insideKENT Magazine Issue 49 - April 2016 - Page 44

FOOD+DRINK why 2016 is the year for vegetarianism DINING OUT OPTIONS FOR VEGETARIANS HAVE NEVER BEEN GREATER Every vegetarian will be familiar with the following dilemma: you arrive at a nice restaurant for a special meal and upon reading the menu you discover that your choices are limited to a goat’s cheese tartlet, a risotto, or perhaps a bean chilli – whereas your dining partner has the pick of braised shanks, marinated chicken or delicately pan-fried fish. These techniques can be used to prepare fresh, seasonal vegetables too – so why haven’t these dishes been appearing more often on menus? The link between vegetables, human health and the protection of the environment has never been more prevalent in the media, with concerns of GM food and toxins within the meat we’re consuming regularly appearing in print. Therefore more and more people are choosing to have several meat-free days a week in their homecooking regimes to promote a healthier lifestyle and easier digestion. This shouldn’t have to be compromised when eating out at a restaurant; on the contrary, dining at a high-end restaurant should be an opportunity to gain inspiration and pick up new cooking techniques for next time you’re creating a vegetarian masterpiece at home. At The Ambrette, chef Dev Biswal is particularly keen to demonstrate how diners can prepare local, seasonal produce on a day-to-day basis, and this is why the restaurant’s spring and summer menus will be inspired by vegetables, rather than meat. Dev says: “I’ve been designing dishes around the core vegetable ingredient and complementing this with carbohydrates and proteins – the inverse of many restaurant menus. “I believe that the restaurant industry also has a responsibility to acknowledge the environmental impact of excessive meat consumption and sourcing – particularly concerning beef and lamb – by taking steps to add variety to their menus and therefore reduce overall global demand for these ingredients. “Placing the focus on vegetables also makes financial sense for restaurants – they’re cheaper and the margins are greater! For the diners, this means they can sample high-end cooking techniques, textures and tastes without a hefty price tag. Sourcing vegetables from the surrounding area supports the local economy, too – what’s not to love?” The importance of finding fresh, seasonal produce Sourcing vegetables is a difficult task for any restaurant, and if you want to serve up fresh, seasonal produce from the local area then things get even more complicated! But it’s worth the time and effort to present crunchy fruit and vegetables, and fragrant herbs that have travelled just miles. Many of The Ambrette’s suppliers are based in Kent and can provide them with potatoes, rapeseed stalks and cauliflowers for their dishes. If they can’t source it from The Garden of England, they will go slightly further afield to London – to the vegetable markets of Spitalfields and Covent Garden – d where many of the vegetables on offer were grown in Kent. 44 Ones to watch in 2016 As vegetables rise in popularity this year, Dev says: “I predict that there will be some who steal the limelight more than others. The first being celeriac, which I will be introducing to The Ambrette menu and my diners in a number of forms. I like to infuse this vegetable with fenugreek leaves – for example my favourite celeriac dish would have to be celeriac, aubergine and okra flavoured with fresh fenugreek leaves served on a bed of spiced celeriac purée. “Then there’s tenderstem broccoli, which will continue its popularity from 2015. Its attractive colour makes it an interesting addition to all sorts of plates and it also lends itself to a number of different cooking techniques. “Looking at the response we’ve had to our vegetarian and vegan menus at The Ambrette, and the popularity of vegetables over the pond in the US, 2016 is definitely turning into the year of the vegetable!”