Ben Tish recipes: Our chef sources his fruit and veg from a local school

The vegetable boxes Ben Tish receives from the Phoenix High School in west London's Shepherd's Bush are some of the best he has tasted

Ben Tish
Friday 22 January 2016 18:35 GMT
Ben Tish selects vegetables with the pupils at Phoenix High School
Ben Tish selects vegetables with the pupils at Phoenix High School

The vegetables, fruit and honey we serve at our restaurants are sourced from an organic school farm in west London's Shepherd's Bush.

"Really?" I hear you reply.

Well, yes: the vegetable boxes we receive direct from the Phoenix High School's unbelievable acre and a bit of inner-city land are some of the best I've tasted.

The relationship started a couple of years ago when we decided to donate to the school farm after I had an inspirational visit with a mate working there. I remember being bowled over by the sheer beauty and abundance of what was growing, and even more so by the passion of the staff, volunteers and even the kids, who all work together on the upkeep of the land.

The farm has changed the dynamic of the school, and switched the kids on to eating better and understanding where real food comes from. Charitable donations have grown into a partnership and I'm now looking at the direction of what's grown there with Cath, the head gardener, and creating an exchange with our chefs, the volunteers and even kids who might fancy getting into some cooking.

These recipes are inspired by some of the fantastic vegetables we are getting right now and are readily available elsewhere – and I think you'll agree that winter vegetables are anything but bland.

Ben Tish is chef director at Salt Yard Group and a food writer; his second book, 'Grill Smoke BBQ', will be published by Quadrille in April. He also makes regular appearances on TV shows such as 'Saturday Kitchen', 'Sunday Brunch' and 'MasterChef'

Roasted cauliflower with Moorish spices and mojo verde

Cauliflower is at its best when roasted (with the exception of cauliflower cheese); the process intensifies the sweetness and flavour. The mojo verde will last for 10 days in the fridge in a sealed jar. This is great as a standalone starter or as part of a mezze.

Preparation: 20 mins

Cooking: 40 mins

Serves 4-6

1 large cauliflower, quartered, leaves and core removed, broken into florets
100ml olive oil
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp smoked paprika
1 tbsp sumac
½ tbsp coriander seeds, crushed
Sea salt
Black pepper

For the mojo verde

½ green pepper, seeds removed, roughly chopped
1 green chilli, deseeded
1 bunch coriander with stalks
½ small bunch flat-leaf parsley
2 tsp capers
1 sprig dill
20ml red-wine vinegar
100ml extra-virgin olive oil

Preheat the oven to 200C.

Toss the cauliflower with the oil, seasoning and all the spices. Make sure the florets are well coated then place in an even layer on a baking tray and place in the oven for 40 minutes or until the florets have started to caramelise and lightly char at the edges.

For the mojo verde, place all the ingredients except the oil in a blender and turn on. Gradually add the oil and blitz to a rough purée, leaving some texture. Season to taste. Spoon over the cauliflower and serve.

Potato and beetroot gratin with chard and manchego

Potatoes and beets are workhorse staples of winter; some might say they're a little dull, but here they are transformed into a luxurious and delicious bake. Eat with just a peppery salad, but also brilliant with roast beef and horseradish.

Preparation: 30 mins

Cooking: 1 hour

Serves 4-6

2 small bunches young green chard
Olive oil
700g Désirée potatoes, peeled
250g cooked beetroots, peeled
Sea salt
Black pepper
25g unsalted butter, cut into dice
600ml double cream
100g manchego cheese, grated

Potato and beetroot gratin with chard and manchego

Preheat the oven to 180C.

Bring a pan of salted water to the boil, plunge in the chard and cook for 2 minutes. Drain the water and refresh the chard under cold running water until cold. Squeeze out and reserve.

Drizzle some oil into a 20cm rectangular ovenproof gratin dish and rub around the base and sides. Using a mandoline or very sharp knife, slice the potatoes and then the beets very thinly (½cm). Now put a layer of overlapping potatoes into the dish and season well. Follow with a layer of beets and then chard. Repeat, then top with the last layer of potatoes and dot with the butter.

Reduce the cream by a third over a medium heat then pour on the gratin. Sprinkle over half the cheese and cook for 40 minutes until cooked through and the cream is thick and bubbling around the edge of the tin.

Sprinkle over the remaining cheese and place under a hot grill to brown. Serve.

Roasted aromatic pears and apples, whipped mascarpone and hazelnut crumble

Essentially a fruit crumble elevated to indulgent new heights by exotic spicing and caramely, nutty crumble. The mascarpone is the veritable icing on the cake.

Preparation: 20 mins

Cooking: 40 mins

Serves 4

3 apples, quartered and cored
3 pears, quartered and cored
3 star anise
3 cardamom pods, crushed
1 stick cinnamon
40g unsalted butter
40g muscovado or demerara sugar
120g mascarpone

For the crumble

50g cold unsalted butter
100g plain flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
40g demerara sugar
50g toasted hazelnuts, cut in half

Roasted aromatic pears and apples

Preheat the oven to 180C.

Place the fruit in a baking tray, add the spices then dot over the butter and sprinkle over the sugar. Place in the oven and cook for 30 minutes until the sugar and butter have turned to a rich caramel. Baste the fruit, then reserve.

Whisk the mascarpone until light and soft. Reserve.

For the crumble, rub together the butter and flour then add the cinnamon, sugar and nuts. Place on a baking tray and bake for 10 minutes. Serve alongside the fruit and mascarpone for all to share.

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