FOOD & DRINK
In conversation with
Xanthe Gladstone is a chef and seasonal food advocate based in the beautiful countryside of the Hawarden Estate, North Wales. Being a strong activist for food sustainability, we delve into the importance of eating healthier, sustainable foods and Xanthe’s tips on how you can join in.
Could you tell us where your passion for nature and food sustainability first begun?
I think it’s been a very long time coming – if that makes sense. I was very lucky to grow up surrounded by nature and so I think I had a long appreciation and understanding of it. I lost this a little bit in my teens but it slowly started to come back towards the end of my time at University. After I graduated and was a little lost on what to do next, I started getting really interested in food sustainability and cooking, that interest turned into a bit of an obsession. I became fascinated with the work of Dan Barber and that led me into lots of different avenues like growing your own food, mushroom foraging, cooking seasonally, and understanding regenerative farming. I had my head in a book about one or other of these topics for the best part of two years and I soon realised that I couldn’t not at least try to turn this passion into a career.
Nailing that work-life balance can be hard, do you have any advice on this and what is your favourite way to relax?
It can be hard for sure, especially when you love what you do, it’s hard to switch off! My work is often very physical and fast paced, especially when I have lots of supper clubs on, so it can be exhausting for my body as well as my mind. For the last few months I’ve really got back into exercise, more specifically hot yoga, which has been an absolute game changer for me. Stretching out and sweating is something I love doing. Exercise is for some people and isn’t for others, but try to find an exercise that really suits you and what you like doing, if you actually enjoy it then you’re more likely to do it consistently. It’s really helped me switch off and as a result had a hugely beneficial effect on my mental health. I also try to spend some time away from my phone when I want to properly switch off or I leave my phone at home and walk the dogs.
You’re a strong advocate for Food and Sustainability, how can you become more sustainable when it comes to food?
It is a huge issue and one that has many different avenues but I think having a better understanding of where our food comes from is a good place to start. Luckily for us, the supermarkets make this very easy by having to display the country of origin of their fresh produce. So, when you are in the supermarket, have a look at the label and maybe try to stick to produce that comes from the UK, or maybe, in winter, Europe. It’s such an easy way to really get to know a bit more about seasonal eating, and you’ll realise that the UK actually has a lot to offer, especially in summer.
People perceive moving to the countryside is when you want to settle down and relax at an older age. You proved this wrong by returning back from the corporate life to focus on growing fresh produce and cookery, is this something you want to influence more of for the younger generation?
I think yes, but more generally I would like to be able to influence younger generations to have a bit more confidence in a pursuing a career that they truly love! If that involves moving to the countryside, then I hope seeing my journey will inspire them to do something similar. I am very aware that I was very lucky to have a home in the countryside to go back to as I didn’t grow up in London, before I moved into my own cottage, so moving back in with my parents gave me some time to test the waters and figure out whether this was definitely what I wanted to do, not everyone has the opportunity. I hope that younger generations realise that there are so many different options when starting your career, and that city life isn’t for everyone.
What would you recommend for people living in the city who still want to grow fresh produce with limited space?
There’s so much you can grow indoors or on a really small balcony. Tomato or chilli plants are such a fun thing to grow because they are Mediterranean plants anyway so like the heat of a home (to an extent). I always recommend growing herbs on a windowsill or balcony because some herbs are very hardy (like rosemary, thyme, sage) and others like parsley and basil will grow really well in summer. I use multiple herbs every single day so they are something that’s really worth growing for me.
Your favourite plant-based recipe?
Lots of pasta sauces I make are accidentally plant-based, and they’re a great thing to make to to get lots of veg in but also cook something delicious. My go to at the moment is a Slow Cooked Aubergine and Tomato Sauce. Not to be this person but there’s a recipe for it on my Instagram if you wanted to check it out.
Squash Soup with crispy mushrooms
Squash is one of the most exciting vegetables to grow as they come in so many shapes and sizes. One of my favourite recipes is squash soup, seasoned with fresh herbs, Maldon Salt and topped with crispy mushrooms.
Ingredients: Serves 4
• 200g mushrooms
• 1 large butternut squash
• A handful of fresh thyme
• 2-3 cloves of garlic
• 3-4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
• 1300ml vegetable stock
• 1 x tin of chopped tomatoes (400g)
• 2 red onions
• A teaspoon of Maldon sea salt
– Pre-heat your oven to 220 °C. Start by taking the skins off the squash. The best way to do this is with a knife rather than a peeler.
– Chop up the squash into cubes and place on a baking tray with red onions and garlic cloves in their skins. Add thyme, a drizzle of olive oil and plenty of Maldon salt and pepper.
– Once the veg is soft, take the skins off the garlic and add to a pan with the squash, vegetable stock, a tin of chopped tomatoes and a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook for about 10 minutes and then blitz with a hand blender or food processor.
– Place the mushrooms on a lined baking tray with olive oil, season with salt and roast them until crispy. To serve, spoon the soup into bowls, add the mushrooms, pepper and a final sprinkle of Salt. Delicious.
Fermented food is great for your gut and this organic sauerkraut is such a treat to make and eat.
Ingredients: Makes 1 750ml jar
• 1 large white cabbage
• 2 tsp mustard seeds
• 2 tsp caraway seeds
• 1 large tablespoon of Maldon salt
– Chop the cabbage or put it through a mandolin, adding the spices or herbs of your choice. Put the cabbage into a mixing bowl and add Maldon.
– Massage the cabbage for about 3-5 minutes until moist. You should see liquid start to appear when you squeeze it. Salt plays a key role in the fermentation process, encouraging the growth of healthy bacteria whilst also killing off any bad bacteria.
– Sterilize a jar with boiling water and then fill the jar with the cabbage, pushing it down so that the sauerkraut has no air bubbles in it. Ideally you want the cabbage to be fully submerged in the liquid.
– Leave in your kitchen for at least 5 days. You can leave it for longer if you prefer a tangier flavour, but once open, be sure to store in the fridge.