Introducing our exciting new chef discovery – Kieran Jefferson, Head Chef at Friska Food’s Victoria Street store in Bristol. The Ethical Hedonist can tell you that the south west is a hot bed of sustainable talent from Pukka Herbs to exciting chefs like Kieran who are passionate about using local and foraged ingredients and transforming them into culinary alchemy.
Kieran grow up locally , and spent many years working in pubs and restaurants before moving to Bristol. To the delight of locals, he dreams up fresh, sustainable fast food on a daily basis, closely inspired by the rhythm of the seasons.
Outside work, Kieran is a keen forager, brewer, fermenter, experimenter. “I love finding and trying out new/old techniques, and feel that the more we emphasise the source of our food, the more we connect with the landscape around us, the more fulfilled we can be and the less impact we will have on our fragile world.”
We couldn’t agree more, and without further ado, Kieran has come up with a gorgeous seasonal feast to tantalise your taste buds and senses.
The Tasty Plant that Thinks it is Spring in Winter!
Just as the plants of summer are fading away, just as the hedgerow is getting ready to hibernate, there is one plant that decides that, actually, it’s time to put out some new shoots, rebel against the darkening evenings and pretend that it’s spring. Alexanders (Smyrnium Olusatrum), introduced by the Romans as a cultivated herb and now abundant in coastal areas, wet places and cliffs in the South of the UK, sprouts from late October onwards.
With a taste somewhere between celery and asparagus, it really is a ray of sunshine for the kitchen, just as culinary thoughts are turning to mushrooms, root vegetables and earthier, more wintery fare.
A warning: alexanders can be confused with hemlock water-dropwort (Oenanthe Crocata), which is one of the deadliest plants in the world. As hemlock shoots in February, you should be fairly safe to pick alexanders in November and December, but, as always, get some good foraging guides and never eat anything unless you are 100% sure of its identity.
This dish makes for a superb breakfast or a light lunch, with the sweet alexanders paired with rich egg and a sharp vinaigrette. The nasturtium petals are optional, but, should you still have some flowers in the garden, I recommend using them for a peppery hit, and visual, well, floweriness.
Ingredients – Serves 2
300g alexanders stems (about 12 stems)
A good knob of salted butter
Salt and pepper
(For the eggs)
5 organic/free range eggs
150g breadcrumbs (shop bought is fine, or better yet make your own – see below)
50g plain flour
Splash of milk
70g parmesan cheese, finely grated
Vegetable oil (about 1 medium bottle – enough to deep fry the eggs)
(For the vinaigrette)
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
Petals from around 2 nasturtium flowers
If you’re going to make your own breadcrumbs, take 3 slices of stale or old granary bread, and toast in the oven at 100 degrees until dry and brittle, around 10 minutes. Pulse in a food processor until a fine crumb is achieved. When cool, combine with the grated parmesan and set aside until required.
For the crispy hen’s eggs, bring a pan of water to the boil, then turn down to a rolling simmer. Gently lower 4 of the eggs in, one by one, and cook for 7 minutes. As soon as they are done, remove from the pan and place in ice-cold water to stop them from cooking any more. Once cooled, gently tap the shell all the way around, and peel carefully (you want to leave the white intact, as the yolk will still be liquid). Be sure to rinse any shell remnants from the eggs.
Crack the remaining egg into a bowl, add a splash of milk and whisk until combined. Roll the boiled eggs first in the flour, then in the egg mix, then in the breadcrumbs, being sure to get a good coating on each. I tend to do this twice for each egg, so a good crispy coating is formed when deep fried. Set the eggs aside in the fridge until required.
Take the alexanders and trim the leaves/smaller stalks away (don’t waste them – put them in a jar with gin and some sugar for a couple of weeks, it’s a great wild liqueur ready for Christmas presents!). You’ll need to peel the stems as you might rhubarb, as they can be quite stringy. Place into a pan of simmering, lightly salted water for about 8 minutes, until tender. As with the eggs, remove from the pan and place in cold water. Once cooled, drain and set aside.
To make the vinaigrette combine the mustard with the vinegar, then slowly add the olive oil whilst whisking until it’s emulsified and unctuous. Season with salt to taste.
Now it all comes together (finally, you may say! But the preparation is worth it, trust me…).
Pour the vegetable oil into a pan and heat until a pinch of breadcrumbs, dropped, in starts to bubble and fizz. Carefully lower the coated eggs in one by one a cook until golden (around 3 minutes) turning once or twice to make sure they brown evenly. Remove from the oil and place on some kitchen towel in a warm spot that’s to hand. The oil can be strained and reused once cold.
Put the butter in a frying pan on a high heat and wait until it’s starting to foam and turning brown. Add the alexanders, a pinch of salt and a grind of pepper, and cook for about 1 minute, tossing occasionally.
Arrange the alexanders on a plate like a little nest, and place 2 of the eggs on top. Drizzle the vinaigrette around the outside and garnish with the nasturtium flowers.
Serve straight away with a glass of something dry and possibly alcoholic (even at breakfast, if you have the day off!). Cheers.