Food Heals

While we watch helplessly as the world is ravaged by disease and global warming, our daily routines that we take for granted are compromised. If there ever was a time to embrace resourcefulness, it is now.

In times gone by, we were more connected to our produce. If we didn’t grow what we ate, we ate and shopped for food locally. Fruit shops, butchers and dairies selling local butter and milk were the norm. Packaging was limited to reusable glass bottles and brown paper bags. We were also connected socially to our tables. Cooking generally took place at home using what we had; making do.

Fast-forward a generation, and food is cheap, convenient and is only a click away. Everything from a milkshake to a sandwich can be delivered to your door. Mealtimes together are rare; basic cooking skills are irrelevant.

The biggest searches on social media in China over the past two weeks have been for cooking skills. The New Yorker described this as ‘quarantine cooking’. Picture-perfect Instagram shots have been replaced by images of soups and broths.

With this in mind, I have been reminded of my grandparents’ old ways of simple dishes, and their mantra of “genuine, clean food.” Their circumstances were different but the challenges of making a nutritious meal from very little were very real. Their diet was mainly vegetables, and broths made from fresh herbs and bones. They drank the cooking liquor from boiled greens, chicken and healing herbs, such as sage. Nothing was wasted: seeds, along with vegetable stalks, stems and roots, would be dried and replanted. Peelings and coffee grains were used to feed their plants.

In a world of extravagance, perhaps there are lessons to be learned from the frugality of the old ways. Perhaps we can relearn how to be connected to our food and to each other again.

At the restaurant, every new seasonal menu development starts with a nod to our past. We are constantly evaluating how we can work more closely with our natural environment. We are not the finished article by any means, but through questioning and examining, we are making steps to evolve with Mother Nature, not work against her. Life is precious, so ask yourself the question: how will your next meal look after you?

Bone Broth Brodo with Cappelletti, by Giovanna Eusebi

This simple dish, cooked by my mother and all my Italian grandmothers, is a connection to their nurturing and love. It’s also a tribute to their resourcefulness. Nothing is wasted; the meat and vegetables were served as a second meal. In their village, the addition of tiny pasta into the broth transforms it into ‘pastina’. In other parts of Italy, it is transformed into ‘stracciatella’ (egg swirled into the broth) and ‘capelleti’ in Brodo, which welcomes the addition of meat-filled pasta. You can substitute the beef bones for a boiling fowl, or go meatless.

Other parts of the world have their version of this soup, which has been revered across continents for centuries. Chinese medicine, which dates back 2500 years, prescribed it to strengthen the digestive system. They believe it nourishes the kidneys – the foundation of life in our bodies. In other parts of the world it’s known as “Jewish penicillin” and is served on Jewish Sabbath with egg noodles. In Japan it’s known as Miso and drunk daily to boost the immune system. In the earliest restaurants in Paris, the bouillon was served to weary travellers.

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

1kg combination of meaty beef bones and brisket

100g of Cappelletti or small pasta (stelline, corallini or broken spaghetti)

4 whole carrots, washed

2 whole onions, peeled

1 head of celery, washed

Bunch of flat-leaf parsley

2 bay leaves

1 clove garlic

Handful of rosemary and thyme sprigs

Salt and pepper, to taste

Parmesan, to garnish

Method:

1. Place the bones on a tray and roast until brown. Transfer to a large pot and cover with water; use a 1:1 ratio. Simmer for six hours, then skim off any scum.

2. Add the aromatics and vegetables and simmer for a further two hours. Keep skimming to ensure a clear broth. Season to taste.

3. Strain the brodo through a muslin or a sieve. Reserve the meat and vegetables.

4. Heat the broth and add the pasta of your choice. Cook for six minutes, adding in the meat and vegetables back in.

5. Season to taste and serve with a drizzle of oil and Parmesan. The remaining meat and vegetables can be used for another meal.