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LIFE ON THE VEG …

LIFE ON THE VEG …

I wanted to share with you a truly inspirational meal I had recently at the Dartmouth Food Festival. One of the Sponsors of the event – The Riverford Field Kitchen produced a Root to Shoot menu designed to showcase how to minimise food waste by using as much of the vegetable as possible. I know I shouldn’t admit this but I do struggle to get my 5-a-day in as I find vegetables a bit boring (!) so it was amazing to see what you can do with them – even the bits I usually throw in the compost bin …

We started with a light and pillowy Rosemary & Wild Fennel Seed Focaccia served with a Tomato, Nasturtium Seed Capers & Tomato Leaf Pesto which not only looked beautiful but was a treat for the taste buds too. Nasturtium seeds are pickled which does amazingly give them the piquancy of capers and added a lovely sharpness to the dish. Before this meal I thought tomato leaves were poisonous so I did raise my eyebrows a little at the pesto – but I’m still alive and full of plans to give this a go when next I get a crop of toms.

Next came Courgette Penne, Beetroot Leaf, Nettle, Sorrel & Feta. But of course in true Riverford style the dish used the hollow courgette stalks instead of the actual vegetable. The conversation on our table came around to the fact that this hadn’t been a great year for anyone growing courgettes as all that seemed to happen was the stalks grew and the veg didn’t. If only we’d known about this recipe before … I was also intrigued by the use of the feta, which they’d frozen and then grated on top – using it instead of parmesan.

Next we had a dish of chickpeas (some creamed and some left whole) topped with huge chunks of grilled squash, wilted pumpkin leaf and a harissa and hazelnut sauce. This was served with Burnt Pointed Cabbage, Sourdough Vinaigrette & Toasted Buckwheat. The cabbage had been smoked which gave it a beautiful flavour and we were all most intrigued by the use of leftover sourdough bread, soaked and left to ferment and then reduced to make a striking vinaigrette dressing. It wasn’t the most colourful of dishes but it certainly packed a punch. We all agreed that the final dish was the star of the show simply in terms of visuals. Multi-coloured heritage carrots (smoked) served with a carrot topped pesto and pickled blackberries. I would have previously said that life is too short to pickle a blackberry – but I rushed home to see if I had any left in the freezer to have a go myself …

Smoked carrots & pickled blackberries

Dessert threw another curved ball as what looked simply like a lemon tart with cream turned out to be another taste sensation. Instead of lemons they had used Sea Buckthorn which was a new one to most of us meaning that to our shame we got our phones out and had a Google … It turns out to be a shrub with tiny orange berries (often called Sea Berries) and is thought to be useful for all sorts of ailments. A recent article in The Telegraph claims it to be “The new superfood you’ve never heard of” – they’re not wrong. These berries were apparently foraged in Totnes (at a secret location) but I have been on the lookout since. They have a citrusy flavour – a cross between oranges and lemons but a little more bitter. Made into a curd they certainly created a delicious tart filling. The cream served alongside had been infused with hay and fig leaf giving it a smoky flavour which complemented the tart perfectly. Topped off with a slice of fresh fig this was a sublime end to a faultless meal.

Sea Buckthorn tart with hay & fig leaf cream

Not only were we amazed at the variety and tastes of dishes we sampled which were effectively created from very humble ingredients but when the chef (Lewis) was introduced to us it turns out he’s 22!! At twenty two the only vegetables I ate were frozen peas … This man is a genius. So don’t delay, get yourself along to The Riverford Field Kitchen as soon as you can – the menu changes daily depending on what’s in the kitchen garden. And it’s not just vegetables – you meat eaters are catered for too. I can guarantee you won’t be disappointed and you may well come away scouring your freezer for long forgotten blackberries to pickle …

www.fieldkitchen.riverford.co.uk

GO IF: You want to experience the finest, local, organic food.

MDD LIKES: Seeing what you can do with the bits of veg that would normally end up on the compost heap.



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