Tom Hunt is a cook with a difference. He not only champions wild, local and seasonal food and but also embraces unwanted & unappreciated ingredients. I met Tom at the Brunel Museum when I attended his Christmas Forgotten Feast, a campaign Tom created working on projects throughout the UK, to revive our cooking heritage and help reduce food waste. In the unique setting of the Brunel Museum we enjoyed a wonderful banquet: a ‘Forgotten Feast of 7 Fishes’ , a simple and delicious fare of fish we do not usually see on British menus (even though they are delicious) served with foraged greens and Riverford’s surplus that would normally have gone to waste. Tom works closely with various food charities and organisations including the worldwide Feed the 5,000 events, FareShare and FoodCycle.
In his first cookbook – The Natural Cook “Eating the seasons from root to fruit” Tom Hunt puts fresh, flavoursome, vegetable-focused food centre-stage, and features recipes that make use of every ounce of an ingredient. This stems from Tom’s unique cooking ethos, Root-to-Fruit, that celebrates the entire vegetable, wasting nothing. In this book, Tom shows you how to cook using the best, most ethically sourced ingredients without it costing the earth.
Divided into four seasonal chapters, The Natural Cook explores 26 readily available vegetable or fruit ‘hero’ ingredients. Each ingredient is presented in its own ‘mind map’ (shown below), teaching you how to make three delicious simple dishes using just a few ingredients from your cupboard. These techniques are then followed by three world-inspired recipes, which make use of the prepared ingredients as well as drawing in other seasonal fruit and vegetables. For example, spring onions can be steamed and put inside a Banh mi with tilapia or mixed with chilli and lime to make up a trout ceviche.
At the end of each recipe, Tom gives clear tips and ideas for turning any leftovers into other delicious meals, ensuring that absolutely nothing is wasted. Tom only uses a minimal amount of imported produce in these recipes with key whole foods such as spelt flour, rapadura and raw (not heat-treated) local honey, which can all be found in most supermarkets and health food shops.
The Natural Cook will also teach you how to buy and value seasonal, organic vegetables with tips on how to grow your own and even on how to start a compost heap, helping you to become a more creative cook, using ingredients economically.
Tom has kindly agreed to share with us his Summer Pudding recipe.
An all-time favourite of mine and so quick to make. I like to experiment with different fillings and fruits. This is best made the day before you want it, so the bread can soak up the juices and set.
- 1 quantity Macerated strawberries with grappa (see recipe below)
- 200g mixed summer fruits (not strawberries), such as raspberries, redcurrants, cherries or blackberries
- juice of ½ lemon
- 50g raw local honey, or to taste
- 4–6 x 1cm-thick slices of sourdough or good white bread, crusts removed
- Put the strawberries in a saucepan with the other fruits. Add the lemon juice, honey and 50ml water, taste and add more honey if you would like it sweeter.
- Bring the fruits to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for two minutes.
- Line a one-litre pudding basin with the slices of bread: place a disk of bread in the bottom, then run pieces up the sides, overlapping them slightly. Press the joins together to seal them, using a dab of water to help.
- Fill the bread case with the summer fruits, reserving a few tablespoons of the juice.
- Cover the top with a circle of bread and seal it to the pudding’s ‘walls’. Place a small plate on top and put a weight on that;I use my mortar and pestle, but anything clean and heavy will do. Put it in the fridge.
- The next day, carefully turn the pudding out on to a plate.
- Use the reserved juices to paint over the top to freshen it up and cover any white areas.
Serve with plenty of fresh cream.
Storage: the pudding will keep in its pudding basin in the fridge for four days. The macerated strawberries should be eaten immediately.
Macerated strawberries with grappa (serves 2)
- 300g strawberries
- 2 tbsp grappa
- 1 heaped tsp rapadura or raw cane sugar
- Pull off and discard the green tops of the strawberries. Halve the berries and put them in a bowl with the grappa and sugar.
- Turn carefully and allow to macerate in the fridge for 30 minutes, so all the juices begin to seep out and the strawberries soften.
- Turn now and again to re-cover them with the grappa juices.
- Serve in glasses with cream or crème fraîche.