Forgotten Cuts: nose-to-tail food for thought
When hunger hits on a Wednesday, head down to the Open Market and walk through the gates from London Road. There, right in front of you, will appear a stall, adorned with flowers and gold, and in big, bold fonts you will see the sign: Forgotten Cuts. There Ellie Ledden, chef, butcher, foodie, mother, and hungry-person-feeder will tell you all about her seasonal, local, ethical, and delicious dishes of the day. Her ever-changing menu is something to look forward to and it would be a shame for you not to treat your tastebuds for a mid-week celebration. Hoping that you enjoy our interview as much as we enjoyed her food, we leave you with Ellie Ledden.
I fell into cooking quite by accident after a wayward start at university. At 19 years of age, I was more committed to partying rather than studying and I was kicked out of my Drama & English course and in need of a job. This started in a sandwich shop in Leeds where I quickly began to find a flair in the creation of flavours. I moved to Nottingham (for a boy) and decided to apply for a job in a kitchen. I found a commis chef position and was in awe of the fast moving, skilled, creative buzz of a busy kitchen. I was hooked. From the age of 22, I began to travel and seek out some inspiring chefs to work under. I wanted to cook like the best. A few head chef jobs along the way and more travelling through Ibiza, Asia & Australia to work in Perth, Sydney and on a boat in the Whitsundays. I settled in Manchester for a few years to work for John Molnar (Savoy & Moleface Pubs) before returning to Brighton to work at the helm of the pioneering Due South and then as head chef of the Sussex Yeoman where I started my sausage business, Ellesbelles (now defunct).
Who/what inspired you to cook the way you do? Any plans to open a restaurant or do you not enjoy being tied down?
None of this would’ve been possible if it wasn’t for my brother, Toby Ledden, my wingman. I couldn’t have done any of what I did without him so first and foremost I would like to thank him for his love and support. In terms of inspiration, Chef Fergus Henderson has always been a huge inspiration to me and St John Bread & Wine in Spitalfields, which is a favourite haunt of mine. But it was Ricky Hodgson, former head chef & part owner of Due South that began the inspiration for butchery and cooking with the seasons. We would often be given a lamb on the kitchen bench at 5pm to butcher and prep for the 100 covers booked that evening. It was a baptism of fire and a fast learning curve. I am completely inspired now by the produce of Sussex, the countryside, its shores and seasons. I would never consider cooking any other way. Having worked in restaurants for 12 years, been a chef for 16, and now with a small boy, I am very happy with my own part-time business and not being anchored down to a 90-hour week. However, in the years to come, never say never.
Do you cook the things that you personally love and eat or do you alter flavours and recipes to appeal more to the “masses”? Is there a signature dish?
Forgotten Cuts began as an idea with a friend and farmer with a herd of organic cows down in Dartmoor. We wanted to set up a street food business but ethically it felt wrong to just use ‘prime’ cuts of meat. I wanted to use the whole beast, nose to tail. We began by using what was left over, which was a lot of ox cheek. Now, we use whole animals from local farms and wild game shot around the local area. My signature dish on the stall is slow roasted lamb breast cooked with anchovies, garlic & rosemary. It has become a firm local’s favourite. I cook the food that I love to eat and think we should be eating. I steer clear of anything processed and only use grass fed, organic meat and local produce. It’s a way of life for me and my son. Real food and real flavours. Eating to live and living to eat.
Initially, when Forgotten Cuts began, I was travelling up to London a lot, doing events at Borough Market, Soho Market, and had a regular pitch in Broadway Market. The travelling proved way too time consuming as a single mum with a small child and really I wanted to be in Brighton, cooking in my town, keeping the food miles to a minimum. I have been a regular stall holder with Street Diner for over a year now, with a Friday slot at the Brighthelm centre and now at The Open market on London Road. I cater for private events too, such as parties, weddings, and enjoy doing pop up nights around Brighton.
What do you think of the food scene in Brighton?
I think the food scene in Brighton has soared recently. I was away living on a mountain in Wales for a year and came back two years ago. In that time, Brighton has seen the opening of a very high standard of restaurants including 64 degrees and The Coal Shed. There are now a high number of places to pick from and this I believe is a relatively recent development, putting Brighton firmly on the foodie map and it feels exciting to be a chef and foodie in Brighton right now.
I feel the recent meat scare is a typical example of scare mongering to the masses. It has been common knowledge for many years that eating processed meats full of additives and nitrates is high on the list of cancerous foods. This way of curing meats has always been an enjoyable way to eat and preserve meat and in my opinion, should be a real treat and sourced sensibly.
We should only be eating meat a couple of times a week. Statistics of our growing population and the food needed to maintain it are terrifically scary. If our meat consumption is kept to a minimum, there may be hope.
Buying meat. Are butchers better or can we trust the supermarkets?
I would always give serious consideration to where your meat is from. Butchers aren’t always best, you need to question the provenance. Any good butcher worth his salt will gladly tell you all about the meat he has, where it’s from and the farms it comes from. Try and buy grass fed. There have been numerous studies and research done on the provenance and real quality of supermarket meat. Waitrose at the moment has very high standards of welfare.
As a chef, I take great pleasure in producing gorgeous vegetarian meals. For me, it is about the flavours packing a punch, the ‘umami’ experience. It can be from meat, fish or vegetables. I am currently known for our very meaty dishes, only because I was looking for a niche in the street food market. I will always diversify in my pop ups and supper clubs. That is where I get to play with food and get even more creative.
Any advice to the amateur chef at home?
We should be thinking about the food we buy; it should be in season, local, and as unprocessed as possible. For dairy, choose organic and full fat. Low fat products are full of sugars and sweeteners, while non-organic milk is full of hormones and nasty antibiotics. Ask the butcher, grocer, or farmer where your food comes from. This is not to dismiss the value of the supermarket staple. It is about buying what you can afford but keeping the food as ‘real’ as it possibly can be. Buy quality ingredients that speak for themselves. Be inspired by your favourite cookbooks but don’t be afraid to chuck in some artistic license. Your body & mind will thank you for it.
If you would like to get in touch with Ellie or have a bite from Forgotten Cuts, you can find Forgotten Cuts at, Street Diner at Brighton Open Market: Every Wednesday 11-3pm & Brighthelm Gardens (certain Fridays throughout winter) 11-3pm.
Other markets and pop ups all advertised through Twitter; @forgottencutsco, Facebook; The Forgotten Cuts Company Instagram; forgottencutsco. To get in touch with Ellie, email email@example.com