This article and recipes from The Parsnipship appeared the in weekend supplement of The Western Mail on Saturday, April 6.
Spirit in the Pie
Having worked in restaurants all over the world for the last 20 years, Ben Moss has mastered a unique style of cooking which fuses together many ways of creating wonderful things from vegetables.
Ben and his team of chefs at The Parsnipship, spend the week hand-crafting gourmet vegetarian and vegan cuisine to sell at Farmers Markets, from their kitchens in Ogmore Vale. Their fayre includes pies, crumbles, soups, pâtés and hot dishes such as lasagne and gratin dauphinoise.
“I started baking cakes with my gran on the Isle of White, when I was eight years old. I then went on to cook at my parents’ hotel in Chamonix in the French Alps and worked with chefs in France and the UK.
“So I was always inspired by classical French cookery. I also lived in Edinburgh and became very influenced by the blending of Scottish and French Cuisine,” says Ben.
But his travels led him to discover many other ingredients and flavours from countries such as Thailand, India and Italy, which he now works together to create simple, yet pioneering vegetarian cuisine.
Ben began his career cooking and eating meat and fish every day. But when he was 28, life changed forever, after encountering a market in Indonesia, selling dead dog.
“It was one of the worst things I had ever seen,” says Ben. “That was the final straw for me with meat eating.”
“Up until recently, vegetarians and vegans were treated as second class citizens in the restaurant trade. Many chefs were so uninspired when cooking for them, just serving things made from leftovers. I was the same at some points in my career, but after I saw the light the whole thing changed for me. I wanted to make vegetarian and vegan food that tasted fantastic.”
So in 2007, Ben set up his first stall at The Riverside Market in Cardiff, selling five different varieties of vegetarian pies.
Their stalls now run regularly at markets at Riverside, Abergavenny, Cardiff St Mary’s Street, Cowbridge and Mumbles.
Favourite foods include The Glamorgan Crumble, Butternut Squash Lasagne, Shropshire Blue Cheese and Spinach Cakes and the Indian Summer Pie, which will soon be available to buy online.
“We have to make the ingredients sing and food that is inspiring,” adds Ben. “Food should be alive not dead. There is a sense of spirituality about vegetarianism, it’s part of finding yourself and trying to affect some sort of change through the quality of what you do.”
Ben’s favourite foods are homemade Chana Masala and Aubergine Curry with Chapati and their own Welsh Haggis with Leek.
The Parsnipship have a Cookery School hosting monthly courses, teaching people to cook seasonally, with produce they have grown and instinctively without recipes.
Smoky Lentil, Paprika and Tomato Soup
2 tbsp olive or rapeseed oil
1 large onion, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tins of tomatoes
250g brown lentils
1 heaped tbsp smoked paprika
1 heaped tbsp tomato purèe
1 level tbsp Marigold Swiss Vegetable Vegan Bouillon
2 pints water
Salt and pepper
1. Heat the oil in a heavy bottom saucepan and fry the onion and garlic. Scald the tomato purèe in the oil, to give an intensive flavour.
2. When the onions and garlic are turning brown, add the rest of the ingredients and simmer for 30-40 minutes.
3. When the lentils are cooked, whizz the soup with a hand blender and season. Serve with warm crusty bread or a dollop of crème fraîche and fresh coriander leaves.
Spinach and Potato Pakoras
2 mugs of gram flour (chickpea flour)
1 mug water
4 large baking potatoes, peeled, cooked and mashed
1 mug frozen spinach, defrosted and roughly chopped
1 tbsp nigella seeds
1 tbsp good quality curry powder
½ tsp turmeric
1 litre of sunflower or groundnut oil for deep frying
Salt and pepper
1. Add the mug of gram flour to the water and mix in a large bowl into a fairly thick batter.
2. Add in all the other ingredients apart from the oil and mix well. Season with salt and pepper.
3. Get oil to approximately 160 degrees and using two spoons, drop in golf ball size spoons of mixture.
4. When they are floating and golden brown, lift out with a slotted spoon onto kitchen paper and season. Check the pakoras are cooked in the middle and return to the oil if they need a little more frying.
Harissa Bean Pâté
Makes 1 large tin
1 tin of each of the following: kidney beans, butterbeans, chickpeas, lentils and cannellini beans
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 mugs water
1 tbsp Marigold Swiss Vegetable Vegan Bouillon
1 heaped tbsp Harissa or other spice blend
Juice and peel of 1 lemon (remove white pith)
Salt and pepper
1. Add all the ingredients to a pan and simmer for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
2. Whizz with a hand blender or in a food processor and turn into an oiled loaf tin. If the mixture is too wet, drain some of the liquid off.
3. Refrigerate before serving with warm crusty bread. The pate will keep for a week.