by Chris Ince

World Vegan Month

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Today marks the start of World Vegan Month, a celebration of how far veganism has come. Adopting and maintaining a plant-based diet can often be a challenge, which is why Chris Ince, Chef Director, has shared his insight into the adoption of veganism.

Throughout the month, we will also be sharing various plant-based recipes for inspiration, as many of us want to eat less meat but struggle to make the changes.

1 in 8 people now choose to follow a vegetarian or vegan diet. Many are completely happy with this choice, and they do it for ethical reasons, environmental ones, or for the much talked about health benefits.

For all the reasons previously mentioned, I really should eat less meat but changing an old habit can often be challenging. I’m not alone – many of us know that we have to approach things differently but need a bit of help.

Losing the labels is the first step. All too often these vegan dishes occupy a special place on the menu, usually somewhere near the bottom. Despite recent massive improvements in quality and efforts at re-branding to ‘plant-based’ food, the vegan option still hasn’t shaken off the stigma of being the food that plays second fiddle to the ‘hero’ meat dish. It needs to be brought into the mainstream offering.

Equally as important is not to change too much too quickly. As contract caterers we often say that our main competition is the high street – and yet we are not the high street. The key difference is that in many of our restaurants, we have served the same customers every breakfast and lunchtime for years. They won’t thank us for doing away with the buttermilk fried chicken and bringing in the new plant-based alternative overnight.

As with most things, incremental changes are a way to go. In many favourite dishes (soups, stir-fries, rice and noodle dishes), it’s entirely possible to replace some of the meat element with enhanced vegetable content. It’s not deception – we have to lose that mindset, it’s just a great nutritious plate of food. Although it’s not entirely meat-free, it’s lessening our reliance on animal protein, and that’s what we’re trying to achieve.

Most importantly, eating less meat requires catering companies and chef’s up and down the land to believe the message. It’s a fundamental cultural shift that needs to happen in many of our organisations. Those of us who have cooked for many years and consider ourselves ‘old school’ need to re-wire our brains and think differently. Delicious meat-free foods must be at the forefront of our concept developments by giving them pride of place in our restaurants.

Angel Hill at the Salon Culinaire 2017

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An exciting competition schedule throughout the year is always a key part of our training and development schedule at Angel Hill Food Co. The most committed chefs will always weave the undoubted extra workload into their already busy schedules, to make sure that they have the best possible chance of performing on the day. We’re lucky that our industry provides fantastic opportunities in that area for chefs of all levels, all ages and in all areas of foodservice. It’s also an opportunity for us to see first-hand the latest innovations and how we might introduce them into our business. We’re very lucky indeed to have chefs with the necessary work ethic to make the most of these opportunities.
IMG_3187Santosh Shetty, in his natural habitat

The Salon Culinaire (this year as part of the Great Hospitality show at the NEC) is one of the stand out events of the year. With its programme of ‘live’ finals and amazing static display categories, there really is representation from right across the industry and this is one of the reasons we’re always delighted to participate.

Make no bones about it, the judging is tough. It is to an agreed international standard that takes no account of reputation or past successes. However, we thrive on the ‘buzz’ of competition where the prospect of failure is very real and proper preparation is paramount.

This year, 5 chefs made it through to the ‘live’ finals and I’m delighted to say that every one came away with an award. Jose Lara in a Vegan challenge and Nathan Rees for pasta received merit awards. Santosh Shetty received a bronze medal in a category for lamb cookery and John Fleming and Kevan Mullen performed brilliantly to receive Silver medals and best in class for their efforts in a pairs competition sponsored by Churchill China. Great efforts all round and congratulations to all those chefs, especially as only Nathan had competed before in this very stressful environment.
John Fleming and Kevan Mullen, getting ready for battle.

What’s also very clear is that they cannot achieve this on their own. Jon Whittle was a great help, as always; liaising with sponsors, equipment suppliers and the salon itself to ensure that everything was as stress-free as possible for our chefs on the day. These chefs have busy kitchens to run and rely on the support of the rest of the onsite team, from the porters to the catering managers in order to prepare properly. Rhys and Matt have also been brilliant mentors, offering practical help and advice throughout the process. I’d like to thank all involved, I know that the chefs are extremely grateful.

So what now? Well it’s back to the day job with a bit more of a spring in the step and a few good ideas in the back pocket on how we can continue to improve our service day in, day out.
Jose Lara and Chris Ince
Santosh, competing
Jose’s merit-winning vegan dish

Recipe: Vietnamese stuffed squid and green papaya salad

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The spring festival or Chinese New Year falls on January 28th this year. It’s always been a good opportunity for caterers to put on a theme day, dress the unit up a bit and put on some great food that is perhaps rarely cooked at other times in the year. While this is always a great celebration and always popular with customers, those looking to change things up a little bit could do far worse than looking south and putting on a second theme day featuring the fascinating and beautiful cuisine of Vietnam.

Vietnamese cooking has several immediate benefits to the contract caterer. It’s light, full of flavour, healthy and simple to make. It also has the added benefit of being relatively un-explored in the contract world.
Vietnamese cooking has evolved over thousands of years. In addition to what was already happening inside its many regions, the influence of thousands of years of Chinese rule has can clearly be seen; chopsticks are widely used and stir frying is a frequently used technique. French colonial rule brought with it not only greater variety of ingredients but also some refinement in technique. Added to this are influences from Cambodia and the spices of India and you have a cuisine that is among the most sophisticated and delicate in the world.

The featured dish is a stuffed squid. It’s very quick to cook and full of great flavour and texture, with the noodles and finely chopped mushrooms holding the filling together. The green papaya salad is borrowed from Thai cookery, but it stands up to the bolder flavours of the dressing and is very refreshing when eaten as an accompaniment.

There isn’t a sauce or dressing with this dish but if you’d like one then some sweet chilli, water and a pinch of 5 spice once the squid has been cooked makes a good rudimentary pan sauce. Some sticky rice would be the best accompaniment.

Stuffed squid
10 large squid tubes (or more smaller ones) – cleaned dried and tentacles removed
500g minced pork
2 finely diced shallots
6 spring onions
Fish sauce, soy sauce
200g finely chopped mushrooms
300g glass noodles
1 finely chopped red chilli
3 cloves finely chopped garlic
Veg oil

Green papaya salad
600g green papaya (very finely shredded)
Thai basil
Fish sauce
Lime juice
Chopped red chilli
Handful cut cherry tomatoes


Sweat the shallots, garlic and chilli. Turn up the pan and brown the pork mince.

When the meat is cooked add the glass noodles, mushrooms, herbs, spring onion and seasonings to taste. Leave to cool.

Stuff the squid about ¾ full and secure the end with a cocktail stick. Poke a hole in one end so that the tubes don’t expand and burst.

Heat some veg oil and brown the squid all over. Cover with a lid and cook for a couple of minutes until cooked through. De-glaze, if you like, with some sweet chilli sauce, water and a pinch of 5 spice to drizzle over. Leave to rest before slicing.

For the dressing, put everything except the papaya, tomatoes and herbs into a bowl and pummel with the end of a rolling pin. When the balance of the dressing is about right, add the herbs.

When ready to serve, lightly dress the papaya and scatter in the tomatoes. Enjoy!

An Angel Hill Xmas: The Pud

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Ah, the Christmas Pud. Usually comes with the added danger of someone attempting to light it on fire (we do not endorse such behaviour). What better way to finish off a gargantuan meal than to tuck into a heavy pudding? Get it down you!

Christmas Pudding

150g Sultanas
150g Currants
150g Raisins
50g Mixed peel
50g Vegetable suet
1 Grated apple
150g Self raising flour
2tsp Mixed spice
100g Dark brown sugar
100g Minced dates
150g Fresh white breadcrumbs
1 Lemon, zested and juiced
3 Oranges, zested and juiced
3 Whole eggs
50ml Guinness
50ml Brandy
A 1.5L pudding base

Thoroughly mix all ingredients together then fill the greased pudding basin up to an inch from the rim, place a greased circle of parchment on top of the mix, then make sure the lid is on tightly and steam for 5 hours.

Christmas day
Put an upturned saucer in a deep saucepan, sit the pudding basin on top of the saucer and then fill the pan half full with boiling water. Cook for 1 hour. Serve and enjoy!

An Angel Hill Xmas: Spiced Sides

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The name of the game today is festive spice, what would Christmas be without loads of cinnamon and cloves? We shudder to think.

So there’s a warming Christmas drink, a spiced chutney and a delicious red cabbage dish to try (the cabbage goes fantastically well with roast duck, if you ask me). Enjoy!

Winter Warmer Drink


8 cinnamon sticks
8 bay leaves
4 star anise
20 cardamom pods
20 cloves
1lt cranberry juice
1lt orange juice
800g sugar
5 fresh oranges
3 fresh lemons


Zest the oranges and lemons, slice and place into a bowl. Mix all the other ingredients together and leave to infuse.

Christmas day

Place the winter warmer mixture into a pan and dilute with either water or red wine (or both) to taste. Bring to the boil and then remove from the heat, serve warm.

Spiced cranberry chutney


1 cinnamon stick
4 cloves
225g cranberries
1tbsp freshly grated root ginger
½ red onion
175g Demerara sugar
1 Grated zest and juice of an orange
200ml red wine vinegar


Place all the ingredients into a pan and bring up to simmering point and stir well. Continue simmering for about 45 minutes or until you can draw a wooden spoon across the surface and leave a trail that doesn’t fill up with the vinegar. Don’t forget, it will thicken as it cools, so don’t let it get too thick. Pour into a sterilised container and seal.

Red cabbage with apples and sultanas



35g unsalted butter
2no onions finely chopped
50g sultanas
2 cloves of garlic
1 red cabbage shredded
1tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/4tsp ground cinnamon
1/4tsp ground cloves
3tbsp dark brown sugar
3tbsp cider vinegar
2 bramley apples cored and cut into chunks
1 oranges zested and juiced

23rd December

Preheat the oven to 150c, melt the butter in a large oven dish and cook the onion and sultanas for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally until the onions have started to colour. Add the remaining ingredients, except the apples and orange zest, cover with a tight fitting lid. Place the oven dish into the oven and cook for 1 ½ hours stirring at half hour intervals. Remove from the oven, stir in the orange zest and the apples, then cook for a further 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool.

Christmas day

Reheat in a sauce pan for 15 minutes season and serve.

An Angel Hill Xmas: The Fowl

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Christmas Fowl

Bronze turkey has the best flavour. Choose a plump-looking bird and if you would like leftovers, allow 350g-450g per person for birds up to 4.5kg and 200g-350g for birds over 4.5kg.

Goose makes a rich-flavoured alternative to turkey. Choose a plump breasted bird. If stuffed, a 5-5.5kg goose will serve eight people. When roasting, drain off the excess fat at regular intervals and save for scrumptious roast potatoes cooked with rosemary and whole garlic cloves. Goose tastes wonderful when partnered with apple, prunes, sausagemeat or spiced red cabbage.

Grey-legged English partridge has a lovely delicate flavour. Allow one bird per person and roast, basting with lemony butter. Serve with game chips and watercress.

Pheasant is ideal for one or two people – roast two birds if you would like leftovers. Wipe clean before roasting, encase in a streaky bacon jacket and baste with butter. It is delicious eaten with bread sauce or fried breadcrumbs, clear gravy, apple and rowanberry, or redcurrant jelly.

Foolproof turkey


1 turkey (defrosted, if frozen)
1 lemon, cut into quarters
A large roasting pan of fresh herbs, such as rosemary, thyme and sage
40g unsalted butter, melted
Salt and freshly ground black pepper


Preheat the oven to 190°C, gas mark 5.
Wipe the turkey inside and out with kitchen roll, removing the giblets if it has them. Put the lemon and herbs inside the bird, weigh it, and calculate the cooking time (see below). Put the turkey in a sturdy roasting pan, brush with the butter and season well. Loosely cover with foil refrigerate.

Christmas day

Cook for the calculated time, basting now and then to prevent drying. Thirty minutes before the end of cooking, remove the foil so the bird can brown.

At the end of the cooking time, check if the bird is cooked and insert a skewer into the thickest part of the bird. If the juices run clear, the bird is cooked. If there is any pink in the juices, return the turkey to the oven for 15-20 minutes. Transfer the turkey to a hot serving plate and leave to stand for 15-30 minutes, covered with foil, before carving.

Sizes and Times

To calculate cooking time, allow 45 minutes per kg. The following is a good guide to the size of bird you’ll need:

2-2.8kg 5 servings
3-3.8kg 6 servings
4-4.8kg 8 servings
4.6-5.8kg 12 servings
6-6.8kg 14 servings
7-7.8kg 20 servings

It is very important to get your timings right; too long and you’ll end up with dry inedible turkey, too short and you’ll be giving the gift of food poisoning. But don’t worry, stick to the guide and you’ll be fine!

If you buy a frozen turkey, defrost it completely in a cool room, or the fridge. It is completely defrosted when the cavity is free of ice crystals. The following is a guide to minimum defrosting times in a cool room. Double the time for defrosting in the fridge.

2-4kg 20 hours
4-5kg 22-24hours
5-7kg 24-28hours
8-9kg 40-48hours

Turkey Tips
• Order your turkey as early as possible
• Make sure the turkey will fit in your oven before ordering it. A turkey of up to 7kg will generally fit into a standard main oven.
• If the turkey comes with giblets, use them to make stock for the gravy.
• If your fridge is too small to fit the turkey in, put it into a cardboard box with a couple of ice packs and keep in a cool, safe place such as a garage or shed.
• If you’re using a large bird, make sure the legs are not trussed too tightly or the cooking may take longer.
• Any leftover turkey should be refrigerated and eaten within 2 days. If you’re using it in a cooked dish, such as a curry, make sure it is thoroughly reheated, until piping hot.

Recipe: Maryland style crab cakes

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Maryland style crab cakes

It’s in the nature of cooks that while we’re using the best products of the season, we’re also looking ahead to what we can cook with next month, and the month after that, and possibly the month after that. From a personal perspective, May is the month that I anticipate most for one reason alone – we can start eating British crab again, something that continues right throughout the summer.

Crab should be avoided during the winter months as it is the breeding season. However, during the summer months, the meat is sweet and delicious, not to mention extremely versatile.

I know that most kitchens are hard pressed to make their margins and that Cornish brown crab might not be the first thing the chef thinks of when planning meals to send out at £3 a plate. But, if there was ever a product that still has a perception of luxury and that could feature as a tariff-busting, top line driving seasonal special, then perhaps crab is it.

Opinions vary on the best way to cook a crab. While the creature should be alive when you buy it, I believe it should be dead before it enters the pot. This means locating the small hole under the triangular flap on the underside of the crab and giving a screwdriver a sharp tap until it reaches the shell on the other side, then move it from side to side. Boil the crab in plenty of salted water for 15mins (for one that weighs up to 1kg). Rinse the crab off in cold water and leave to cool before going to work on extracting the meat.

The featured recipe is for Maryland crab cakes, a stunning delicacy. It’s really nothing more than white meat, loosely bound with a little egg and seasoned with English mustard powder, Worcester sauce and chopped parsley. Its most natural home in the contract environment might well be as a hot bite on a canapé menu, but consider it as part of a Friday fish offer on the mains counter. If served with a lightly toasted bun and a little dressed watercress, this would make the most delicious lunch.

Move over, the omnipresent ‘posh’ fish finger sandwich.

The brown meat also makes a brilliant lunch if spread on a thick slice of sourdough toast and served with a tomato salad.

You could of course buy packs of picked crab meat but the danger here is that the texture will be lost. What we are looking for is large nuggets of juicy sweet crab, barely held together. Not small shards of pasteurised meat bound up with too much filler to taste of anything. Best to talk to your fish supplier and see what they suggest.

Serves 10

  • 80g cream crackers
  • 800g white crab meat
  • 2 beaten eggs
  • 4tbsp mayonnaise
  • 2tbsp English mustard powder
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Chopped flat leaf parsley
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper


Put the crackers into a blender and blitz to a fine crumb. Add this to the picked crab meat and leave to absorb the moisture for an hour. Beat together the eggs, mustard powder, Worcestershire sauce and mayonnaise. Pour enough into the crab meat for it to bind together then add the seasonings, parsley and a little lemon juice. Fry in some foaming butter. Enjoy!