Like an opportunistic seagull trying to fly off with a brie and cranberry baguette, doggedly repeating the grab-fly-drop cycle, we’re having another go at a Christmas set menu after 2 years of covid interruptions that left us with a lot of Stilton (or Sparkenhoe in 2021) at the start of consecutive Januarys. It feels like both previous times we weren’t really able to do it justice. We’re running it for a week this year. At time of writing it’s not too late to book a table!
The goal of the menu is to respond to classic Christmas food, factoring in the usual sustainable processes that we use at Well Kneaded (crop-dusting, spam and discount spinach). There are so many things that are weird about food at this time of year so it’s fun to think about how we can re-frame the assumptions we have about what we eat, where it comes from and how it’s served. It obviously helps that we’re a pizzeria: pizza is a welcome alternative to the various pale meats, weird carbs and novelty brassicas that our society leans towards in December.
Some things we do in pursuit of sustainability:
Don’t take for granted that food is always available- or if it is, don’t assume that’s the best place to buy it or state in which to consume it. Examples are prunes (for devils on horseback- a Christmas classic), chillies, kimchi, chestnuts. All of these are available to the cook in the UK if you catch them in season- late summer is generally a good time to think about preserving stuff. Our friends at Paradise co-operative sent us a big box of the last of their green chillies and we made a very exciting green Savoy kimchi with them, worthy of the hotel itself. We even foraged the chestnuts for the béchamel this time round, drying and milling them in-house.
Do it yourself
If you want a fun project and a more meaningful interaction with what you eat, try making it yourself! The advantages are huge: lower carbon footprint, more nutrition, better component ingredients and a big sense of satisfaction are all up for grabs. You’ll also get a better idea of the real value of a food, whether it’s turning the basic-ness of an onion or cabbage into a pickle or ferment, or baking your own rye bread, it could be that this becomes an easy part of your weekly kitchen routine and saves you money at the same time. And, with a bit of practice it’ll probably taste better than shop-bought.
If you’ve read this blog before you may already have been subjected to long spiels to do with miso… we make it in house with an ever-increasing passion for the medium. This season we’ve been working our way through a big batch of bread, bergamot and chickpea miso from the start of the year. A really unusual one but it’s worked so well for the poached pears- deep flavours with the bergamot in the background.
The drinks menu also features the long-guarded batch of vermouth made for the original WK Sustainable set menu, featuring a herb blend foraged within the UK- this vermouth appears in the negroni. Let us know what you think!
Ask what a food is trying to be
Maybe you’ll stumble on an upgrade. Kimchi is generally made with Napa cabbage- which sits on a different side of the brassica family tree to the harder “batteries boiled in iodine” (A.A. Gill) cabbages favoured (and often misrepresented) in British cooking. Savoy cabbage brings its own flavour which sits really nicely in a kimchi recipe and can carry the fiery heat of the chilli mix.
Bacon, as already mentioned, is a staple at Christmas. No bad thing. But have you tried guanciale?! When it comes to riffs on prunes and cured pork, this is a real winner. We actually have 2 variations on pork jowl on the menu this year. It’s nice to represent a less in-demand cut of meat without any compromise on flavour. Hopefully you agree.
One of the reasons we 'do' sustainable food is because it feels like we're in the middle between producers and the consumer. We love the idea of influencing the footprint of the consumer, giving them a more nutritious version of fast food and enabling them to vote for a better future by their choices. Moreover, we feel it's important to support the farms/producers/growers who are doing really good things. The two objectives come together on our menu. The goal for us is to present a menu that enables you to eat entirely sustainably. Of course, there are limits and caveats to this, but hopefully it inspires the understanding that sustainable food can be just as tasty as any drive thru can offer...
Earlier we referenced spam, crop-dusting and discount spinach as key elements of our sustainable process. This was a joke. But hopefully the rest of the notes above give a bit of insight into why and how we do the food we do. Come and try it at the pizzeria, and/or give it a go yourself.