AS summer retreats, Tom Hunt recommends simple, rustic food made with locally sourced ingredients that don’t cost the earth
I love simple, rustic food that is full of flavour, vibrant and healthy. All good meals start with the ingredients so I seek out the very best I can.
You’ll find me hunting the market for the crispest, boldest, most stunning vegetables, best-marbled cheaper cuts of meat and glassy-fresh fish. Only then will I pick up my recipe book for inspiration.
I have written my new book, The Natural Cook, with this way of planning meals in mind, putting vegetables first.
I like to feel good about the food I eat, and so I cook with ingredients that have been ethically sourced.
But how do we decide for ourselves what’s ethical and what’s not?
At my restaurant, Poco, we’ve drawn up a manifesto so that we and our customers know where we stand.
I like to have a connection to where my food comes from, even if it’s just talking to a market stall-holder or a fishmonger to find out how the fish was caught. This helps me value the food I’m eating and respect its origins.
If you do the same, you’ll even pick up the odd bargain.
Cooking with natural foods means a healthier body and planet. In order to reduce my impact on the planet, I cook with local ingredients.
I use key whole foods that might not already have their own spot on your kitchen shelf, but which I hope will in future, such as spelt flour, rapadura – a raw sugar that contains all the molasses and
nutrients you need – and raw (not heat-treated) local honey.
You can buy these in most supermarkets or in health food shops.
Fortunately, it is these seasonal, local, whole and organic foods that taste the best, too – good food doesn’t have to cost the earth. Love and cook with wild abandon.
PURÉED CAULIFLOWER WITH POACHED CHICKEN AND VEGETABLES
A great, warming alternative to a roast dinner. Cooked gently, the chicken is so tender. The broth can be kept in the fridge with any leftover meat to eat over the next few days.
Serves six to eight
1 Pull off the green leaves from the cauliflower. Cut the smaller leaves into rough pieces and compost the larger, tougher leaves. Break the cauliflower into florets. Peel the stalk only if it is tough, then cut it into pieces the same size as the florets. Put the cauliflower and smaller leaves into a small saucepan and add the milk and a bay leaf. Cover and gently bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes, or until tender when pierced with a knife. Remove the bay leaf. Blend, in batches, to a smooth purée (the blender should only be one-third full), using extra milk to help the process and to get the consistency you want. Season with salt.
2 Pre-heat the oven to 150C/300F/Gas Mark 2. Choose a pot big enough to hold the whole chicken as well as all the vegetables. Add the chicken and its giblets (apart from the liver), remaining bay leaves, fenugreek, if using, and a generous pinch of salt, then cover with cold water. Gently bring to the boil, then cover and immediately reduce the heat to a low, trembling simmer. Leave for 15 minutes.
3 Add the carrots, shallots, celery and garlic. Cover once more and put into the oven for one hour. Remove from the oven and rest for 20-25 minutes.
4 Serve the chicken whole on a platter with the poached vegetables and garlic cloves and the hot cauliflower purée. Cooked like this, the heart and neck of the bird are treats, full of flavour.
CANDIED BEETROOT CHOCOLATE POTS
This is an intensely rich dessert, so the smallest pot is all you need. The candied beetroot pieces make nice chewy morsels.
Makes six to eight small pots
1 Wash the beetroot and peel it. If the skin is very rough, then cut it into slices as thinly as you can.
2 Boil the sugar with 100ml water, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Add the beetroot slices and simmer for 10 minutes until sweet and soft, while preheating the oven to 170C/340F/Gas Mark 3½. Lay the slices on a sheet of baking parchment on a tray, keeping the syrup to use as a sauce. Bake for 10-15 minutes to caramelise the slices further, but be careful not to overcook them, or they will turn bubbly and burnt. Allow to cool.
3 Put six to eight beetroot slices aside to decorate the pots and chop the rest into small pieces.
4 Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of hot (but not boiling) water. Stir gently. When melted, remove from the heat.
5 Slowly stir in the beetroot syrup, then the cream, until the mixture is smooth. Add the chopped beetroot and pour into six to eight small pots. Serve each with a spoon of whipped cream, top with one of the reserved slices of candied beetroot and add a drizzle of beetroot syrup.
AUTUMN SLAW WITH GREENS, BEETROOT, BLACKBERRIES, SEEDS AND SPROUTS
This is a vibrant salad to eat in autumn, full of so many raw nutrients. As winter hits, substitute the blackberries for dried fruits and grate in whatever raw root veg you have, from kohlrabi to celeriac.
1 Grate the carrots coarsely, then dress with a splash of extra virgin oil, a little lemon juice and salt and pepper. Toast the sesame seeds in a dry pan until they brown slightly. Mix together.
2 Put the carrots into a large shallow dish. Grate the beetroot and add it to the dish, but do not mix the salad until you are ready to eat, so the colours stay separate.
3 Add all the remaining ingredients and season to taste.
4 Toss to coat with the rest of the oil, then serve.
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
salt and pepper
1 tbsp sesame seeds
1 small beetroot (about 150g)
50g sprouted mung beans
3 beet tops or kale leaves, shredded
2 tbsp sunflower seeds
2 tbsp pumpkin seeds
small bunch of parsley, roughly chopped
1 small cauliflower (about 500g)
400ml whole cow, goat or almond milk
3 bay leaves
1 chicken, with giblets (1-1.5kg)
1 tsp fenugreek seeds or dried fenugreek leaves (optional)
8 small carrots
2 celery sticks, each cut into 4 pieces
8 garlic cloves
1 medium beetroot (about 200g)
150g rapadura or raw cane sugar
chocolate (70 per cent cocoa solids), broken into small pieces
cream, plus more
• The Natural Cook by Tom Hunt, Quadrille, £20.