We have long been a fan of Tomo Parry's amazing food being particularly inspired by his use of plants and flowers in his cooking. We can now be regularly found munching on the whole turbot in his Shoreditch restaurant Brat, obvs followed by the burnt cheesecake and rhubarb (the man has a thing for cooking on fire and erm, burning things don't you know!).
We were lucky enough to interview Tomos a while back for our book How Not To Kill Your Plants, and he even gave away his infamous recipe for his fried sage gnocchi. You're welcome...
How do plants feature in your cooking?
I often use them to elevate dishes when particular plants are in season. For example, I try and use the flowers of the plant or vegetable that is in the dish as they will generally be a lot more fragrant than the plant or vegetable itself, so it adds another level to the eating.
Have you ever worked with flowers and food?
Using flowers in cooking became very fashionable a few years ago, but I first experienced it in the River Café in Hammersmith. They had their own garden, where, before service, I would collect all the flowers and fresh herbs to use as garnish. My favourite dish there was the seabass carpaccio with tomato and many types of fresh herbs and beautiful flowers torn over it. I also worked at Noma in Denmark, which had a very disciplined, 'locally sourced' approach to cuisine. The chefs there would forage the flowers themselves and everything they use in their dishes has to be grown in the area. So for example, because citrus does not grow natively in Denmark, they use wood sorrel for acidity, and for black pepper they use Nasturtium to add pepperiness to dishes. All very inspirational.
Can you describe how 'seasonal produce' relates to the plants you use?
I will only use flowers and plants if they are in season. The simplicity of my cooking style relies on understanding of seasonability and using the plants and their produce at their peak. Using plants should feel natural to the dish, instead of using it just for the sake of it. Wild garlic is one of the highlights of the year for me: I love using the leaves for cooking and as a garnish, and seasoning with wild garlic flowers at the end.
Read the full interview in our book How Not To Kill Your Plants
FRIED GNOCCHI, SAGE, BROWN BUTTER, BLACK PEPPER AND BERWICK EDGE
* 1kg russet pototoes (or any high-starch potato), cleaned
* 150g plain flour
* 2 teaspoons salt
* 1 egg, lightly beaten
* rapeseed oil
* 4 tablespoons room-temperature unsalted butter, cut in to small pieces
* 20 sage leaves
* 1 teaspoon lemon juice
*freshly ground black pepper
* 60g Berwick Edge cheese, finely grated (Berwick Edge is a strong Gouda-like English cheese, very similar to Parmesan)
Cook the potatoes in the oven at 160°c until tender (around 45 minutes). If you can pierce them easily with the tip of a knife, you're good to go. Remove from the oven and, as soon as the potatoes are cool enough to handle (letting them cool will also help the mixture go gummy), peel and pass them through a potato ricer into a large bowl.
Sprinkle the flower and salt over the potatoes and using your hands, make a well in the centre. Pour the beaten egg into the well and stir with a wooden spoon. Turn out the dough onto a floured surface and gently knead for about 2 minutes, dusting with more flour as needed, until smooth but not elastic (be careful not to overwork it ). Divide the dough into 8 pieces. Roll each piece into a 60cm - long rope about 1.5cm thick. Then cut in to 1.5cm pieces.
Melt the butter in a pan with all the sage leaves, and turn up the heat gradually. The sage will start to crisp and the butter will begin to brown.Once the butter is a light brown colour, take it off the heat and add the lemon juice. Leave to one side.
When the gnocchi have cooled, warm a frying pan with oil over a medium heat and carefully fry the gnocchi for around 1 minute on each side until golden brown. Now, add the sage and butter to the frying pan, season very well with black pepper and serve with the Berwick Edge.
Tomos' restaurant can be found at First Floor, 4 Redchurch Street, E1 6JL or at www.bratrestaurant.com