Spring has sprung

Spring is here at last and our menu for the next pop-up at Space Bar & Gallery is a celebration of all the lovely new stuff! We’re also pickling and fermenting the winter root veggies and getting excited about leaves and buds.  In the fermenting jars at the moment, we have chard root and swede (rutabaga) with sea lettuce and chilli and cauliflower with ginger, whilst pickling away in the corner is a selection of lovely beetroot and pink blush shallots with herbs.

In the meantime, we just got a delivery of Rowan shoots and Birch sap from Forager – one of our favourite suppliers.  We forage ourselves where we can, but these guys have so much knowledge and skill.  The ethics of foraging are complex, it’s about respecting the environment as much as the landowner because wild food isn’t cultivated so you have to be sure you are not damaging it and preventing it from regenerating.  That’s why I turn to the professionals if I’m in any doubt. The Rowan shoots have an intensely almond-y flavour, so I and going to try to create an infused syrup to use in cocktails for the launch party of Normal Festival. The Birch sap is currently fermenting with a few raisins in the bottom as a catalyst.  I’ll keep tasting it and when it reaches a good point, i’ll pop in some lemon juice and freeze it till I need it.

Coming up…

We’re taking a couple of months off from our brunches to concentrate on a new project called Custom – more to come on that soon.  In the meantime though, there will still be plenty of opportunities to eat our food starting with a collaboration with Zoe Tallon in Peckham, who will be sharing family recipes and inspiration as we cook up a Ghanaian feast on 26th April.

We will be back to our modern British ways, with more than a hint of Nordic influence, popping up at Space Bar and Gallery in Folkestone on 1st and 2nd May and again at the Quarterhouse for Normal? Festival from 10th – 13th May.

See our events page for all the details you’ll need.

We’ll also be busy in our new allotment – and WHAT an allotment it is! SO expect home grown veg in the coming months.

photography by Bartle Halpin

Cooking for and with artists (plus a vegan pudding recipe)

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

A ‘Gateway’ dinner for Folkestone Fringe in The Urban Room in September 2017

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

Max (half of Sheaf and Barley) cooking the kale

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

The upside down pudding, upside down! Cooling and waiting to be flipped.

INGREDIENTS:

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

METHOD:

  • 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.

 

Eating Locally

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)

Folkestone Wholefoods

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.

Beetroot and other seasonal goodies

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