put together a menu of modern British food (locally sourced of course) that I hope created a real sense of where they were, both in terms of geography and time/season: Smoked Haddock with fresh parsley vinaigrette and gorse flowers or miso roasted cauliflo
wer with flaked almonds, both on a bed of puy lentils and pearl barley with dulse infused Kale.
This was followed by a classic, the upside down pudding – but this one was made with pear and ginger and was completely vegan. It was served with almond yoghurt or creme fraiche.
The wonderful duo Sheaf and Barley were there, these two are beautiful creatures with such a connection to the ground, the sea and folk, to share food with them is always enriching. To have them in the kitchen with me was an unexpected pleasure. It’s reminded me more than ever how important the community around food is – the spaces you make to share food or to share together around food… February is turning out to be a month of thinking.
I think best whilst I’m making something and the new discovery of this meal was this recipe for a vegan upside-down pudding – definitely the kind of dessert I was happy to serve to vegans and non-vegans alike, which is what I aim for. So I thought I’d share it. The only downside is that the flavour of the rapeseed oil builds over time, so I recommend eating it the same day as you cook it (no great hardship!). You could definitely make it as a cake, but it tastes best warmed up and served with yoghurt or creme fraiche (almond yoghurt if you don’t eat dairy).
VEGAN PEAR & GINGER UPSIDE-DOWN PUDDING
For the topping:
- 4-5 Pears (ripe but not too mushy)
- Juice of half a lemon
- 100g Vitalite or Pure (dairy-free) marg
- 100g muscovado (soft brown) sugar
- 3 tbsp maple syrup or the syrup from a jar of stem ginger
- 2 tbsp finely chopped stem ginger
For the sponge:
- 350ml rice milk
- 2 tsp cider vinegar
- 225g golden caster sugar
- 110ml rapeseed oil
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 250g plain flour
- 3 tbsp corn flour
- 1 tbsp dried ginger
- 1 level teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
- 1 slightly heaped teaspoon baking powder
- pinch of salt
- Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees centigrade (350 fahrenheit)
- Grease and line a 9 inch square or round cake tin
- Half fill a large bowl with cold water and add the lemon juice.
- Peel and slice the pears, dropping the slices immediately into the water to avoid browning.
- Melt the margarine in a small pan over a low heat and add the brown sugar. Stir till dissolved, then add the syrup and pour into the cake tin – spread right across base.
- Dry off the pear slices on some kitchen roll or a clean tea towel and lay in overlapping rows on top of the sugar/syrup mix. Sprinkle over the stem ginger.
- Whisk the vinegar into the rice milk and let it stand for 5 minutes
- Meanwhile, sift the flour, corn flour, bicarb, baking powder and salt into a large mixing bowl.
- Add the caster sugar and vanilla extract to the rice milk and whisk it till you get a bit of froth on the surface then add this to the dry ingredients (make sure you don’t leave any sugar behind). Whisk it all together till the flour is all combined into the liquid and then pour (very carefully and slowly so as not to dislodge the pear slices!) into the cake tin.
- Stick it in the oven for approx 35 mins (till a skewer comes out clean)
- When it has cooled a little, flip the whole thing over using a plate or chopping board and peel the greaseproof paper off carefully.
We did it! Our first brunch at our East Cliff HQ. It was an absolute joy. We had 26 guests: 6 plant-based menus, 14 pescatarian and 6 children (all under 5 so our 2 year old was so excited to have all these new friends to hang out with!).
It was a bit of an experiment in lots of ways – we borrowed benches from ]performance s p a c e[ who are always incredibly generous, did tons of crockery research, decided it was all too expensive and just when we were beginning to think we might have to serve the food directly onto the table, found that Asda do a perfectly respectable basics range. We would have loved to stick to our ethos of local sourcing on this one but for our first event, the budget was just not going to stretch!
The menu was a combination of new ideas and things we have tested in the past. I love using fresh nettles – I’ve previously made a delicious nettle gnocchi – and I knew it was a tad early but didn’t realise quite what a mission Peter would have to go on to find them! There is another low-growing weed that seems to take over the areas you’d expect to see nettles around here. I keep meaning to find out what it is, I thought it was ground elder at first but the leaves are different… anyway, I digress. The Folkestone Downs finally came up trumps and our nettle porridge was back on track.
We’ve also had a play with making vegan ‘eggs’ before using a vegan ‘gelatine’ based on carrageenan (a kind of seaweed). Previously we made little ‘fried eggs’ for a curry-based dish, so the egg white was a jelly made with coconut milk and the yolk was half a yellow cherry tomato. This time, I wanted to make boiled ‘eggs’ to go with baked wild mushroom polenta, so for the white I made a fennel puree, added gelatine and set it in little easter egg moulds! The runny yolk was a carrot and tomato chutney.
We got Whitstable oysters (for the Bloody Marys) and delicious Folkestone scallops (for the pescatarian version of the nettle porridge) from Folkestone Trawlers. On the way down to collect them at 7am, I picked gorse flowers from the Cliff to go with the porridge. The sense of ‘place’ in these dishes is really exciting for me. The kippers were from Griggs in Hythe where they do their own brunch menu that you can eat in or take out onto the beach. I went to collect my order with our little one in tow and they gave him a free smoked salmon bagel because he has one of those cute chubby faces you can’t say no to! I met Louisa from Debonair Tea there as well, since she is based in Hythe, to pick up the beautiful loose leaf tea that she had helped us pair with each course. I think there needs to be a whole blog post dedicated to cooking with tea and matching tea to food – perhaps I’ll ask Louisa to do a guest post..?
All our vegetables were from East Kent, mostly from Walmestone Growers, Nethergong Nurseries and their neighbours. I loved the squash puree made with roasted Acorn and Red Kuri squashes, garlic, Kent rapeseed oil and nothing else – super sweet, but our favourite was the beetroot syrup, just a simple sugar syrup made with beetroot juice, but the flavour was so earthy and intense – perfect against the greek yoghurt, fresh mint and yeasty pikelets. I pinched the idea from a very talented friend and barman Chris Lacey-Malvern at whose bar I recently tasted one of his many insanely good cocktails containing beetroot syrup.
Having it in our front room felt like such a good decision, it was cosy and intimate, everyone sat on tables together and there was a beautiful sense of community, loads of chat about everyone’s love of Folkestone. Best not to mention all the washing up that took us a couple of days to plough through…
So much more I could tell you – did you see the little video in instagram of the tea infusing in the vodka for the Bloody Marys?! – but the pictures will give you an idea.
We’ve been chuntering on about eating local food, sourcing sustainable ingredients etc for years now, so I thought it might be a good time to explain why I think this is such a big deal. All the food that comes out of East Cliff Kitchen (including our brunch club this weekend!) is sourced as locally as possible for a whole load of reasons – some proper science-y ones and some which are a bit more poetic so I’m going to try to cover both.
I am really fascinated by place/location – it’s been a bit of a thing for me since I studied architecture (careful, if you let me go on about this stuff for too long, I’ll start dusting off my De Certeau and Walter Benjamin texts and forget all about the food!). I’ll try to tell you why. Space is one thing – in fact it’s everything, and having enough of it for ourselves is intensely political – but PLACE… place is how we define the space that IS ours or that relates to us – to our bodies, to our histories. And location is how places relate to other places and that is community…. But location is also about locale and localness – the understanding of the characteristics of a place and it’s heritage, it’s special significance. Now this is not to say that we should get all patriotic and inward-looking, because there are other places too that are just as special and are connected to ours in multiple ways – but here we are now, in whichever place we are in and we should connect to that, celebrate it and really examine it.
Now before I lose you, let me tie this back to food. Buying, growing, foraging and eating local food is so important because it is a fundamental statement and celebration of PLACE. You, dear reader, might be anywhere in the world, but we are in Kent – the so-called ‘Garden of England’. Specifically we are in East Cliff, an area of Folkestone. We have the sea to the south of us, the white cliffs to the east and glorious countryside (an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty no less!) to the north.
Stuff grows here that doesn’t grow anywhere else (I defy you to bring me a more delicious whelk or a more peppery alexander seed!), people have farmed and fished and cooked here for centuries – the knowledge of what is good (both in terms of deliciousness and health) is embedded in the rocks, so why go to Tesco?
And if that doesn’t convince you, here are some real proper bona fide science-y reasons:
- local food is fresher and fresh food tastes better because it is still clinging on to its nutrients, so it’s better for you too – Farms who sell locally often allow fruits and veg to ripen longer on branches etc rather than picking them early because there is no concern about them spoiling during transit
- You’ll generally find less packaging on non-supermarket foods
- Fewer food miles = lower environmental impact (fewer vehicle emissions etc)
- Supporting local farming/food production preserves green space & countryside, which is, you know, nice for walking and stuff. Also it has been proven that being surrounded by greater biodiversity leads to better mental health.
- Supporting local smaller producers means you get better variety (more heritage varieties, more flavours) because they are under less pressure to churn our vast quantities of identical products for large scale distribution. This means historic varieties of fruit and veg and rare breeds animals can be preserved.
- Being engaged – You can meet the people who grow/rear/make your food – and the food becomes more enjoyable just by knowing the care that went into producing it. Not only that, but you can give feedback so that the producers can work with the community to supply the stuff people want.
- This communication with suppliers gives us amazing knowledge of the processes that go into food production and supply which puts us, as consumers, into far stronger positions to make decisions about what we put into our bodies and the effect that this has on the environment.
- It is an incredibly valuable act to decide to support your local community and economy. It doesn’t mean you can’t leave the county ever again or that you shouldn’t enjoy food and drink from elsewhere too, but when an economy builds strength from within it attracts investment from without – so every pound you spend locally is actually worth double its value to the community as a whole.
- This is less science, more just my experience. Shopping locally saves money. Buying seasonal food is the most cost-effective way to shop because it is the easiest way for the farmers to operate. Buying from as close to the source as possible reduces the effort/packaging that the supplier has to make to get your food to you – save them time/money and saving will undoubtedly be passed on. We’ve always found that there is misconception that farmers markets and small-scale shops are really expensive – some things are pricey (usually because they are really high quality or produced in tiny batches) but seasonal fruit and veg, fish and meat is generally much better value locally than in a supermarket.
WHERE TO BUY SUPER-LOCAL AND DELICIOUS FOOD IN/NEAR FOLKESTONE:
Well first of all, did we mention you can try lots of local food at one of our pop-ups! 😉 More info here.
Folkestone Food Assembly (we especially love Walmestone Growers’ spray-free veg but it’s all good)
Roots ‘N’ Fruits (Fruit, veg, spices)
Folkestone Trawlers (always ask what is local and whether it has been frozen)
Dockers Brewery and Bakehouse (the exceptional bread is sold at Folkestone Wholefoods)
Griggs of Hythe (Fishmongers)
Nethergong Nurseries – deliver amazing veg boxes once a week, such good value and an amazing range.
Join us for a THREE COURSE BRUNCH in a secret new location on 3rd February 2018 at 11am
East Cliff Kitchen presents their alter-ego, East Cliff Dining Club, through which we make secret (and not-so-secret) eating events which celebrate seasonal and local ingredients from Folkestone, Kent.
Our 3 course brunch menu includes pescatarian and plant-based options, as well as a special children’s menu, all designed around the beautiful food available right now in East Kent. We’ve also teamed up with the incredible Debonair Tea Company from Hythe to bring you tea pairings for each course and a complimentary tea-infused cocktail!
We can’t wait to welcome you to this new venue for the first time, just a few minutes walk from the harbour, you’ll be right in the heart of our family, sharing food at a table with a small number of other food lovers. This is no restaurant experience – it is a true exaltation, eating wonderful food together right here where the food was made. We will email you the address on the day before the event.
£20 per adult
£6 per child
we ask for 50% deposit on adult tickets when you book and the rest on the day.
Please let us know if you have any allergies or other dietary requirements – we’ll do our best to make sure you get the same yummy food as everyone else!
East Cliff Kitchen is a foodie celebration of the best of local Kentish ingredients. We are convinced that – as well as being a more responsible way to eat – sustainable, high-welfare, low-mileage food just tastes better! Here on Folkestone’s East Cliff, we are completely spoiled. On the one side we have the English Channel (on a clear day we can see France) and on the other, the Garden of England so we have our pick of incredible seafood and delicious fruit and vegetables all year round. As East Cliff Dining Club, we host supper clubs, foodie parties and create bespoke events for local organisations including Folkestone Fringe and the Folkestone Triennial.
Salsify and Cauliflower roasted with miso and wakame.
We got these beautiful seasonal goodies from Folkestone Food Assembly where all the food is sourced locally and (where possible) is also organic. Here is the recipe.
Honey or Agave Syrup
Toasted Sesame Oil
Wakame – or any dried seaweed flakes
There are no quantities here, because it’s such a simple dish, you can just use as much as you need or like.
- Slice the cauliflower into 1cm slices (I like to keep the slices as whole as possible)
- Peel the salsify and drop immediately into cold water
- Blanch the salsify by dropping it into boiling water for 3-4 mins
- Lay out all the veg on baking trays
- Mix equal parts of the Miso, Honey/Agave, Soy and Sesame Oil together
- Brush this marinade over the veg and stick in all in the oven at 190ºc for 10-15 mins. The cauliflower should still have a slight bite after cooking.
- To serve, just sprinkle over the wakame and you’re done!
Winter salad of roast and pickled beetroot, radish, fried Sussex halloumi, mint, carrot oil and foraged gorse flowers. I’m working on a couple of blog posts at the moment. One is about foraging – it’s been on my mind a lot recently – it’s a hugely important part of how we can reconnect with both our environment and our social/food history. The other is about why it’s so important and worthwhile to shop and eat locally – which is at the heart of how we both work and live. In the meantime, here is a lovely lunch I put together that embraces both of these things!I pickled a batch of Brockman farm organic chioggia beetroot back in September and whilst it has lost its beautiful stripes, it has a gorgeous flavour from the bay and star anise in the pickling liquor. The fresh beetroot in our Nethergong veg box comes from Walmestone Growers and is spray-free. We met the appropriately named Steve Parsley a few years ago when he was a manager (now retired after 30 years)and have visited their farm – now run by Paul Vesey-Wells (whose background is in organic farming) near Ash many times. Owned by the Aspinall family, they supply the Aspinall wild animal parks (specifically they grow fennel for gorillas!). Their ethics and processes are spot-on and their dedication to this means the veg and herbs they produce have exceptional flavour. We pan-roasted the beetroot in butter and made a carrot oil by blending fresh carrots (also walmestone) with olive oil and sieving. Walmestone are all over this dish, as they also provided the fresh mint and peppery radishes. High Weald Dairy are just over the county border in Sussex and have been making Halloumi for as long as Walmestone having been feeding the gorillas. When we get round to buying a car, I think we’re going to have to go and visit because they also make Brighton Blue and Ashdown Foresters. Finally – although perhaps I should have opened with this – the gorse flowers. Folkestone is a constant inspiration. After taking the boys (one dog, one toddler) for a walk on the rocks at low tide where we marvelled at the seaweed, we climbed back up the steps to East Cliff and discovered a blooming hedge of gorse. So stunning and with an amazing fresh flavour. I gathered as much as I could before the boys got bored – just enough to finish this dish! . Photography: @bartlehalpinphotography#kentfood#seasonalfood#eveninwinter#folkestone#chefsofinstagram#foragedfood#foraging#beetroot#mint#radishes#halloumi@highwealddairy@walmestone_growers@nethergongnurseries