GROWTH OF SOIL
David has made a different salad on his desk every day for more than four years. We asked him to make salads for local cafes and restaurants on or near his local high street Chatsworth Road.
WORDS: Fi McAllister
PHOTOGRAPHY: Jørn Tomter
On a sunny autumnal Friday in October, local resident, food writer and Growing Communities box scheme member David Bez collected his large veg order from Chats Palace, which hosts one of Growing Communities’ twelve collection points around Hackney.
I had challenged David to create four seasonal, organic and delicious salad dishes for different restaurants and cafes around the Chatsworth Road area: Adam and Eve, Cooper and Wolf, Pivaz and Too Sweet.
David has a passion for food, salad and design, which led to a bit of an experiment four years ago: creating a different salad every day. He created a blog about the experience (www.saladpride.blogspot.co.uk), which has spawned a book, ‘Salad Love’. The book sold out in two months and has been published in 23 different countries and 19 different languages.
I went along to Chats Palace and looked through the contents of his bag with him – autumnal veg, with salad grown in Hackney, beans and tomatoes from Dagenham, fennel from Essex, and rainbow chard from Kent. We marvelled at the candy-striped beetroot and chatted about some of the producers and growers that Growing Communities supports. These include Alice Holden from the starter farm in Dagenham, Sarah Green, whose family-run farm is in Essex, and Adrian Izzard of Wild Country Organics – David’s favourite producer.
A couple of days later, I caught up with David to see how he got on…I asked David which produce most inspired him from the bag: “Hackney salad is always my favourite – the delicious mix of leaves. I love grating celeriac in everything – so sweet. I hadn’t cooked with tricolore French beans before so that was interesting. And I liked the striped beetroot. The only thing that scares me is swede! In fact the other thing that scares me almost as much as swede is celeriac – it must be because I’m Italian.”
And which was his favourite salad to make and present to the cafes? “The Scandinavian salad I made for Cooper and Wolf was my favourite. I had marinated the salmon in the beetroot juice and it was delicious. The chef was delighted! I also loved the feedback from the Turkish chef at Pivaz who said the salad reminded him of something his Grandma used to make for him.”
When I asked what advice he’d give to someone wanting to cook more seasonally, his response was refreshing and direct: “Any veg is easy to prepare – just cook it, steam it, blend it. Or eat it raw – I found out recently you can even eat pumpkin raw.”
What does he think about the Chatsworth Road area?
“I love it, it’s so vibrant, but with a strong community. I’m so happy to be part of it. I like the contrasts and the uniqueness of the area, the community feel and the market, the green spaces and the canal nearby. I don’t like the fact the market is not traffic-restricted. There are still a lot of closed shops that need a new life - maybe a proper patisserie, a handmade clothes and craft shop, a proper baker like E5 and an Asian restaurant or takeaway.”
What appealed about the box scheme collection point at Chats Palace?
“The produce isn’t like what you get from the supermarkets. My bags have variety and colour, the produce is exciting and I know who produces it.”