Beautiful Blueberries

Blueberries burst on to the British culinary scene around ten years ago, when sales of these little spheres of goodness overtook raspberries for the first time. Despite being introduced in to the UK in 1952, sales had remained at around 1000 tons per annum until around 2006, when they were discovered as a superfood. We now buy around 15000 tons a year. That’s quite an increase!

Freshly picked Blueberries bursting with possibility
©kam

Why should this be? Well  for a start they taste amazing, a mix of sweet and tart, and with something unmistakably, well, blueberry. They also have a shelf life that is much longer than our native berries, so they’re a popular choice for profit driven supermarkets. Blueberries are also incredibly versatile.  They are stunning on their own as a healthy snack and divine in a range of bakes, chutneys and savoury dishes. Oh, and did I mention that they’re a superfood? All in all, this little purple power pack is incredible.

Blueberry facts

  • Blueberries are native to North America. They did not arrive in Europe until the 1930s.
  • Blueberries contain Vitamin K which helps to build strong bones and ward off heart disease.
  • They may protect against memory loss
  • They can be used as a natural food dye. Legend has it that early American colonists boiled them with milk to make grey paint, according to the Produce for Better Health Foundation’s Fruits & Veggies More Matters campaign.
  • The perfect blueberry should be dusty in colour

Source http://www.wfafnj.org/the-gardens/childrens-garden/blueberry-bed/

Perfect blueberries, with their dusty colouring. Don’t wash this off until you’re ready to eat them.
©kam

 

Blueberries are used in many ways at the Hundred House. One of the most unusual is in our Smoked Duck dish. The blueberries take the place of more traditional fruit pairings, and fulfill the role of cutting through the richness of the succulent duck in a unique way. It really is a dish to devour, and a perfect lead in to autumn dining

Smoked Breast of Duck, Duck Croquette, Potato Puree, Blueberry Port Wine Sauce
A new flavour for the classic pairing of duck and fruit.

This gorgeous recipe features in the Made in Shropshire recipe book which showcases delicious food from around our beautiful county.

Apple smoked Duck with Duck Croquette roast beetroot, horseradish cream and rainbow chard

Duck Confit Croquettes

(Serves 6- 10)

2 Confit Duck Legs, approximately 600g

100g Button Mushrooms

2 Teaspoons fuinely chipped French shallots

2 tablespoons Olive oil

250ml whipped cream

1 teaspoon finely chopped chives

2 eggs

Plain flour, for dusting breadcrumbs, for coating vegetable oil, for deep frying

 

  • Preheat the oven to 210C (Gas 6-7).
  • Warm the duck legs in the oven for 2-3 minutes. Remove the skin and finely slice, then sweat in a small frying pan over medium heat, cooking until crisp. Remove and drain on a paper towel. Debone the legs and put the meat with a small glass of water in the frying pan. Cook slowly over low heat until the liquid has evaporated. Shred meat with fork and set aside.
  • Wash and finely chop the mushrooms. Place the olive oil in the frying pan with the shallots and cook until golden brown. Season generously and add the cream. Cook for 2-3 minutes, then pour into a bowl and set aside. Add the shredded duck meat, skin and chives to the mushroom mixture. Adjust seasoning to taste, cover and place in the fridge until cool.
  • Beat the eggs in a bowl. Lightly flour your hands then shape small amount of the duck and mushroom mixture into croquettes by rolling between the palms of your hands. Coat in the egg then roll in the breadcrumbs. Coat again in eggs and breadcrumbs. Place in the fridge.

 

Brine

2 Large White Onions, peeled and chopped

2 large carrots, peeled and chopped

½ head of celery, chopped

3 garlic bulbs, split, peeled and chopped

8 allspice berries

8 cloves

1 tablespoon coriander seeds

1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns

1 tablespoon fennel seeds

20g thyme

6 bay leaves

45g coffee beans

630g salt

220g sugar

5 litres of water

 

Duck Breast

  • Make the brine one day ahead. Sweat in a saucepan the vegetables and herbs together gently without colour for 15 minutes. Roasted the spices at 180c for 5 minutes in a tray. Add the herbs and spices, salt, sugar and water to the pan, bring to a simmer for 45 minutes, then chill
  • Pour the brine over the duck breasts and leave overnight in the fridge. Remove duck breast from liquid, pat dry with clean cloth then smoke over apple wood for 1.5 hours in a Bradley or similar style smoker

To Serve

  • Place duck breast, skins side down in a dry frying pan over a low heat. Then gentle heat will render the fat from the breast and brown the skin.
  • After a few minutes turn over and place in overn for 5- 8 minutes at 185C
  • Rest in a warm spot for at least 6 minutes. Meanwhile bake croquettes at 185C till golden
  • To serve cut croquettes in half and serve thinly sliced breast with roast beetroot, chard, potatoes puree, horseradish cream and duck jus

 

 

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Beautiful blooms

Our garden is one of our favourite things. It’s what makes us unique and we know that our guests love it too.  Whilst the glorious summer flowers are fading, we’ve just harvested the latest crops for creating our hanging herb posies. All the herbs and flowers that we use to decorate the Hundred House are grown, harvested and dried right here. Libby had just created some beautiful new arrangements, and we think they look stunning.

Helichrysum, and Love in a Mist
©kam

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Perfectly preserved
©kam

We’ve commissioned some gorgeous slate labels too, the heart shape gives a stylish retro feel.

The contrast between slate and delicate Angelica is beautiful
©kam

I love the vibrant purple of the Globe Thistle against the soft red brick.
©kam

 

Pop in soon to have a look and a bit to eat, everywhere is looking beautiful and of course the food is fantastic !

Ready for a lovely lunch
©kam

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Hollowdene Hens

 

Can you imagine how many eggs the Hundred House needs each week? As well being part of our delicious breakfast dishes, we use them in cakes, glazing pastries, sauces, side dishes, you name it, eggs are involved in the kitchen every single day. As you know, we really care about where our ingredients come from and whilst we like to use as much of our own produce as possible, space and time mean we source our some of our ingredients from local suppliers.Over the next few months I’ll be finding out about many of our suppliers and the essential egg seemed like a great place to  start. Peter Jarvis, owner of Hollowdene Hens was kind enough to answer some questions and take some fab poultry pics!

Happy hens mean tasty eggs

HH What can you tell us about Hollowdene Hens?

PJ I’m a former dairy farmer, and went into free range egg production just over 10 years ago. We run 3 separate flocks of about 2000 birds in each. This gives us a continuous supply of varying size eggs. Each flock is re stocked about every 15 months. Effectively this means we are re stocking one flock every 5 months.

HH Why are free range eggs better than other methods?

PJ The hens have the freedom to go out during day light every day. Judging by the speed they rush out every morning, this is something they truly enjoy. I haven’t said much about caged hens. Clearly, they are easier to manage, they eat less (therefore it’s cheaper to produce eggs) due to lack of exercise, but they have no life, other than that of a prisoner.

Here’s to happy hens !

HH What do you enjoy about your job?

PJ   For me, this is a very enjoyable job, although the down side is, it is truly 24/7, 365 days a year. Days off are few and far between.

HH Can the public buy your eggs?

PJ Our eggs are used in many top hotels and restaurants in the Shrewsbury / Telford area and can be bought in many independent shops in this area too. Under the Hollowdene hen’s logo.

HH Finally, do you have a favourite hen?

PJ the two resident cockerels are the only ones we have named. Colin and Stanley! Pictures attached. Stanley is the one posing in the back of the van, next to the egg boxes.

Stanley the Cockerel

 

Free range eggs not only taste better, they really do come from hens that have had happy lives. Thank you Peter for telling us a bit more about Hollowdene Hens, and for taking the smashing photos.  I’m pretty sure Stanley will be ready for a modelling career soon !

Colin the Cockerel

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What’s in the garden ? Edible flowers

As promised, here’s a bit more the best value members of the garden, edible flowers. These guys really earn their keep!  Looking good and tasting great is no mean feat. Having the combination of beautiful gardens and great food really makes the Hundred House special, and it’s great to be able to share some of that with you.

Lavender 
©KAM

First up, Lavender; we’ve seen it used with varying success, it’s been the downfall of more than one contestant on a certain British Baking contest. Use with care, it gives a unique flavour to desserts, can be used to create flavoured honey, sugar and vinegars, and the sprigs complement pork, lamb and chicken. It has a mass of health benefits too, being renowned for helping us to sleep, and soothe anxiety, as well as aiding digestion.

Mix 1kg of caster sugar with 2tsp lavender to make lavender sugar, sprinkle over freshly baked shortbread for a sweet treat.

 

 

One of the nicest ways to use it is in a delicate dessert this adaptation of our classic Panna cotta is a glorious end to a summer meal.

Lavender Panna cotta

For the lavender flowers

225ml/8fl oz. water

100g/3½oz caster sugar

handful lavender flowers

For the panna cotta

  • 625ml whole milk
  • 170ml pouring cream
  • 125g superfine sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped
  • 6 gelatine leaves

 

 

Method

To prepare the lavender flowers

Heat the water and caster sugar together in a pan.

Stir until the sugar melts. Boil gently so the liquid reduces a little.

Remove from the heat, and allow to cool.

Once cooled, add the lavender flowers to the pan.

Allow to steep, to create a delicate lavender syrup. After a few of hours, remove the lavender and allow to dry. Keep them to decorate the panna cotta.

To make the Panna Cotta

  • Mix milk, cream, sugar, cardamom and vanilla bean & seeds in saucepan over medium heat
  • Bring it to boil then reduce to simmer for 10 minutes
  • Soak gelatine in cold water for 5 minutes until soft then squeeze the excess water out. Add them to milk mixture until combined.
  • Remove from heat & pass through a fine sieve into clean jug
  • Pour into cups and refrigerate overnight
  • Turn the panna cotta out onto individual serving plates and drizzle the lavender syrup over them. Decorate with the crystallised lavender flowers.
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What’s in the garden ? Edible flower special .

Flowers have been used to decorate and add diversity to food for centuries. The idea of pepping up your salad with a few petals is having a resurgence, and the use of edible flowers is booming.

At the Hundred House, we use them in many ways, not least to decorate our desserts. Time to drool over this delicious Sticky Toffee Pod!

 

Decoration aside, are so many more ways that flowers can be used to give a real sparkle to our ingredients. One of the stars of the edible flower world is the humble Nasturtium.

Nasturtium
©KAM

These plants are so amazing. They look stunning, are the best companion plants for brassicas, feed bees, hoverflies and a host of other pollinators, are incredibly easy to grow, and give an exciting peppery note to salads and pasta dishes. They grow brilliantly in pots too, so no excuses not to have a little crop next year!

As well as using as garnish, or in salads, try this recipe for Nasturtium Pesto. It’s stunning used to dress your favourite pasta, or as a garnish for a simple risotto.

Ingredients

2 generous handfuls nasturtium leaves

100g toasted pine nuts

4 cloves garlic (or

200 ml olive oil

100g freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Blitz everything up, grate in the parmesan, then drizzle the olive oil to thin the paste , check for seasoning, and enjoy .

Growing Nasturtiums

If you fancy growing your own Nasturtiums for next year, they are super easy. It was the first plant my Dad taught me to grow, probably because he knew they always worked!

Nasturtiums grow beautifully in hanging baskets
©KAM

How to grow Nasturtiums in pots

Get a pack of your favourite variety. I like Tom Thumb and Empress of India. Dwarf varieties are best for pots.

After all danger of frost has passed, sown them directly into your chosen pot, or hanging basket. Just scatter a handful over the surface and rake so they’re lightly covered with soil.  Keep the soil moist whilst they are germinating, and as they grow, then just let them do their thing!

Keeping your nasturtiums happy

  • Nasturtiums prefer poor soil, so don’t feed them. If you do, you’ll get the most tremendous leaves, but very few flowers.
  • Keep them damp. A proper soak once a week should be enough, unless the weather is dry.
  • They can get infested with blackfly. Resist the urge to use chemicals! Removing the aphids by hand is the most effective way, or lightly spraying with a soap solution.
  • They are a magnet for caterpillars, specifically cabbage whites. This is great news if you are growing brassicas, because it distracts them form your lovely veggies, but not such great news if you’re growing them to look pretty. Picking them off by hand is the only option, but be quick, they can decimate a crop in hours. If you don’t make it in time, it is quite cute watching them munch away.
  • As with all annuals, the more you pick, the more they flower, so use them in the kitchen, and the make a cut flower too. When they’re coming to the end of their season, collect the seeds, let them dry, and voila, nasturtiums next year too!

Bright and beautiful, I adore nasturtiums.
©KAM

I’ve found out so much about edible flowers there will be a few more posts popping up over the next few weeks. Don’t forget to subscribe by pressing the little green envelope at the end of this post .

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Extra special guests

Here at the Hundred House we don’t just create a fabulously relaxing environment for our human guests to enjoy, we’ve become quite popular with the local wildlife too!  Our head gardener Libby found these little fellows a few days ago. They’re quite small, so we think they may be young that have been orphaned. Obviously, we didn’t want to get too involved, in case Mum was around, and was put off by our interfering, but they did look terribly vulnerable.

 

Libby decided to make somewhere warm, and safe for them using one of her gardening trugs and some straw borrowed from Donk the donkey. We also put out some cat food for them to eat (the old bread and milk thing is a myth, hedgehogs need protein), and kept a distant, but watchful eye on them.

 

Cosy and safe

As the days went by, there was no sign of any other hedgehogs, and it did seem that these chaps were on their own.  They were looking quite poorly, and we made the decision to take them to Cuan Wildlife Rescue, who are the only twenty-four-hour rescue in Shropshire. The team at Cuan are amazing people, and are experts in caring for all kinds of wildlife, as well as being experienced in Hedgehog rehabilitation. We checked up on our little hogs last week, and all is going well, and they will be back in the wild as soon as they are ready.

On his way to Cuan Wildlife Rescue.
Thanks to Denise Purnell for the photo !

Some hedgehog facts

  1. Hedgehogs are known by several different names. Their scientific name is Erinaceinae, in Lincolnshire they are known as Hotchin, and West Country folk refer to them as Furze-pig.
  2. They live for between two and five years
  3. Hedgehogs have about 5000 spines. After a year each spine will drop out, and be replaced by a new one.
  4. They weigh less than a bag of sugar!
  5. Hedgehogs make a variety of sounds. When they are happy they purr, a courting pair will be heard making chirping or squeaking noises, and an angry, or fed up hedgehog will click or hiss at you!

 

What to do if you find a hedgehog in your garden

Hedgehogs are endangered. Research shows they have declined by 30% in the last ten years. There are less than a million left in the u.k.

How can you help?

  • Think about alternatives to slug pellets. They’re great at killing slugs, but also great at killing other wildlife. Eating a slug that has been killed by chemicals will kill a hedgehog. The best alternative I’ve found is marmite!
  • Create a hedgehog house. Just a simple space with warm bedding and away from people will give them somewhere to rest during the day, so they are ready to forage at night. Something with more shelter will give them somewhere safe to hibernate over winter.
  • Put out supplementary food and water. This is especially important when the weather is dry, and their normal food may be in short supply. You can try cat or dog food, or dried fruit. Just avoid the bread and milk!

More information can be found at

https://ww2.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/bird-and-wildlife-guides/gardening-for-wildlife/homes-for-hedgehogs/

You can read more about the work that Cuan Wildlife Rescue do on their web page http://www.cuanwildliferescue.org.uk/

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What’s in the garden ?

 

We’re getting near harvest time. More and more goodies are showing off their colour, fragrance and flavour on our menu. To see what I mean, take a look at our black pudding and chorizo stack.

Tangy and earthy, and just look at those gorgeous tomatoes !

Contrasting dark, rich black pudding with the tang of apple and the clean taste of a fresh garden salad makes a glorious starter, of a deliciously indulgent lunch. And there is very little better than an indulgent lunch ! Our tomatoes are becoming more and more abundant, and filling our menu with their luscious taste of summer.

For a slightly more virtuous option, caulifowers and cabbages are in full swing.As well as being fabulous side dishes, these humble vegetables really shine when placed in the centre stage. Our Cream of Cauliflower soup embodies the concept of simplicity, and it does it perfectly. With the way the weather has been this summer, I have to to say a tasty bowl of smooth, delicate loveliness has been quite tempting.

Smooth and delicately delicious.

Finally, although not strictly in our garden, we have a fabulous dish that showcases that most Mediterranean of vegetables, the Aubergine. Shiny, deepest purple, and with a mild taste that responds beautifully to other flavours, this vegetable is at it’s very best now. It packs host of nutritional benefits. As well as being an excellent source of  dietary fibre, they are also a good source of vitamins B1 (good for nerve, muscle and heart function) and B6 (helps produce serotonin) and potassium (for healthy digestive function). Sounds pretty good to me !

We pair it with chickpeas as part of our Mezze, which it makes a glorious starter, or as part of a grazing platter to enjoy with a glass of wine.

I also like to sneak a bit of it for a healthy lunch. There aren’t many things that are this tasty, and this good for you ! Here’s a recipe for you to have a try.

Chickpea and Aubergine salad

Serve as part of a mezze platter, or as lovely lunch.

Ingredients

1tbsp Ground Cumin

250g Dried Chickpeas

2 Aubergines

2 Onions, thinly sliced

4 Cloves of Garlic, finely sliced

Juice and zest of   one Lemon

200ml Yogurt

 

  1. Pre-soak chickpeas overnight. Place them in a pan with 3x their volume of water, 1 onion, 1 carrot and a bay leaf.
  2. Sweat the sliced onion in olive oil with ground Cumin and sliced Garlic until tender.
  3. Sauté the aubergine slices in olive oil until tender and golden.
  4. Add the aubergine & drained chickpeas to the onions.
  5. Add yogurt and season to taste with raw garlic, salt, pepper and lemon.

Enjoy !

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A chat with Sheila

Sheila is a  hard lady to pin down. Creating gorgeous desserts for out restaurant is no ten minute task ! I managed to have a chat with her whilst she was preparing today’s collection of sweet treats.

Sheila hardly ever stops !

HH  Hi Sheila, first of all,can you tell me how long you’ve worked a the Hundred House?

Sheila I’ve been here since the very start. We opened for business way back in 1985.

HH And did you always do desserts ?

Sheila No, I started off doing other bits and pieces, but I discovered I really love doing desserts. I started doing more and more, and now I’m the resident specialist !

HH What do you enjoy most about your job ?

Sheila I just love pleasing people.

HH If you had to choose, what would be your favourite dessert ?

Sheila There are so many, but if I had to pick one, it would be my double chocolate mousse.

HH Oh, that is a fabulous one.Thanks so much Sheila.

Well, the phrase short but sweet springs to mind. Sheila is a busy (and incredibly talented) lady. Luckily she manage to find time to dig out the recipe for her favourite double chocolate mousse. Enjoy !

 

Double Chocolate Mousse

Ingredients

175g  good quality White Chocolate

175g good quality dark chocolate

500ml double cream

2 leaves gelatine

2 whole eggs

2 egg yolks

Method.

First make the white chocolate mousse

Place 175g white chocolate in a steel bowl over steaming water and melt.

Whip 250ml double cream until thick.

Soak 1 leaf of gelatine in cold water for 1 minute.

Whip 1 egg and 1 egg yolk & ½ tbsp sugar over a steaming pan in to a sabayon.

Add gelatine to the sabayon and whisk until dissolved.

Fold the sabayon in to the chocolate, followed by the cream.

Place in to a piping bag and chill briefly.

 

Then repeat the process to  make another mousse using the dark chocolate

 

Pipe the dark chocolate mousse in to 1 inch dariole moulds. Fill 2/3 full.

Place the nozzle of the white chocolate mousse in to the centre of the dark chocolate & pipe enough to fill the mould.

Chill overnight. To remove the  dariole moulds place them under a warm tap and run a small knife round the top edgeTap out on to plate and garnish with seasonal fruit and edible flowers. 

The perfect end to a luscious lunch.

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Sheila’s puddings

Regular diners at the Hundred House will be familiar with the delightful desserts whipped up by Sheila. She has been part of the Hundred House since it opened, and it’s fair to say her creations are a mainstay of our menus.

I’m hoping to get some time to chat to Sheila later in the week, but in the meantime, here’s a recipe that makes the most of that delicious jam from our last post.

Squidgy,almondy jammy…..what’s not to love

Bakewell Tart

Ingredients:

1lb soft butter
1lb Caster Sugar
8 eggs
14oz ground almonds mixed with 2oz Plain Flour
2 tsp almond essence
4oz Icing Sugar

Raspberry Jam

Method

1)     Whisk caster sugar into butter until creamy

2)     Add 1 egg at a time and whisk into butter mix being careful not to split mix. After 4 eggs add ¼ of the almond flour mix

3)     Add the other 4 eggs one at a time and gently fold in the rest of the almond mix.

 

To make the tart-

1)     Line moulds or flan dish with sweet pastry and blind bake briefly.

2)     Spread base with raspberry jam then top with almond mix and bake for 15-25 minutes at 185°c

3)     Allow to cool then dress with icing sugar mixed to a light paste with water

Where’s my spoon ?

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Fabulous fruit

We’re at peak soft fruit scrumptiousness now. Strawberries and raspberries are nearing perfection, and we have blackberries and blueberries still to come, and gently ease us into autumn.

Ready for picking

So many possibilities. Although I might just snaffle a few now .

Obviously,(and somewhat bizarrely), it’s possible to get these goodies in December, but why would you want to? There is something so special about the fragrance and flavour, of these seasonal specialities, they seem to sum up British summer perfectly. Not only does it just feel right, (I’m thinking lazy afternoons in dappled sunshine, big bowls of fruit and cream. Tennis optional), it tastes right too. And of course, after the season is over, a perfect pot of jam proves a gorgeous memory, and a fabulous ingredient for your favourite dessert.

The perfect way to preserve summer.

 

Raspberry Jam is one of the easiest for the novice jam maker. If you’re lucky enough to find yourself with a home grown glut, or if your local farm shop has a few bargains, give this recipe a try. It’s a splendid summery memory for an autumn morning. Or  indeed a winter afternoon. Happy jamming, and check back soon for a gorgeous recipe that will showcase your new creation.

Rather Delicious Raspberry Jam

Before you start, make sure you have enough sterilised jars. This recipe makes 800g,  enough for 2-3 average size jars.

Ingredients

500g raspberries
400g jam sugar
Finely grated zest and juice 1 lemon

Method

1. Put the raspberries in a large saucepan. Heat them gently, until they start to soften, and the juices start to run. Use the edge of a wooden spoon to break the raspberries up.

2. Stir in the sugar and lemon zest and juice. Heat gently until the sugar dissolves, stirring frequently.

2 Bring the mixture to the boil and boil for about 5-6 minutes until setting point is reached. See below for how to test for setting point.If necessary, boil the jam a little longer.

3. Ladle the jam into your sterilised jars,  cover with waxed discs and lids. Label and store for up to 12 months. Mine never lasts that long !

Cook’s tips

How to prepare and sterilise your jam jars

Soak off any old labels and wash thoroughly.

Sterilise  the jars by placing them in the oven at 140°C/120° fan/gas mark 2, for 20 minutes.

How to test for setting point

Once you think setting point has been reached remove the pan from the heat. Make sure you use your oven gloves ! Next, using a spoon, transfer some of the boiling preserve from the pan to a cold saucer or plate, which has been chilled in a fridge.

Allow the preserve to cool then push it using your forefinger. If the preserve has reached setting point then it will wrinkle. If you only see a few wrinkles appear then the setting point has not been reached. Return the pan to the heat and continue to boil for another 1-2 minutes and then repeat the testing process.

Prepare jam jars before you start making the jam. Soak off old labels and wash thoroughly. Sterilise by placing the clean jars in the oven at 150°C, gas mark 2, for 20 minutes.

With grateful thanks to Hannah Bufton for the smashing photos .

 

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