Asparagus,asparagus, asparagus.

To me, there is nothing that says British summer more clearly than Asparagus. I imagine it says it in a rather nice, Joanna Lumley type accent too. It’s hard to describe the flavour; fresh, grassy, a faint hint of lemon, and then something that is uniquely Asparagus. I must confess I am a little in love with this little green spear of goodness.

Asparagus-blog-1

 

The asparagus you can experience at the Hundred House has an excellent pedigree, having been grown on Lodge Farm, part of the beautiful Dudmaston Estate, a mere five miles from the Hundred House. Like most of our suppliers, they are a family business, and specialists in what they do. Is it any wonder their produce tastes so wonderful? Add in the bittersweet brevity of the season, and you truly have a dish for a king. And a queen, of course.

Perfection

Perfect

 

Five facts about Asparagus

  1. It can protect your liver. The minerals and amino acids actually help to breakdown alcohol, giving you liver an easier time. Perfect for the start of a long,lazy lunch.
  2. It’s packed with antioxidants, so it can help you retain your youthful good looks.
  3. The official season is from 23rd April to 24th June; it goes past it’s best in heat of summer. Don’t be fooled by unseasonal imitations !
  4. It can be green, purple or white, all with subtly different flavours
  5. It is one of the loveliest things you can eat. *

*this may not strictly be a fact. But it is a jolly nice thing.

And finally (although I could write for days about this little green wonder), a stunner of a recipe, from the Hundred House kitchen

Mezze of Lodge Farm Grilled Asparagus, Beetroot Borrani, with Feta, pickled garlic and Olives

 

Asparagus

We buy our Asparagus from Caroline Lees of Lodge Farm in Quatt .It is normally available Mid-April to mid-June. For this recipe take 8 or so sprigs of Spruce Asparagus, rub with Olive Oil, Salt & Pepper & lemon juice. Drop on to a red hot grill, cook for 2-3 minutes,until lightly charred,then cool quickly to retain the beautiful green colour. Serve with fresh sorrel, land cress, Falafel, Feta, Olives & Beetroot Boriani and grilled Flat breads.

 

To make Beetroot Borani (serves 4)

4 Medium raw bunched beetroot (about 700g)

1 x small clove garlic, crushed to paste using salt

4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

4 tbsp strained Greek Yogurt

2 tbsp Good quality aged red wine vinegar & pinch of sugar

50g Feta, crumbled

Wash beetroot (don’t peel), put in pan, cover with water and bring to the boil. Cook until tender (top up water if required, when ready a knife should go through easily, approx 40 minutes). Drain & cool then blend in food processor (if you prefer texture don’t over blend).

Transfer in to a bowl, add garlic, yogurt, vinegar & pinch salt – mix.

Check seasoning and enjoy!

 

 

Please follow and like us:

What’s in the Garden ?

Glorious Gardens

May bounced into life. Glorious sunny days, trees are a hundred shades of green, and the swifts have returned, soaring higher than high.  And the best bit ?  I get to see it all from the perfect peace of The Hundred House herb garden. Sometimes I think I have the best job in the world.

Forget-me-nots lead the way to the Herb Garden

A cloud of  Forget-me-nots edge the path to The Hundred House Herb Garden.

 

Apple Blossom. Looks stunning, turns into apples which turn into divine deliciousness.

Apple Blossom. Looks stunning,turns into apples, which are turned into divine deliciousness by The Hundred House kitchen.Happiness actually does grow on trees.

Of course it’s not all wafting around through apple blossom, at least not for head gardener Denise Purnell.  This is the beginning one of the busiest times for a gardener, nurturing seeds, preparing beds and generally making sure that the stunning range of home grown ingredients available at The Hundred House is as abundant as ever. You’ve heard of field to fork and gate to plate?  This garden is literally steps from the kitchen. Steps. No wonder I can’t stop dreaming about the Salsa Verde.

So, what’s here today?  I can almost hear the seedlings growing, as the days get longer and the temperature inches up. Denise is getting ready to pot on, harden off, and eventually plant out. The range is incredible, way beyond the slightly depressed looking pots of green I see in the supermarket.

Cinnamon Basil

                                           Cinnamon Basil

I love Basil, it makes the simplest dish taste of holidays and sunshine. Cinnamon Basil was new to me, and it turns out it’s a bit of a wonder herb. It repels all sorts of nasties from precious tomato plants, keeps you safe from pesky mosquitoes,and tastes utterly divine in Goat’s cheese pesto or as a subtle flavour in a shortbread.

Garlic Chives

                                            Garlic Chives

 

 

Giant Parsley

                                          Giant Parsley

I’m more familiar with these two fellows. So much more than a whimsical garnish, these two feature at so many stages in so many dishes; sometimes so subtle you barely notice, but you’d notice if it wasn’t there. Herbs give so much they are worthy of being the main event, especially when they’re so wonderfully fresh.

Now,  remember that Salsa Verde ? Here’s a little bonus recipe for you to try tonight. It’s gorgeous with pretty much everything, but especially with barbecued meats, chicken or just over new potatoes.

Hundred House Salsa Verde

Ingredients:

2 Tbsp Capers

6 Anchovies

3 shallots

1/clove garlic
1Tbsp Lemon juice
150ml Virgin olive oil

Method:
1.Puree all ingredients together
2.Add handful of parsley and any other sweet herbs available, e.g.rocket
3.Taste to make sure it is not bitter – if it is then add more lemon and olive oil.

There you are, a little bit of Hundred House magic in your own kitchen. I can’t wait to come and see what’s growing over the next few weeks !

Salsa Verde

 Fresh and vibrant Salsa Verde. Gorgeous with Chicken, drizzled over smokey charred steak, or to liven up new potatoes. 

Please follow and like us:

The Hundred House : looking back and looking forward.

Clear blue skies and the bulbs peeping above the ground are giving The Hundred House a feel that spring is on the way. We had a delightful time celebrating Christmas and New Year, and had a wonderful start to the year with a very romantic Valentine’s weekend.

I always find that this time of year puts me in a reflective mood, and one of the my main thoughts is what a significant twelve months this has been for The Hundred House.We have carried out extensive renovations and improvements, including a brand new thatch to our 15th Century Barn,and the installation of two new Biomass boilers .These boliers use  wood pellets as their fuel,which as a sustainable resource,means the boilers are carbon neutral. This reduction in reliance on imported fossil fuels, alongside choosing LED lighting and improvements to our cellar cooling processes are making vast improvements to our green credentials.  We are aiming to be truly green inside and out ! As with everything we do, we used a local firm Solid Future, of Ludlow, to oversee the project. We also have a beautiful log burning stove fires, to make sure of a thoroughly warm welcome where ever you are in the hotel.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARange at Christmas

We are also developing our menus, working alongside the Apley Estate, to bring you some of their delicious and unusual produce.  We share many values and production principles,and the ideas that are emerging sound truly mouthwatering. Check back in March to find out more. In the meantime, have a look at apleyfarmshop.co.uk to get a sneak peek of the produce that is available.

Last year was also a very special year for the Phillips family.  Both Henry and Stuart celebrated significant birthdays, and of course, May brought the fabulous occasion of the wedding of Stuart and Joanne. I asked Jo to describe her lasting memory of the day ,and she described it as being ” full of joy and laughter”. I think that is a beautiful tribute to the  skilled team at the hotel.  As a guest I can confirm it was also full of tremendous food;it was no coincidence that the wedding was held at the height of Asparagus season!  A truly magical and memorable day.

What the day was all about

Jo and Stuart’s wedding began the wedding season in earnest,we held over 60 weddings over the last year and have over 75 to look forward to this year. The Hundred House is going to be a romantic place to be and to visit during 2015.Mr & Mrs Phillips Original-1214

 

Soft pink chair ties provide a subtle unity to the colour scheme.

 

Our memorable year was completed by the honour of winning the Best Posh Nosh category in the Spotlight Awards. These awards are voted for by thousands of Shropshire Star readers. All of our awards fill us with absolute delight, but this one is extra special, because it is such direct feedback from our guests.

1932462_817479268293411_4563767429839287542_n

It really has been an amazing year here at The Hundred House, and the best thing is, we have so much more excitement to look forward to. All our upcoming events including our famous Gourmet Nights, and Masterchef classes are updated on our website regularly. We look forward to seeing you soon .

 

 

 

Please follow and like us:

Herbs at The Hundred House

Last year, Stuart visited  Raymond Blanc’s Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons; as well as learning new techniques for creating unusual and delicious breads, Stuart was also introduced to some new varieties of exotic herb. This sparked ideas for redevelopment of the herb garden, which has been an important part of The Hundred House since it began. Construction started about two months ago, with the creation of 14 raised beds.As with everything at The Hundred House, it was a fabulous team effort, including the help of Ron,who took part in the original refurbishment in 1985. Henry and Stuart decided to use a raised bed system, which allows for easier management of the variety of herbs used. This means a greater range of herb plants can be grown,which turn provides an array of new flavours and menu inspiration.
Henry starting work on the new raised beds

Henry starting work on the new raised beds

Ron, described by henry as "the best bricklayer in the world", using his many skills to help in the construction of the beds

Ron, described by Henry as “the best bricklayer in the world”, helping with construction.

During my day at The Hundred House, I was able to spend time with their resident  plant expert and gardener, Denise, who describes herself as passionate about growing. Her joy and enthusiasm for the garden  is infectious, and I came away with some useful tips for growing herbs at home. Denise explained that herbs are an ideal project  for a new gardener, or if space is limited. Many herbs are Mediterranean in origin, so they are tolerant of dry conditions,and  are happy in grow in pots or window boxes. Herbs can also provide attractive and useful borders for flowerbeds. Their only special requirement is lots of sun. She also passed on an excellent piece of advice which was to to grow only what I like to eat !

What a difference a few months make !
What a difference a few months make !
New herbs and salad leaves, almost ready to be used
New herbs and salad leaves, almost ready to be harvested

Denise explained that the new beds include edible flowers, such as nasturtium and viola, which are delicious in salads, as well as unusual varieties of coriander, and oriental greens, alongside less common examples of familiar varieties, such as thyme,fennel and mint.
Komatsuna leaves, which can be used in a range of salads soups or stir fries, giving a spicy,vibrant flavour.

Komatsuna leaves, which can be used in a range of salads soups or stir fries, giving a spicy,vibrant flavour.

Lemon Corainder is just beginning to emerge. This will be used for Moroccan inspired dishes such as Tagines,and fragrant couscous.

Lemon Coriander is just beginning to emerge. This will be used for Moroccan inspired dishes such as Tagines,and fragrant couscous.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Variations of familiar herbs , such as garlic chives are included.

Variations of familiar herbs , such as garlic chives are included in the new herb garden.

A range of beetroot will form part of many exciting dishes.

A selection of  beetroot will form part of many innovative  dishes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The new herb garden is part of the ongoing development of The Hundred House, and as Denise says, there are very few eating establishments that can boast such an extensive culinary garden. She really enjoys the fact that she has been part of the process of the creation of the food served here.

One of the most special things about the gardens at The Hundred House is that they contribute to the unique experience of being a guest. Whether dining or staying in one of the luxurious rooms, guests are free to wander through the gardens,relishing the peaceful atmosphere. Being able to see exactly how local the ingredients are, is an added bonus.The Hundred House herb garden was a charming place to spend the afternoon, and I’m looking forward to sampling some of the new dishes. Perhaps I can be chief taste tester for the next blog !

Beautiful, calm surroundings

Calm and relaxing

Please follow and like us:

Thatch,Flowers, and Frogs

 

Spring is here, and has brought with it the exciting rejuvenation of the thatch on the oldest part of the Hundred House Hotel, the beautiful 15th century barn.This is part of ongoing restoration of this historic building, which began in 1986 when the Phillips family undertook the task of creating their hotel, restaurant and beautiful gardens.

The barn before it's new look, it was last re thatched in 1961!

The barn before it’s new look, it was last re thatched in 1961!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was lucky enough to be able to grab a few moments with master thatcher of 16 years, Paul Draycott, to find out a little more about his craft.

As a novice to the world of thatch,it surprised me that the material used is not straw,but water reed, sourced from East Anglia, or further afield as demand dictates. Water Reed is a naturally water resistant material, which has been used for centuries to protect homes and other dwellings from the elements.

To create a traditional thatched roof, the thatcher lays bundles, of up to 6 foot in length, on top of each other to create an impenetrable layer. The final roof is around 12 inches thick, and relies on the forces of gravity to help the ensure the wind, rain and snow to flow down the thatch.

 

Bundles of water reed, ready to be layered.

Bundles of water reed, ready to be layered.

 

Layers are built up to create an impenetrable surface.

Layers are built up to create an impenetrable surface.

The completed thatch will last around 40 years, so Paul does not expect to have to return, other than to carry out scheduled maintenance to the ridge, which will happen around every ten years. Paul works all over the region , sometimes driving for over two hours to reach a location. This creates some amusement for his associates in the South West, who have a short walk to their daily labours, so Paul finds working near to his home town a welcome change. Paul estimates that his work here will take around six weeks, and as you can see it is pretty close to completion.

Stuart inspecting progress

Stuart inspecting progress

 

Jo braving the ladders to take a closer look at the craftsmanship.

Jo braving the ladders to take a closer look at the craftsmanship.

 

 

The last part of the thatch will be Paul’s signature pheasant, which he uses to identify his work…..you can spot them around the county, recent locations include a boat house in Himley, and a cottage in nearby Ackleton.

The ridge is almost complete, ready for the attachment of Paul's signature pheasant.

The ridge is almost complete, ready for the attachment of Paul’s signature pheasant.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hundred House Time Capsule

To add a little Hundred House flair, and to add even more history to this beautiful building, the team have created a time capsule, which is secured in the roof, ready to be opened  at the next replacement in forty years time. The capsule includes memories of significant events, alongside details of the day to day running of the hotel, which will delight future generations of the Phillips family,and their guests as well as providing a little surprise for the next thatcher !

Stuart handing over the timecapsule.

Stuart handing over the time capsule

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA“Ta-da…….The Finished Article!”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

……..and two Pheasants, mates for the next 40 odd years!

Spring has also brought excitement in the gardens. Alongside the beautiful blooms in the pots and borders, the Hundred House has it’s very own frog nursery! They are already delighting guests who are taking advantage of the beautiful spring weather.

Spring really has sprung!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 



Hyancinths ready to welcome guests

Hyancinths ready to welcome guests

 

 



Frogs and Tadpoles enjoying the sunshine.

Frogs and Tadpoles enjoying the sunshine.

 

Please follow and like us: