In the run up to Christmas 2015, on Sunday the 14th, I spent the day underneath 1000 branches of mistletoe with 120 people and 7 varieties of fish all in the name of volunteering with Tom Hunt and his crew at Borough Market for the day…as Safia from Pure Punjabi helping out at Borough Market – Feast of 7 Fishes.
His ‘Feast of 7 Fishes’ was all in aid of raising awareness for the food waste charity FareShare, with 50% of the profits donated to the cause. The event was staffed by volunteers, including myself, to ensure that the maximum amount of funds went to the end cause…fighting hunger and tackling food waste.
An absolute treat for pescatarians and fish lovers, the menu was filled with an array of delicious and wholesome ingredients…
Feast of 7 Fishes
– An Italian inspired Christmas feast –
Due to the sheer volume of food surplus we are able to pick the highest quality ingredients.
As we are sourcing surplus food the menu is subject to change.
Baccala mantecato – salted line caught pouting with saffron on crostini
Home smoked trout with crispy skin, sea horseradish on leaves
Crab, apple and celeriac remoulade with ox eyed daisy leaf
Risotto nero with cuttlefish or
Pumpkin risotto with watercress Cucumber and beetroot with dulse seaweed and yoghurt,
foraged salad of water-celery leaf, chervil and chickweed
Forgotten fish stew of pollock, coley and mussels with chervil or
Glut tomato and bean stew with kale
Cabbage with lemon juice and nigella seed,
Caramelized carrots and water-celery
Roasted squash with garlic and chickweed
Cleo the sourdough
Apples and pears roasted with whiskey, cinnamon and vanilla with clotted cream
It was mind-boggling to think that all of the ingredients for each of the dishes were being donated, and therefore, saved from a life of sitting in the bin when they were completely fit for consumption – those ingredients (along with a little food knowledge and clever combinations from Tom and his trusted chefs), really did create a feast for everyone to indulge in. Something to be considered for our future Indian food events.
Upon arriving, there was a chill in the air, however the sun’s warm rays cut through the winter air and the smell of whiskey from the roasted fruit wafting through the air kept us all alert!
As soon as we volunteers arrived, we began sorting through trays and trays of cutlery, plates and sturdy terracotta dishes, getting them ready for service. We then prepped the foraged herbs, as well as cutting the most beautiful sourdough bread – donated as it was a day old, and therefore, not able to be sold (I know, it’s crazy!). Once we’d brushed the flour off our sleeves from those glorious loaves, we started to get the first set of antipasti ready.
Diners arrived at 12.30 sharp and were greeted by the hostesses with wooden boards, covered in pouting and saffron crostini. In the kitchen area, we plated up the remaining antipasti of crab remoulade with crisp apples and celeriac, accompanied by smoked fish and sea herbs on beautiful baked crackers with freshly cracked black pepper.
Diners seated and waiting eagerly for their ‘Primi’ of risotto nero, the Market Hall really did embody the spirit of Christmas – people coming together to enjoy good food, good drink and good company…
Before the meal continued, Tom took a moment to talk to his guests about the aim of the day and to share some information about FareShare, reminding us all, that whilst we were all enjoying a plentiful meal, there are many that can’t. Many individuals and families rely on FareShare to feed themselves, and it’s important to look after and support one-another. After all, if you’re in a position to be able to help someone, even if it’s in a small way, why not?!
Then, dishes filled with either moody risotto nero or cheerful butternut squash risotto were making their way out of the kitchen and onto the diners’ tables.
As I went round checking on diners and clearing the first few plates, I was greeted by black lips and Gothic Smiles, “it was delicious” they commented! As I continued clearing, a couple of the guests had chowed their way through the colourful butternut squash risotto (vegetarian option), and as I asked if they were finished, one turned and said “there’s about a tablespoon of rice in there, hang on…” and he speedily grabbed his spoon to inhale the remaining grains and continued…”I was in western China a few years ago and I was in a restaurant, and I left 4 grains of rice on my plate and the chef was so disgusted with me, cause you’re supposed to leave your plate clean! Plus I’m a food waste blogger!”, and with that final sentence, he licked the last grain of rice off the bowl – “delicious” he declared.
The kitchen were working at top speed to get the ‘Secondi’ to the crowds, and suddenly, huge bowls of forgotten fish stew made their way into our hands to take to the tables. Hot, steaming bowls nearly overflowing with mussels, prawns and flaky white fish topped with freshly wilted greens were placed in front of smiling faces. It went down an absolute storm, with virtually every diner pausing their conversation to let me know how much they enjoyed it as I cleared their empty plates and serving dishes. “I’m glad you enjoyed it, I’ll let the kitchen know” repeatedly came out of my mouth for the next few minutes.
With a little more room in the kitchen area, huge trays of roasted apples and pears sitting in boozy, buttery juices with delicate star anise and cinnamon balancing on top came out of the ovens. What looked like hundreds of vanilla pods where being chopped, de-seeded and mixed with thick cream ready for diners to anoint their dessert with.
As soon as desserts were distributed, the clear down began. Hundreds of pieces of cutlery, plates, serving dishes, chopping boards and saucepans (to name but a few) were in need of cleaning, but as the saying goes ‘many hands make light work’, and we all mucked in. After a couple of hours, we got through the washing and started on packing away all the equipment needed to create a feast for 120 people. Tom’s trusty van appeared, and the first thing to go in were 2 huge cookers, followed by many stackable trays filled with crockery, as well as a few left over ingredients. Don’t be worried about the leftovers though – we volunteers took any items that we would use, and as for the rest…Tom lives in a co-operative and so the few remaining items were given a warm home (and did not go to waste).
We all staggered across the road to The Globe pub, and were treated to a well-deserved drink by Tom. An hour later, and after many hugs and kisses goodbye (after effects of being under mistletoe all day), we all made our way home. It was a real insight to compare our pop up restaurants with the event that Tom put on in Borough market and find that, ultimately, it comes down to the same thing – love of food and lots of people mucking in together, trying to deliver the best experience that they can.