WORDS Laura Dauny of The Island Plate
In our ever-more food aware world we all know the phrase, “you are what you eat”. So when I was invited to the Eat Jersey Food Festival 2019, what can we say about our island from the ingredients it has to offer?
The day started at Durrell, the Festival’s philanthropic partner, with a backstage tour and a chance to experience the new Butterfly House, with its tropical mists and beautiful bright butterflies, but it turns out that the animals at Durrell may eat more of Jersey than many of us! A tour of Durrell’s organic farm showed the vast array and variety of vegetables, fruits and other plants that are grown to keep them fit and healthy and is proof of the amazing ingredients we can grow on island.
But much like us, what the animals eat can affect their health and happiness. The richer diet has resulted in the tortoises growing ten times the size they would normally, in the wild, so it seems that even being vegan isn’t a magic health-eating wand. Did you also know that flamingoes are only pink because of the food they eat? They are literally the colour of what they eat. Coupling this richer diet with a more sedentary lifestyle makes it a balancing act for Durrell to keep every species well-fed and healthy. These animals seem to have more in common with us than you think!
Our tour of the reptile house also gave us a chance to investigate ‘the future of food’ and the insects bred at Durrell, to keep our cold-blooded friends bright-eyed and scaly-tailed. If commentators are right then we may all be eating these crunchy critters in the future as a healthy source of protein but it might take me a while to get used to buying a box of crickets instead of the usual butcher’s classics.
For now, I was lucky that the Atlantic’s Eat Jersey Food Festival menu made use of some more traditional home-grown ingredients. Will Holland’s kitchen team were joined by Social Eating House, London’s chef patron Paul Hood to create a special collaborative lunch and dinner menu with expertly paired wines from The Atlantic’s sommelier team.
Each plate of the beautifully prepared lunch menu featured one of Jersey’s most famous ingredients paired with exciting and unusual flavours from around the world. Finely sliced, and melt in the mouth, raw Jersey scallops were prepared in a lime ceviche and accompanied by Jerusalem artichoke, wasabi sunflower seeds, a truly surprising smoked avocado, sea herbs and horseradish. With so many strong elements, it would have been easy for the delicate flavour of the scallops to be totally overcome, but the balance of the dish was expertly delivered with the smoked avocado bringing a real depth of flavor and subtle contrast to the sweetness of the scallops.
The second course of retired Jersey dairy cow beef tartare with Bloody Mary, pullet egg jam, nasturtium and rye bread was a real intrigue. With our famous local cows being well known for their milk it has always surprised me that we don’t eat more Jersey beef; it isn’t widely available but its additional percentage of fat can lend a richness that is hard to parallel. As this was a working cow though, I was concerned that the meat could be tough given it was featuring in a raw tartare but I had no reason to be concerned. It certainly has pushed me to try and eat more Jersey beef and maybe this will encourage more shops to sell it.
Turbot was the feature of our third course. A wonderfully light and complex pairing of fish and the flavours of the east; a dashi glaze, Jersey royals, spring vegetables, kombu & bonito stock and chives. The salty savouriness of the stock contrasted with the new season vegetables and our most famous export, the Royal potato, wonderfully with an expertly cooked piece of fish to top it off.
But no meal would be complete without something sweet and the 70% chocolate delice delivered on every note. I often avoid chocolate puddings as they can be cloyingly sweet and over rich at the end of a bit of food indulgence; there was no such issue here. Paired with cocoa nib Jersey yoghurt, a surprising tarragon ice cream, cocoa nib crisp and Jersey sea salt, these herbal, sour and salty notes brought out the flavour of the chocolate beautifully.
The chef, Paul Hood, may have been from London but the Eat Jersey Food Festival shows that our little rock can produce beautiful ingredients for all of us to enjoy, whether it’s in the relaxed luxury of The Atlantic or our very own homes. Get out there, buy local and taste the flavour.