If you came to our Edinburgh pop-up, you will have seen the Edinburgh Food Studio in action. Set up by chefs Ben Reade and his partner, Sashana Souza Zanella, an anthropologist and chef, this restaurant-cum-research centre is globally renowned gastronomic hub. Not just a restaurant – they also run their space as a research laboratory.
The Sustainable Larder
“The driving concept behind it is collaboration, creation and definitely, delicious food,” explains Sashana. “We wanted to forge new paths for Scotland and bring in guest chefs and showcase Scottish produce as much as we can.” But whilst their aim is clear, their path wasn’t always. Initially, they approached a couple of major funders – “who refused by saying food wasn’t creative”. So they did it themselves, opening a space dedicated to eating and collaboration.
It’s a long way from a traditional restaurant – sounding more like supper at Hogwarts meets Heston Blumenthal’s experimental kitchen. “It’s a pared-back dining experience. It’s a set menu, but everyone eats at the same time on two long communal tables.” There’s brunch, bread, on Sunday the focus is on “free styling” with the available ingredients. “Basically, keeping it moving.” They’re driven by their passion for sustainability, ethically-produced foods and personal relationships with producers.
But what can we do at home? Okay, we don’t have access to their expertise, recipes or gastronomic contacts, but we can change our shopping habits. Shashana suggests starting with “offal, off-cuts and halophytes (plants grown in or near salt water)” and the more familiar “grains, pulses and bitter greens”. The key is to reconsider how we shop: “The important thing here is to find out where good ingredients come from, support local fishmongers and farmers, get better quality ingredients and know what we’re eating, understand seasons and live that cycle along with food.”
If you want to make one small change in your larder, pop the following in your shopping basket: “Great quality anchovies, vinegars (homemade is good, too), cheeses, preserves, etc. They are all great for building up flavours when cooking and that’s what you want.” Just add grains and bitter greens.