My father was a fruit and potato merchant in north-west England. When I was at school I used to work for him on evenings and weekends. We used to take our wares to Liverpool market, which was a big old factory full of food. Unsurprisingly, vegetables, and particularly potatoes, were our staple diet. In those days, the food we ate at home always came from the local farm, but we don't have that option in London, so now I get a home delivery of seasonal fruit and veg from across the UK.
The dish that brings back memories of my childhood is a simple vegetable dish with goat's curd. It's made from seasonal ingredients, lightly blanched and served cold. It's fresh, refreshing and focuses on the individual flavours of each vegetable – leeks, baby cauliflowers and onions – adding just enough additional flavour to stop it being just a plate of vegetables. With a dish like this, light seasoning is the best, perhaps adding a dressing with a little olive oil and a little vinaigrette. It's important to enhance rather than camouflage the natural flavour of the produce. Eating veg which is seasonal, and preferably not flown in from Kenya, ensures you get the best natural flavour.
I've just returned from France, where the fresh natural aroma of fruit and veg sitting out under the sun reminds me of being a boy. That's what this dish is all about. It's my interpretation of the food we ate when I was growing up.
The key to getting it right is to make the most of each individual ingredient. Whereas you can eat carrot cut into chunks, beetroot should be sliced thinly to make it more palatable. With cauliflower, you should take off the florets and then slice the core with a Japanese mandolin or a sharp knife, and then drop into iced water for 10 or 15 minutes, before draining it and dressing with a little oil and serving cold for a crisp, fresh flavour.
4 baby carrots
2 baby turnips
4 baby leeks
4 baby fennel
For the pickle
9 black peppercorns
3 bay leaves
250ml white wine vinegar
4 cardamom pods
Fresh goat's curd
50ml chardonnay vinegar
150ml olive oil
Combine all of the ingredients for the pickle, except the damsons. Bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and add the damsons. Allow the pickle to cool. Leave in the fridge, at least overnight but longer if you can.
Boil a pan of water and add the broccoli and cook until tender. Purée the broccoli with a little of the cooking water.
Wash, trim and peel the baby vegetables and trim the cauliflower. Cook all of the vegetables in seasoned water. While warm, dress with the vinegar, oil and elderflowers.
Present with the broccoli purée, raw peas, the pickled damsons and teaspoon-sized pieces of goat's curd.
Marcus Wareing at The Berkeley, marcus-wareing.com, 020-7235 1200Reuse content