April 24th 2020
Back in March we did a set menu exploring some sustainable ideas we’ve come across in the last while. Sadly, due to the fast spread of Covid-19 and cases being confirmed in Wandsworth, we decided to close the pizzeria before the event began and resorted to offering the menu as takeaway only. Serving its many components as takeaway was probably a bit silly, but we were excited about the food and still wanted people to try it. A lot of it had already been prepared- there was a lot of lacto-fermentation that had happened the previous week, as well as about 5 different vermouth trials and 2 batches of bran flakes made with different grains. As Wandsworth transitioned en masse to eating at home, we chose that week to serve an extended pizza menu that included crayfish, venison, lacto-fermented celeriac and buffalo ricotta. It was kinda stressful, on reflection.
The menu was built on a variety of different ideas, some of which would not work for us in the usual day-to-day at the pizzeria and others of which didn’t even work as takeaway. The whole thing was slightly undermined by the colossal amount of packaging required to make it fit for takeaway. The good news is that much of it didwork. Highlights included steamed bok choi with coriander, both from Sutton Community Farm and arriving just on time for that week. We served it with Sea Buckthorn juice, alexander seeds and venison stock, both of which are tropes of different sustainability streams.
In case you’re interested, the menu and accompanying blurb are listed below here, as well as some photos and a pic of the spider diagram where we workshopped some of the ideas. We’re starting to plan another set menu looking at sustainability for September and will publish details of that once we have a clearer idea of where social distancing and lockdown are headed.
Sustainable Set Menu
These notes are designed to accompany the menu you’re eating this evening, in order to explain decisions, processes or sourcing that are of relevance to the ‘sustainability’ of the dishes. You can find more information about these things on our website but here’s an intro and a long-winded guide to get you started.
Sustainability is a buzzword at the moment. Perhaps it will be a buzzword from now on, forever, which would be a pleasant example of humans learning from their mistakes. Inherently, it has to do with forever-ness, though it’s only recently that society has begun to act upon the idea that ‘forever’ is at stake unless we adjust some stuff. So here we are.
At Well Kneaded, we’ve pursued sustainable practices since Bridget and Bryony started the company in 2011. Naturally, these have developed and taken shape over the years and we now do such things with more understanding, passion and efficacy than we did before. We are keen to sidestep the unnecessary ‘righteous’ atmosphere that can exist around this subject, along with the moral outrage or alarm that can come with the territory, so this menu doesn’t propose to be the Right Way to Do Things, but more of a showcase on practices we’ve found interesting or have adopted, or would like to adopt; a conversation on how fast food could be sustainable. We have tried to keep it consistent with the principles that generally govern our menus and policies.
Some notes on our principal motivations and values:
If we had a neon sign it might say, simply, ‘People’. We’ve drawn much inspiration from Gregory Boyle, founder of Homeboy Industries, in working to the assumption that people are amazing, even if that quality has been momentarily obscured by trouble, pain or injustice.
It seems that sustainability starts with how you treat people. Everything else springs from this: compassion and justice.
“…saving the world means saving all the people in it; even the ones that love cheap burgers and Coke.”
Throwing others under the bus is at the root of the problem, and has no place in the solution. All are invited.
- Adventure, fun and innovation.
If Bran Flakes can’t be shoehorned into a sustainability menu, what’s the point?
We aim to provide food that tastes amazing and contains as much nutrition as we can possibly provide.
Simply, the fact that an unbroken future could actually be possible- and that sustainability might reconnect us with more of life, not less of it.
Some general principles/wisdom from others:
- Don’t let anything go to waste.
- Play the long game
- Close the loop!
- Unsightly things have their own value
- Innovate and ask questions
- Know your suppliers and preferably the farmers
- Preferably know what your food looked like when it was growing
- Some things in this project weren’t as successful as they should have been, or didn’t go as planned. You’re eating them because it was too late to change direction or because the concept is still worth sharing. A notable example is the 25kg sack of organic pumpkin seeds that we bought from the Suma Co-op, only to find they were sent from China.
- It is tempting to appropriate (or parody) this menu into an unnecessarily highbrow tasting menu. Tasting menus are amazing but we’re aiming more towards the family-table rustic thing: A while back in Puglia we visited a masseria for lunch… They grow almost everything on their own land and the antipasti consisted of a spread of 10-12 dishes of various, delicious flavours, vignettes and ideas all on the table together with a big jug of white wine and a brick of bread baked with an indigenous Puglian flour called Senator Cappelli. We loved it.
- There are amazing chefs, writers and instagrammers that have inspired a lot of this food and a lot of the thinking behind it.
This menu was dreamed up in the prep kitchen here. It is indebted to the Well Kneaded team. They are genuinely lovely people, an exceptional bunch. They deserve immense credit for showing any interest at all, let alone the enthusiasm that is their trademark.
Sam Carlisle shot a muntjack and roe deer for us, and taught me how to butcher them. He has generously shared his expertise and joined in the conversation with valuable insights.
Our suppliers deserve credit for the inspiring produce they send us. It is a constant invitation to dream about what’s possible in food.
What we’re serving would not be worth the entry fee without the work and culinary lyricism of Pete HB, as well as of his wife Gabs.
We’re all facing challenges at the moment with the spread of Covid-19. Our ideal would have been for this menu to have felt like a proper celebration and a gathering together to enjoy a fun meal. We still hope that you enjoy it as a takeaway and can join us for the next one in September!
Sustainability can be a moral issue. Morality can be very serious business. It seemed right, therefore, to start this highly moral menu with Vermouth and Bran Flakes.
The vermouth was made using botanicals that were largely foraged within the UK (and some coriander seeds that probably didn’t come from the UK but could have- why isn’t there a coriander seed industry in the UK?!), combined with sherry and leftover wine from the pizzeria. The ice cubes have a dash of sea buckthorn in them, to mimic the flavour of lemon.
Bran Flakes are:
a) One of the best cereals
b) The poster-boy of sustainability. To produce white flour one is required, having milled the grain, to separate the flour from the bran. The rough ratio of flour to bran is 80:20. Bran Flakes require 20% bran in addition to wholewheat flour. They are therefore the answer to the waste bran that results from our general preference for white flour.
We use the excess bran from the production of the Pizza Bianca (2.) to prove this concept. At the time of writing, the intention is to mill a fresh batch using a variety of grain called Spring Oland, grown at Duchess Farm. Depends if it arrives in time.
You are invited to choose between different forms of milk: raw milk still comes in plastic packaging unless you have a pale to hand; oat milk is harder to produce than I expected. These are therefore categorizable under not-quite-as-ethical-as-intended.
Pizza Bianca seemed a nice way to show off the character of a dough made entirely from heritage wheat and milled in-house. See 11.-16. & 18. for variations on this. We’ve tried to use different grain for different purposes, so you get a feel for the varying flavours and characteristics.
For the virgin butter we used a cultured raw cream and whipped it until just before it split. The use of raw milk and cream for the butter, ice cream and other bits was intended to demonstrate the limitation of ‘luxury’ items. This is a short-term form of sustainability but is based around the idea that we can no longer assume the abundance of such items- so we looked to limit the inclusion of items like milk, butter, cheese where possible and work with what we have.
In case you were looking to subtly mark St Patrick’s Day, there is stout in this bread. It is made with rye flour from Cann Mills and utilises excess sourdough starter.
The carrots were a first foray into lacto-fermenting (slippery slope, it turns out).
Aquafaba is amazing. I urge you to read the Wikipedia article on it, which includes, among many interesting sentences, phrases such as, “ability to mimic functional properties of egg whites“, “... people who avoid eggs, such as vegans.” and, “ the starch portion of legumes is mostly amylose and amylopectin”.
Our vegan mayo hit-rate stands at 33%. It seems that of the legumes, chickpeas have the best aquafaba for making mayo and we’ve combined it with Duchess Farms’ raw rapeseed oil- a waste product. Theirs is also the smoked oil used to give the carrots their flavouring.
To replicate meat in order to produce sustainable meals that suit people’s tastes is a noble pursuit. The challenge is that a lot of these concepts lean on alternatives that aren’t ethically watertight, usually involving airmiles (jackfruit in lieu of pulled pork or vegan cheese made with palm oil). Fermentation as a form of manipulation is not only nutritious but a thrilling adventure into new possibilities around what a food could offer.
The trays of mixed heirloom tomatoes that come in from the Isle of Wight during the summer are so lovely that we had to preserve some. The act of preserving seems to elevate food- as if it gains a subjective value. It is an antidote to the short-sightedness of year-round availability on generic courgettes at your local mini-supermarket. This worth that emerges in a preserved food is compelling. I’ve noticed it in the treatment of ewe’s cheese (28.) or in making capers from the handful of nasturtium buds I picked from Paradise co-operative in September; it extends to crop yields and butchering animals and is valuable in slowing our interaction with food. We’ve been doing it with wine for ages, why not do it with a box of tomatoes?
Preserving heirloom tomatoes on a very small scale is the best we can do at the moment. The ideal is the masseria we visited in Salento- they preserved their crop of San Marzano tomatoes and every single horizontal surface in the entire building was lined with the bottles. We’re looking to find someone/somewhere where we could explore the preservation of British tomatoes for pizza.
Hodmedod’s are a company that sell high-quality British grain, seed and pulses. Carlin peas are suggested to be a good alternative to chickpeas. Here’s a couple of batches hummuses made from fava beans and Carlin peas. It’s hard not to read Carlin and think of Carling lager, but Carling lager has no place on this menu (despite their use of British barley).
We’re super happy to receive veg from Sutton Community farm- it’s straightforward, grown well and is 6 miles down the road. This dish is something like the waking-up of the ground after winter: the meeting point of the early green crops, the simple broth from the venison (14.) bones and sea buckthorn. Alexander seeds are a revelation- they’re similar to pepper but with more character. What’s crazy is that you’d almost certainly recognise the plants and flower heads as weeds, ridiculously common. EVERY PART OF THE PLANT IS EDIBLE. We got ours from a third-party forager, which is embarrassing enough without now realising how commonplace these plants are. You’ll be pleased to know that we picked all our nettles (12.) ourselves.
I like the way this dish subverts the meat-eater/vegan divide. It makes use of a meat by-product to elevate a vegetable, rather than using veg to garnish meat…
Product of messing around on the pizza van trying to add nutrients to a pizza-heavy diet. Something in the direction whereby waste is re-purposed into even more gourmet food than was previously imaginable. Maybe this isn’t entirely that but it’s still nice, and shows how unnecessary it would be to throw these stalks away. It’s also fun to combine the luxury of stracciatella with the conceptually ugly broccoli stalks.
The meats are from Tempus foods. They use xtra old animals for their charcuterie, including ex-dairy cows for the bresaola. The results have exponentially more flavour and quality than run-of-the-mill charcuterie.
The ex-dairy factor is a set-piece of clashing sub-ideologies within sustainability: a retired dairy cow would not normally be used for meat, which means that to use it for charcuterie or other purposes is good avoidance of waste. The problem is that this can only ever be a responsive product: for long-term sustainability in our food system there needs to be significant interruption in our consumption of both beef and dairy. Ex-dairy bresaola might one day, in theory, be ruled out by sustainable changes to the dairy industry, therefore?
This is already pretty sustainable so we’ve just transferred it from our normal menu. Chioggia beetroot says (visually) all that needs to be said in favour of diverse and heirloom varieties of food and is one of the most cheerful things to prep.
There is a consensus that industrially-produced food and that which has been grown in monoculture is significantly lower in nutritional value than its ancestors would have been. It seems that thinking outside the box is pretty important when it comes to sourcing… this salad changes subtly according to the season. The first of the lettuce has begun to feature in place of the chicory and radicchio of the winter months…
We use whatever’s available to make up a salad every few days. For us this process has helped tip the scale into the recognition that abundance should probably be:
a) Largely veg-based
b) Idiosyncratic (in the sense that it’s not lost its character)
c) Short-lived enough that you don’t confuse a glut of fresh food with a never-ending supply of identical produce.
Our journey in pizza has wound through different iterations of ‘sourdough’ and arrives here (for now). Provoked by the words of Dan Barber, we wanted to begin milling flour fresh for each batch of dough. It’s a slow process and the results are a long way from ‘normal’ flour. However, freshly milled flour retains the nutrition of the whole wheat grain through the inclusion of the bran and endosperm (there is no nutrition in white flour) and contains a whole lot more flavour.
For this batch we’ve used Wakelyn’s YQ grain for stone milling in-house, combined with Shipton Mill’s Type 4 organic flour. The former is a fascinating experiment in ‘landrace’ crop development, the latter offers us the assurance of the dough remaining workable for pizza without the need for chemical-based farming in its production.
YQ is the opposite of monoculture: multiple varieties of wheat are planted in order that the crop is better equipped to respond to the conditions during its growth- some varieties will be able to withstand wind, others rain, others pests. This means that chemical fertilisers or pesticides are not required because the crop has a wider inbuilt capacity to respond to challenges and can be left to do so without intervention.
How do you reimagine the most famous pizza topping around sustainable sourcing? The idea of fermenting the tomato seemed good, for the sake of developing its flavour and adding extra gut benefits.
Ricotta is a by-product of mozzarella production, so fits nicely here. We have ricotta from La Latteria for Tuesday’s sitting and from Laverstoke Park Farm for Weds-Thurs. The latter is made from buffalo milk on a biodynamic farm. Biodynamic agriculture is not, in my view, an entirely reliable philosophy, but it seems to be headed in the right direction in its advocacy of the understanding that everything is connected.
Decided to put the nettles in pesto after stinging my mouth testing an under-blanched one for a different dish. It felt exactly as you’d expect from a nettle.
Signal crayfish are invasive in the UK and very destructive to riverbanks and to the population of native crayfish. Strangely, therefore, it could be argued that catching and eating them is positively ethical.
I must admit that I got my season wrong on these and, having explored the possibility of fishing them out of the Wandle and making some sort of chowder with the shells, I found out that their season starts in a few weeks and that these ones were bussed in from Denmark. Sorry. Enjoy the celeriac- fermented with wild garlic! Celeriac needs a home at this time of year.
Had an interesting time butchering the muntjack, guided by Sam (who did the roe). The meat is astonishingly delicious and works well on pizza. This recipe is 15% reference/throwback to the Sloppy Giuseppe from Pizza Express.
As with crayfish, muntjac are invasive and non-native in the UK and it could again be argued that culling is an ecologically beneficial thing to do. Check out our interview with Sam for more info.
This seemed a good first step in the direction of a more direct interaction with our supply chain. Industrial opacity is a problem- it robs us of the full facts around how our food gets to us. If we could see what happens in an abattoir I reckon we’d consume beef at a different rate. Same is true of the gritter angles on dairy farming and the consumption of identical foods that don’t reflect any seasonal variations- it is unnatural. By contrast, the deer are leaner at this time of year than they are in summer. The meat of a muntjac is darker than that of a roe. I don’t know exactly why this is relevant other than that it’s simply more real than a Big Mac.
The deer were spiced with alexander seeds, bay leaves and mugwort (Bridget said that we weren’t allowed to call mugwort by that name because it sounds nasty- it’s also called Artemisia in Latin. Square Root soda- nice people in N London- make an Artemisia Tonic. I think that to call it Mugwort is to double-invert the nasty name into something wry. Coincidentally, a glance at the process for the production of malt extract shows that the hydrated mixture of sugars from which the final extract is derived is called wort).
Similar to the ex-dairy cow stuff relating to bresaola (8.), Cobble Lane Cured use beef heart to make this pepperoni. It doesn’t change the fact that rearing beef for food is bad for the environment, but it does make use of a waste product and recognise the fact that salami and pepperoni are perfect vehicles for the unloved parts of an animal.
Another example of how deluxe veggies can be unadorned.
The addition of olive oil rather than rapeseed oil is a luxury. We’ve tried to reserve EVOO for special one-offs where the flavour can be appreciated, rather than taking it for granted.
The ice cream sandwich is a pizzeria menu staple at WK, inspired by Seth, who used to saw 500ml tubs of ice cream into pucks and eat them between cookies. It had to be replicated.
The ice cream sandwich on this menu is an extention of an idea for which Dan Barber deserves some credit- a ‘rotation cookie’ based on his thinking for a rotation risotto. The theory is, put simply, a cookie that reflects the crop rotation required for healthy soil. Where we might prefer white flour as the basis for a cookie, it makes sense to include less popular grains in something that doesn’t necessarily depend on wheat for structure or flavour. The added advantage is that you can use people’s tastes to fuel good: the cookie itself represents sustainable soil health and demand for it contributes to this. It’s not a world-changer but it’s a nice idea. Looking to include lateral ingredients in familiar food is a fun way to open things up- an important factor in keeping things fun.
The cookies contain rye, oats and barley, as well as rapeseed oil and sugar beet- all of these might be featured in a crop rotation along with wheat. They also feature malted wheat grains, leftover as waste from the ice cream recipe…
Pete and Gabs worked on this recipe with the tireless attention to detail and passion for excellence that they bring to everything they do. We wanted a small, totally deluxe batch of ice cream that would describe articulately the intersection between luxury and limitation. The decision to use malt was on the basis that it’s a quintessentially British ingredient, a sustainable flavour that works well with the precedent for comfort that is implicit in ice cream flavourings. The raw milk was infused with malted wheat to give it its flavour.
We wanted to make an oat-based ice cream from scratch but it turns out that it’s not that simple: oat milk is almost exclusively available in non-bulk quantities (i.e. 1L cartons) and making it using whole oats requires stabilisers and other processes, machines etc. We’ve a small batch of oat-based ice cream produced at Earlsfield Kitchen with malt extract which is the best we could do- still nice to work with local chums and still a tasty, relatively sustainable option.
Cobnuts are delicious. They’re like hazelnuts but bigger, sweeter and more delicately flavoured. Hopefully you can tell. it seems that a number of nuts and seeds could be commercially processed in the UK but cobnuts are the only ones readily available- accordingly, they’re quite expensive. Like the milk we’ve used, we had to order a set amount and distribute it accordingly across the menu.
The pastry’s made with freshly milled spelt.
This pils (an abbreaviation advertised on Tottenham shirts in the mid-90s) is interesting.
Real ale is like real tennis- confusingly lateral in comparison with other (also real) ales/versions of tennis, and synonymous with these isles in its idiosyncracies and opacity. There is nothing as indigenous as the malty, almost umami flavour of a Best Bitter. It intersects with this menu in other ways, especially the role of malted grain and the place of malt as a flavour comparable to that of koji and tamari in Asian cooking.
Real Ale is distinct among contemporary beer as a vessel for British hops and as not really being contemporary at all. It speaks of our climate, where IPAs and new-wave Pale Ales use West Coast or Antipodean hops, there’s an earthiness that speaks of our brown winter landscapes and shy summers.
By contrast to Real Ale, a Kernel IPA is a slap-round-the-chops with New World hops. One admirable thing about the Kernel is that they make their beer according to the whim of the brewer who’s on the rota that day, and this in accordance with the hops and malt they have available. In so doing they avoid the enormous waste of energy required in making beer exactly consistent, time on time. The current IPA is made with Mosaic, the previous with Centennial. This is a pleasingly realistic approach to making a product.
Happy St Patrick’s Day if you’re reading this on St Patrick’s Day.
23. & 27.
Sedlescombe are one of three biodynamic vineyards in the UK. Their wine speaks for itself.
The ideas behind biodynamics, as previously mentioned, are compelling. Permaculture seems a good balance, but there is no denying that a holistic approach to winemaking yields impressive results, even in the UK climate.
24. & 26.
The Bothy are a tiny vineyard near Oxford. Check out their website for details of their sustainable practices, which are significant.
The red from Casa Frentana is a staple on our menu. It gives an example of what small-output, family-oriented wines can taste like, where we might have certain expectations that have been shaped by the mass-market. The divergence from the latter is a great hope for global food culture.
To buy a box of quinces each December and make it into membrillo is hugely rewarding:
a) Quinces feel like a pleasingly ‘definitive’ foodstuff when bought in bulk
b) They are a lovely colour and have an outrageous fragrance
c) To work out how to cook with quince feels like a success
d) The process of preserving them turns them into a subjective part of our store cupboard (cf. 4.)
e) A single box makes enough membrillo to last at least a year (including wedding catering)
f) Quince and ewe’s cheese is one of the most pleasant food combos
g) There is something gratuitously pretentious about serving quince as if it were a vintage wine, but it’s simultaneously of genuine interest to us to observe how different the two batches are.
Food that is not the same or not consistent is a closer reflection of what food (and life) is.
The points above are applicable to the Rustler cheese which we’ve coated in juniper and balsamic vinegar (aping Pecorino Ginepro) and stored. One of the cheeses has been stored for 6 months and tastes a bit like Comte, which is frankly cheating. The others are a mere 2 weeks old.
Did you ever receive those circular emails c. 1998-99 where you’d fill out a whole load of questions (e.g., would you rather be a Power Ranger or Mighty Duck? Mr Darcy or Mr Bingley? Salt and Vinegar or Cheese and Onion?) and then forward it on to all your friends? A sort of pre-facebook invitation to public introspection. One of the questions was ‘Bacon bits or croutons?’, a reference to the highlight options at the Pizza Hut salad bar. Although we acknowledge that bacon bits and/or croutons might be an obtuse definition of Salad in a sustainability menu, it was the obvious destination for the leftover pancetta we needed to use up, as well as the trial batch of Pizza Bianca.
Amanda Little, The Fate of Food, p 27., Oneworld, 2019