At Chris Hruskova’s East London bakery, however, there are piles of straw everywhere: strewn across worktops, bulging out of bowls and even baking in the oven (Chris with Sarah Rainey)
- At Chris Hruskova’s East London bakery there are piles of Hay everywhere
- Chris, a Michelin-starred chef, said it’s all in the name of a new food trend
- Cookery experts across the country are using hay to flavour cuts of meat
Stables, rabbit hutches, pigsties … all places you would expect to find hay. But on the kitchen table? Not really.
At Chris Hruskova’s East London bakery, however, there are piles of the stuff everywhere: strewn across worktops, bulging out of bowls and even baking in the oven.
It looks — and smells — more like a farmyard than a professional kitchen.
But Chris, a Michelin-starred chef, assures me it’s all in the name of a new trend which is taking the food world by storm.
Cookery experts across the country are using hay — yes, bog-standard dried grass — to flavour cuts of meat, fish, vegetables and even desserts.
As a food writer, I’ve trialled my fair share of weird and wonderful gastronomic fads over the years — from baking cakes with kale to cooking with insect flour. But this is up there with the strangest.
‘It sounds a little odd if you’ve never tried it before,’ admits Chris, a Danish culinary whizz who has been cooking with hay for more than a decade.
‘But it’s a very versatile ingredient and it gives a lovely mellow, nutty flavour. They’ve been using it in Scandinavia for hundreds of years.’
Cooking with hay dates back as far as the 8th century, when Vikings used dried grass and leaves from birch trees to smoke and preserve meat and fish.
By the 11th century, the Normans were wrapping wild boar in hay to add flavour, before slow-roasting it in a fire pit.
But it would be many centuries before the humble haystack made its debut in modern European cookery, popping up at cutting-edge Copenhagen restaurant Noma in the form of hay-infused butter and hay parfait, in 2010.
Chris put it on the menu at North Road, his former Michelin-starred restaurant in North London, offering diners venison rolled in burnt hay, roast pork wrapped in hay and, his most madcap invention to date, hay ice cream.
‘Recently chefs have started looking back at their heritage and rediscovering all sorts of wonderful techniques.
But Chris, a Michelin-starred chef, assures me it’s all in the name of a new trend which is taking the food world by storm (pictured with Sarah Rainey)
Using hay is one of them,’ he says. ‘It’s a natural accompaniment to meat — many animals spend their lives rolling in it — and it’s a surprising, pleasant addition to sweet dishes.’
Today, in the kitchen of his new bakery venture, The Bread Station in East London, he’s teaching me to channel my inner Viking.
First up, the hay itself (dried grass); not to be confused with straw (dried stalks of wheat).
To my horror, it comes in an enormous plastic bag with a picture of a rabbit on the front — and Chris confirms all my worst suspicions.
‘I got this from the pet shop,’ he says. ‘When I first started using hay, I bought it from a forager, which cost a lot of money.