Dev uses Alexanders gathered from Quex Park in Birchington, Sea Purslane and Sea Spinach (Birchington coast), Dandelion flowers (Tudor House gardens in Margate), ramsons (wild garlic), sea beet, rose hips, stinging nettles, and wild flowers from an organic small holding on the Kent/Sussex border.
Alexanders, now an almost forgotten flowering food plant in the UK. Legend has it that it was introduced to Britain from its native Mediterranean by early Roman settlers. Alexanders flowers are yellow-green in colour, with black fruits. With an intermediate flavour between celery and parsley, it is common among the sites of medieval monastery gardens and coastal cliff paths.
“I was drawn to this plant the moment I first encountered it – we were instant friends,” said Dev of the plant which is also know as Alisanders and Horse Parsley, adding, “It has qualities I have always admired – defiant and resilient as well as being crunchy, characterful and delicious.”
Biswal is also developing recipes with the young Canola (rape) plant shoots which seem almost everywhere at the moment and Quex Park has given permission for him to harvesting some from their fields. Dev is also experimenting with Quex’s young wheat grass to try and see with which with spices it works best.
Use of Alexanders dissolved with the end of Roman Britain and its culinary traditions, which made way for the Anglo Saxons and Normans who introduced new crops and poor old Alexanders was brushed aside.
Despite seeming destined for the ancient cultivar crops to perish and survive in agricultural history books, the plant had other ideas.
“It still stands there very next to the fields full of modern crops as if in total defiance of human intentions to abandon it, it has survived, spread and occupied all other available spaces it can find,” said Biswal, “It stands on our shores in our gardens and our parks -timeless and refusing to be annihilated.”
The Ambrette uses Alexanders stems to spice its South Indian Style Beef Stew, prepared with cumin and garlic, servesd with masala potatoes and coconut chutney (£9.95).
Canola shoots are used in its Loin of Kentish Pork with spiced chick pea and malt vinegar and garlic wine (£13.95).
Pursulane salad is served with The Ambrette’s Fresh Fish of the day starter (£4.95).
The Ambrette, 44 King Street, Margate Old Town, Kent CT9 1QE
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