Family value

Family value

Tom Hunt

Say hello to Tom: the eco-chef and food-waste activist behind Bristol-based restaurant Poco. We talk to him about combining his passion for sustainability with the food he cooks at home, and how his past shaped his modern approach to food today 

Food is community, and that community starts around the family table, but extends to the farmers and producers who make what we eat, too,‘ says Tom, as we discuss his ethos. ‘Growing up, I really didn’t appreciate the lengths my mum went to in feeding a family of six every day! It was incredible what she achieved, and on such a small budget, as well. 

‘Back then, we ate a lot of classic meals that were typical of the 80s, like fish finger sandwiches and lasagne, but also a lot of veggie meals, which was unusual at the time. I turned vegetarian in my mid-teens, as I am today — though I did go back to eating meat for a while. Mum would give me a spoonful of blackstrap molasses each morning, in the belief that it would give me a good dose of iron, in case my diet was lacking it!

‘When I was 10 years old, my family moved to a small village in Dorset, and the house came with two goats, Boot and Cassy. My job was to milk them every morning before school; while it was unpleasant in bad weather, it was worth it for the fresh goat’s milk porridge! I also had my own patch of the garden so I could grow vegetables from seed to table. Being involved with growing and preparing our family meals from such a young age is the reason I cook today. 

I take pride in shopping locally and seasonally

‘For the last 20 years, food has been my life. I’ve worked with chefs, farmers, academics, charities and nutritionists all around the world, learning about food sustainability. Over the last 10 years, I’ve been developing a food sustainability philosophy called root to fruit eating. Root to fruit eating means eating for pleasure, eating whole foods from the whole farm, while eating the best food we can and indulging in seasonal foods that are tasty, nutritious and inherently restorative for ourselves and the planet.

‘Today, I take pride in shopping locally and seasonally. Rearing animals helped me to respect the value of food, and harvesting my own veggies drummed in the basic (yet often forgotten) principle that produce should be seasonal and come from the soil where possible.

‘My family’s meals are in line with my latest book, Eating for Pleasure, People & Planet, which follows the root to fruit philosophy, so we eat lots of whole foods and mostly plants. LJ, our two-year-old daughter, eats what we eat; for that reason, we don’t salt our food. Biodiversity is a really important part of a sustainable diet, so we eat a lot of different types of plant. A typical weeknight meal would be roasting a big tray of veggies to have with boiled rice and chick peas — super-simple! 

‘The book reflects all my values and is packed with ingenious recipes to help you eliminate food waste and become creative with seasonal veggies. I’ve also detailed how you can start learning to cook more of your own food from scratch, help reduce packaging and improve nutrition at the same time. Continue reading for some of my favourites to try for yourself.’ @cheftomhunt


Not avocado on toast (VG)

‘Who needs avo on toast when you’ve got homegrown broad beans? When blended, they become creamy, unctuous and vivid green, just like avocado. This is made the same way as regular guacamole, but with the beans instead. Enjoy!’

Makes 4 • Ready in 15 mins 

  • 4 slices of toast
  • ½ red onion, finely diced
  • Sliced red chilli or a pinch of dried chilli flakes, to serve
  • Pinch of sumac (optional)

FOR THE GUACAMOLE

  • 360g fresh or frozen broad beans
  • 1 tbsp Co-op extra virgin olive oil, plus extra to serve
  • 6 coriander sprigs, leaves whole, stalks finely chopped
  • Zest and juice of 1 lime
  1. Start with the guacamole: blanch the beans in a large pan of boiling water for 3 mins, then drain and refresh under cold running water. 
  2. Transfer to a food processor, add the oil, half the coriander leaves, the stalks, and the lime zest and juice, then blitz to a smooth purée. Season.
  3. Spread the guacamole generously on the toast and top with the remaining coriander leaves, the red onion, chilli, a dusting of sumac, if you like, and a drizzle of olive oil.

A swede pretending to be a ham (VG) (GF)

‘Swede is scrumptious roasted whole, however, the coating here makes it irresistible. This dish makes a great centrepiece for any table. I love it cold the next day, too, sandwiched between two thick slices of bread, with extra mustard and plenty of watercress. The recipe works equally well with a whole celeriac’

Serves 6 • Ready in 2 hours 35 mins  

  • 1 swede (about 500g)
  • 12 cloves
  • 1 tbsp Co-op extra virgin olive oil
  • 30g Fairtrade dark muscovado sugar
  • 20g Co-op wholegrain mustard
  • Sauerkraut and Co-op watercress, to serve
  1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC/fan 160ºC/gas 4. Score the swede all over with a knife, cutting about 1cm into the flesh in a criss-cross pattern — just like a ham. Stud the surface evenly with cloves. 
  2. Drizzle with the oil and season, then wrap the swede in a large sheet of greaseproof paper and place in a small ovenproof dish.
  3. Roast for 1 hour, then remove the paper and return to the oven for a further 30–60 mins, or until the swede is well cooked. 
  4. Remove from the oven and turn down the temperature to 120ºC/fan 100ºC/gas ½. Mix the sugar and mustard together in a small bowl and brush the swede all over with the mixture. Return to the oven and cook for 20–30 mins. 
  5. Carve at the table and serve with the sauerkraut and watercress.

Chargrilled sprouting broccoli & clementines (VG) (GF)

‘I’ve maximised the flavour of the broccoli by chargrilling it’

Serves 6 • Ready in 20 mins  

Preheat a griddle or barbecue to medium-high. Halve 500g purple sprouting broccoli lengthways, then toss in 3 tbsp Co-op extra virgin olive oil and season. Cook all over until slightly charred, about 3-4 mins, then put in a bowl with a lid to continue cooking in its own steam. Cut 3 clementines into slices 5-10mm thick, then cook for 1-2 mins on each side until lightly charred. Crush 3 cardamom pods, remove the seeds and discard the husks. Grind the seeds with a pestle and mortar, then add to the broccoli, along with the clementines, 1 tsp Aleppo chilli flakes, seasoning and a squeeze of clementine juice. Toss together and serve sprinkled with another 1 tsp Aleppo chilli flakes.


READ MORE

Eating for Pleasure, People & Planet by Tom Hunt (Kyle Books), is out now.