What’s in the garden ?

Today it’s all about Rosemary. I think I’ve been inspired by my chat with Andy to find out a bit more about this gorgeously versatile Mediterranean herb.

Fragrant and feisty. This hardy herb is so easy to grow, and so useful in the kitchen.

Five facts about Rosemary

1.Wild Rosemary can be found on the cliff tops of Greece, France and Italy

2.Ancient Greeks believed that Rosemary could strengthen memory, a belief that persists today, with newspapers reporting record sales amongst keen students in 2016.

3.It is used in herbal medicine to cur baldness, toothache and headaches.

4. Rosemary is said to have been its name after a a story in which the Virgin Mary is said to have spread her blue cloak over a white-blossomed rosemary bush. When she removed it, the flowers had turned blue, which led to the shrub being know as  “Rose of Mary”.

5. Whilst it’s Mediterranean origins mean Rosemary is extremely drought resistant, careful watering is essential during the first year of growth, to allow the root system to mature.

Henry making sure the Rosemary supply doesn’t dry up !

We’re all familiar with Rosemary as part of our traditional roast dinner, but it has a host of other uses. Used creatively alongside unusual cuts, such as lamb belly it helps cut through the rich flavour of the lamb, giving a unique balance to the finished dish.  It also works in less traditional dishes, such as Moroccan braised lamb, combining complex layering of  Moroccan spices  and fragrant Rosemary gives an aromatic finesse, and showcases the marriage between Moorish and Mediterranean cuisine. One of my favourite ways to enjoy rosemary though is in a simple foccacia. For me it makes me think of long lazy lunches, holidays, and most importantly, sunshine.

Here’s the recipe, along with a photo of one I made earlier. I think it’s turned out quite well !

Fabulous Foccacia

Ingredients:

1kg Bread Flour/Strong flour                        1tbsp Virgin Olive oil

250g Potato mashed                                     5 Red Onions

15g Yeast                                                     6 Cloves garlic

750ml Water                                                 2oz Rosemary leaves

15g Salt

 

Method:

  1. Dilute yeast to paste with some water.
  2. Place flour, potato & salt in bowl
  3. Pour in wet ingredients and beat with a wooden spoon
  4. Cover dough and place in a warm area to rise – approx 1 hr
  1. When double in volume pour onto well oiled tray
  2. Slice 5 red onions and 6 cloves of garlic, sweat with 2oz of Rosemary leaves until tender
  3. When dough on tray has risen to about 1 inch in height tuck onion mixture into dough, sprinkle with salt flakes
  4. Bake at 185oC for approx 40 minutes

Good enough to eat !

 

 

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A chat with Andy Nicholls

Food is the cornerstone of the Hundred House. Not just any food though. Creative, yet comforting, the Hundred House kitchen produces an astonishing number of plates each week, covering all types of dining, from a memorable wedding feast to stylish lunch dishes that break up the monotony of the working week. I’m sure you are all familiar with the smiling face of  Stuart Phillips, but I thought you might like to find out a bit more about the rest of the super talented kitchen team. Here’s a little bit about our Head Chef, Andy Nicholls.

Head Chef Andy Nicholls,preparing for another busy lunch service.

HH When did you start working at the Hundred House?

AN When I was nineteen. I’ve been here for seven years now.

HH Was this your first job then?

AN No, I dreamt of being in the RAF, but sadly an ankle injury put paid to that. At the time, I was working part time in a kitchen, one night the chef phoned in sick, and they asked if I would step up. I did and I loved it!

HH What training have you had?

AN I spent two years at Radbrook in Shrewsbury. Part of my final year was a placement here at the Hundred House.

HH  Part of making the food at Hundred House so good is giving our chefs the opportunity to experience working in other restaurants. Which ones have you been to recently?

AN I spent a week at The Bell in Essex. As well as being incredibly busy, it is renowned for outstanding food. I worked on most sections from sauces to meat. My first lunchtime shift we did 65 covers!

HH  Wow! That’s throwing you in at the deep end! Are there any places that stand out?

AN  Coast at Saundersfoot in Pembrokeshire is a stunning place. They share a lot of our values too, using loads of local produce, and having great food in a relaxed atmosphere. It wasn’t a busy time of year, but I had loads of opportunity to learn some new techniques.

HH  Ooh, that sounds exciting !

AN  It was. I learnt a lot about how to bring the best out of our ingredients. My favourites  were freeze drying, which intensifies flavour and  I learnt about making jellies to capture the essence of a particular ingredient, really make it sing as part of a dish. Lots of pastry techniques too, and I learnt how to make the perfect Crème Brulee. Steaming, instead of oven baking means it has the smoothest, silkiest texture you can imagine. Everyone should come and try it, they’ll be amazed at the difference it makes.

Divinely silky dish of  loveliness. My favourite way to round off a meal.

HH What is the best thing about working at the Hundred House?

AN  I love all the seasonal ingredients I can get from the garden. All the herbs from classic rosemary for lamb, to the zesty flavour of sorrel; it’s all there! I love how busy we are, and the buzz from that. My favourite thing though is creating new dishes.

HH  Are any of your creation on the menu now?

AN  Yes, at the moment there is Trio of Beetroot, which is Beetroot carpaccio, beetroot puree and pickled beetroot, paired beautifully with a goat’s cheese bonbon, and peppery rocket from the herb garden.  I’ve also done a new take on our Shropshire Lamb, using a roasted cutlet, braised belly and sautéed kidney, along with the sweetness of a roast onion puree and a tarragon caper jus.

Andy loves being able to choose from such range of fresh herbs in our gardens.

HH  That sounds amazing!

AN  It is. I love creating new dishes, I have so many ideas, I just need to find the time.

HH I’d better let you get back to it . Thank you for telling us a bit more about everything though. I can’t wait to try that lamb !

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Sunflowers

Regular visitors to our Facebook page might remember our sunflower competition last year. Our lovely guests helped us raise two hundred and forty pounds for  The  Riding for the Disabled Association,  just by sponsoring a sunflower ! It was a tense time waiting to see who would be awarded the tasty prize of dinner for four, as well as the glory of having the tallest specimen if sunny loveliness.

Henry with last years contestants.

Henry with last years contestants.

The good news is, we’re doing it again! We have have planted out our seedlings this week, so keep your eyes peeled for our competition on Facebook.

So tall !

So tall !

If you fancy growing your own happy giants, then Libby has given us three key tips

Position

As the name suggests, Sunflowers need sun, and lots of it. Choose the sunniest spot in your garden, a minimum of six to eight hours a day will help them reach their potential.

Support

At the Hundred House, we plant our Sunflowers against the same wall each year. The wall gives them support, and keeps them sheltered, as well as absorbing the heat of the day to stimulate growth.They brighten the day of everyone who passes by!

Time

Sunflowers are at their best by the end of July. We planted ours out on 23rd of May, which means they grow an incredible 8-12 feet in a few months. Hard working wonders of the plant world!

Morning !

Morning !

Sunflower Facts

  • Sunflower is the only flower with the word “flower” in its name.
  • Leaving the seed heads will attract a range of birds to your garden, and provide them with food when insects and grubs are scarce.
  • They can be converted to scrubbing heads; once the birds have snaffled the seeds, the empty seed head makes and excellent pot scrubber.
  • They were cultivated in the Americas as far back as 3000 B.C., and exported to  Europe by Spanish conquistadors in the sixteenth century.
  • In the language of flowers, Sunflowers stand for faith, loyalty and adoration. Doesn’t that work beautifully with our ethos here at the Hundred House?

Remember to follow us to have a chance of sponsoring your own piece of the Hundred House garden. And winning a delicious dinner!

Find out more about our charity RDA here http://www.rda.org.uk/

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