Back to the future! Wildcraft Presents... fresh pasta!
January has easily been one of the hardest months of my business career. December was so busy that there was simply no time for me to process what it would mean to be solely in charge of 2 businesses that between them, employ 28 people. The relative quiet of January has given plenty of time to reflect, mess up (a lot) and learn. I've been juggling 2 staffing rotas, 2 sets of accounts, 2 premises and 2 teams of people who have spent the last 18 months working on either end of a long road but never really interacting with each other. Add to that the fact that my bakehouse manager has left to pursue new challenges and it's hardly surprising that at times it's felt like I'm just lurching from one near-miss to the next!
But in between the tears, the meltdowns, the endless hugs and bottles of protein shake from my lovely bakers...small specks of light began to shine through the fug of panic and overwhelm. Sometimes it takes being pushed beyond your limits for you to remember who you are....and why you do what you do.
I've realised that one of the things I've lost since I moved Wildcraft out of my dining room and we started growing bigger and bigger was the opportunity to just play with my food. Covid accelerated that change and made it so that all I could focus on was survival. But in the 7 weeks since I took over the running of Wildcraft, I had an epiphany; survival isn't why I started doing this! I started doing this because nothing gives me as much joy as pushing the boundaries of possibility when it comes to food and sharing that love and knowledge with the people around me.
Nearly 10 years ago now, I held my very first Gluten Free Supper Club in my home in North Leeds. The menu was a celebration of foraged ingredients and exceptional cooking by my friend Nat Tallents and was one of the most exciting and fun things I have ever done. This year, I'm going back to my roots and relaunching Wildcraft's Supper Club. This is why....
Now that Wildcraft is bigger, doing one-off specials and spending hours and hours making (for example) Phyllo pastry and turning it into the only Gluten Free Baklava in the UK isn't really possible. We simply wouldn't be able to make the quantities needed and it would take up so much time that we wouldn't be able to do everything else we need to do. 28 sounds like an awful lot of people but when only 8 of those do all of the baking, it starts to get a bit tricky! But the supper club gives me the creative outlet I need to nourish my soul, experiment, learn new things, and keep pushing the limits of what is possible with Gluten Free flour
The first of these events will be happening at our Leeds Cafe on the 25th of February and our aim is that they will happen the final Friday of the month from then onwards. The menu concept will be different every single month with a new technique, process or product being showcased each time. The menu will draw from my food heritage as a woman of Arab, Swahili, Somali, Indian and African descent and celebrate my team and I's food heroes and passions. There will be dishes you're familiar with and some that you've probably never heard of but all of it will be gluten free and delicious!
As the inaugural event is close to Valentines day, the finale will be a souped-up version of our best-selling dipping box for you to share with whoever you bring with you. But the star of the show is a toss up between my vegan N'duja and the Rotolo.
The N'Duja deserves a blog post all of its own but for now, let me tell you about the Rotolo. This is what would happen if a swiss roll had a delicious savoury baby with a caneloni. Fresh, handmade pasta is spread with a delicious filling of wild mushroom duxelles and spinach, rolled up then boiled, before chopping into pieces, setting down in a dish of tomato fondue, baking and serving topped with pea shoots dressed with my home-brewed burnet rosehip vinaigrette.
If we weren't coeliacs, this would be easy, right?. Gluten is a wonderful thing and makes things like pasta so straightforward! We don't have gluten though. What we have is a selection of grains that disintegrate when boiled and offer as much resistance when you bite into them as I do when faced with a tray of our cinnamon sugar doughnut. Forget al-dente...what we've got is more akin to al-dentures. Not at wildcraft though! I've spent hours and hours making batch after batch after batch of pasta so that when you join us at our cafe on the 25th, yours will be the closest thing to a wheaten rotolo that it's possible to find.
And....if you ask really, really nicely....I might even be persuaded to do a workshop, in person(!) in Leeds and teach how you can make my pasta yourself in the comfort of your home.....Maybe....
February 25th Menu
Brownies, mini chocolate chip cookies and churros with a selection of dipping sauces