A week ago today I hopped on a train at Clapham Junction and made my way down to beautiful Hampshire with its rolling hills and lush green fields. Together with a handful of vegan bloggers I was lucky enough to be allowed to explore picturesque Leckford Estate. This was all thanks to the generous people behind Waitrose and in honour of their #waitroseatsource campaign. The campaign is about eating local, organic, sustainable and seasonal food. In short, right up my alley :).
A DAY AT LECKFORD ESTATE
Our day started with a stroll through the flower nursery where these purple wall climbers caught my eye and kept whispering 'photograph us, photograph us', so I did :).
Next we were given access to the secret water garden, where I discovered this adorable little thatched studio. I kinda wanted to make it my own but alas lunch was calling meaning I had to put my grand plans on hold (for now...).
To ensure we didn't get lost on the 4000 acre Leckford estate, Waitrose signposted the path to our lunch venue by marking our route with little hanging bouquets, like the one you see below. We knew we'd arrived at our destination for the day when we saw THE loveliest of glamping teepees EVER. To add to the charm, Waitrose erected the teepee right by the lake. Talk about classy finishing touches!
Inside a long table, topped with countless seasonal flower bouquets and individualised menus (that calligraphy though) greeted us and got us all excited about the creative, fun and innovative 5-course gourmet vegan meal we were about to devour.
Chefs (SO talented) from Waitrose's Cookery School proudly started us off with little vegan arancini balls - so freakin' good! BTW I may or may not have had 3 times as many mushroom arancini as everyone else. But let's keep that on the downlow, shall we?
Waitrose rather cleverly hired a range of different backdrops for us to photograph the food on, though I felt the arancini were best captured the way we got to enjoy them: Al fresco with a human touch.
VEGAN MENU AT LECKFORD ESTATE
Our starter was the delightful courgette, spelt, and cumin fritter with parsley and cashew salad, Nasturtium emulsion and Leckford mushroom tuile. It hit the spot, let me tell you and with almost all the ingredients grown on the estate, you can imagine how fresh and flavoursome everything tasted. HEAVEN!
If the canape and starter didn't impress you then either
- There is something SERIOUSLY wrong with you or
- You're waiting for the two best dishes of the day to knock you off your feet.
If it's 2. I forgive you and can assure you that the main course was indeed the winning dish! Roasted cauliflower, savoury maple granola, pickled radish and lettuce puree. Pretty as a picture. Perfectly cooked. 10 out of 10!
The meal ended with the fluffiest of vegan coconut panna cottas served with a fennel, cherry, clementine, edible flowers and puffed quinoa salad. It's this dish I adapted for the home cook and which you can find the recipe for below.
Thank you so, so, SO much Waitrose for this beautiful day. Grateful and honoured to have been a part of this fabulous #waitroseatsource experience.
P.S. This blog post is sponsored but I TOTALLY stand behind every word I wrote. Cuz it's the truth :).
P.P.S. You too can visit Waitrose's Leckford Estate in Hampshire for the day or a weekend. Just check out their page to get the details. It's worth it ;).
P.P.P.S. The lovely Aine Carlin attended too. You can read her version of the day here.
SUMMER BERRY AND FENNEL SALAD WITH COCONUT YOGHURT
Right so there's no way I could recreate that light-as-air coconut panna cotta made by the masterminds at Waitrose Cookery School, but I feel my version is the quick and delicious cheat way of bringing the Leckford Estate vibe home. It's easy to put together and given an added 'local' touch by replacing the clementine with red currants. Hope you enjoy it.
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 5 minutes
3-4 tablespoons of quinoa (see below for paleo, grain-free option)
240g coconut yoghurt
150-200g fresh cherries (of various colours if possible)
1 baby fennel
a handful of fresh red currants
a drizzle of maple syrup
3-6 edible flowers to decorate (optional)
Heat a small pot over a medium-high heat until very hot. Add the quinoa, turn the heat down to medium, cover the pot and shake it. This way the quinoa will pop like popcorn (you can even hear it) without burning or sticking to the bottom of the pot. The quinoa should be ready within 5 minutes and when it is just remove it from the heat to stop the cooking process. Set aside in a little bowl.
Distribute the coconut yoghurt evenly. Wash the fennel, slice thinly with a mandolin and distribute on the 3 plates. Wash the fruit, slice some of the cherries and distribute evenly on the plates. Drizzle with maple syrup and top with edible flowers and the popped quinoa. DONE!
Tip 1: If you want to keep this grain-free, paleo and raw then replace the quinoa with black sesame seeds for crunch.
Tip 2: I kept the red currants on their branch for visual effect but for ease, serve them removed from their little branch.