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!” 

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

Frogs and Flowers

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!

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Hyancinths ready to welcome guests

Hyancinths ready to welcome guests

 

 



Frogs and Tadpoles enjoying the sunshine.

Frogs and Tadpoles enjoying the sunshine.

 

Wild Boar Cassoulet

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On November 8th, we celebrated our first Game Night of the season with a sold out menu. It was such a success, we thought we would share one of Stuart’s favourite recipes of the evening.

Wild boar in Bavaria

Wild Boar (known by many as the original Prehistoric Pig) is famous for a nutty, sweet taste but also as being a more  healthy alternative to other meat. It is one of the few meats that is leaner than domestic Pork, has less fat than Beef but contains much more protein. It is also known for promoting the production of white blood cells, in turn enhancing the immune system.

Stuart’s Wild Boar Cassoulet went down a storm on Game Night, you can find his recipe below…

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Wild Boar Cassoulet (serves 8-10, but can be portioned and frozen)

You will need…

1lbs Cannellini Beans

1lb Toulouse Sausage (we use our own Chorizo)

2 ½ lbs Diced Wild Boar Shoulder

½ lb Wild Boar Skin

4 Duck Legs

½ pt Chopped Tomatoes

½ pt White Wine

4 oz Bread Crumbs

2 Onions, diced

1 head of Garlic peeled & sliced thinly

1 Bay leaf

1 large sprig of Thyme

1 spring of Rosemary (tie all herbs together to make a Bouquet Garni)

1 onion & 1 Carrot for Beans

Salt, Rosemary, Thyme and Garlic for Duck Confit

 

Method

Day One:

Sprinkle Sea Salt, Rosemary, Thyme & Garlic all over Duck legs. Cling film and place in the fridge for 24 hrs.

Soak Cannellini Beans in cold water and leave over night.

Day Two:

Rinse off salt from Duck legs & brown lightly in the oven.

Drain Beans from pan. Replace in pan with 1 onion & 1 Carrot cut in half, with double the volume of water.

Simmer gently until all but tender (approx 45 minutes).

Drain the Beans but keep the liquid, removing the Onion & Carrot.

In a saucepan or a crock casserole dish; lightly brown the Onions and add half the Garlic, cook until golden. Add the wine and boil for 2 minutes, add the Tomatoes & cook for 2 minutes.

Meanwhile, sauté the Wild Boar & Toulouse Sausages until golden brown. Add a pinch of Salt & Pepper to the Wild Boar as you go.

Add half of the Beans to the Tomato mix in the Casserole and add the Bouquet Garni along with the Duck legs, Bacon, Wild Boar & Sausage.

Cut the Wild Boar skin into two strips and place around the side of the pot. Add the other half of sliced Garlic and top with the rest of the Beans & pour over the Bean cooking liquor until just covered.

Cook in an oven at 120˚for an hour and a half, possibly two, but after one hour, pour over the Breadcrumbs evenly across the beans.

Notes: The Breadcrumbs should form a golden crust, beneath which are the moist, creamy beans & tender chunks of the meats.

This is a substantial dish-Stuart recommends a good walk & a light salad beforehand!

Top Tip** The Wild Boar skin adds greatly to the gelatinous, unctuous texture of the stew.

LateRooms.com Best Kept Secret Awards 2013

Award winning gardens

As some of you might be aware, last month we won the Best Kept Secret Award for Best Gardens from Laterooms.com, helped judged by Countryfile Magazine. There were several categories, including Comfiest Bed, Best View and Best Gadgets. All nominees were chosen by Laterooms.com customers, so people who have actually visited the hotels and left us reviews. Countrfile Magazine helped to judge the award, with Fergus Collins quoting,

“For sheer romance and endless hidden delights, Hundred House pips its rivals to the prize. The maze gardens full of tumbling roses and shrubs and threaded with water features provide a restful sanctuary – as well as the freshest of vegetables and herbs for the hotel’s restaurant. The gardens are the perfect accompaniment to the charming rooms – each uniquely furnished with antiques.” 

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We were thrilled with the award, as so much hard work goes in from the team (Henry, Libby and Denise) maintaining the gardens that Sylvia had the foresight and imagination to create, 27 years ago.

If you would like to see Countryfile Magazine’s article in full, click here, or if you would like to see the other award winners from Laterooms.com, click here.

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BUT, our awards news doesn’t end there! We have been lucky enough to have been nominated for the Shropshire Star’s Tourism & Leisure Awards in the ‘Best Posh Nosh’ category. There is certainly some stiff competition, which is why we would be extremely grateful if you would click on the link and vote for us please! Fingers crossed!

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*Please ignore the very old photo of Stuart!

Hundred House Crab Apple Jelly

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September in the gardens brings us an abundance of Crab Apples, none of which go to waste. We make a fantastic Crab Apple Jelly that compliments such Game as Venison, Pheasant Breast or Wild Boar.

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Learn how to make the Hundred House Crab Apple Jelly:

You will need, Crab Apples 250g

Water

Sugar

1 Lemon

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 Begin by washing the apples and removing all of the stalks. Then place in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to the boil and simmer for half an hour.

Once cooled, strain the pulp through a piece of muslin; this will help to keep the jelly nice and clear. Don’t be tempted to squeeze the pulp through the material as this will also make for a cloudy juice. Straining through a sieve is also a no no!

When measuring the Sugar, you need to aim for 7 parts Sugar to 10 parts Crab Apple juice.

Add the juice from the Lemon and the Sugar. Boil the mixture. While this is boiling, skim any white froth that rises to the surface (this again will help to keep it clear). Keep testing the jelly with a spoon to see if it is beginning to set. Once it is, allow to cool a little and pour into sterilized jars.

Pheasant dish

Smoked breast of Pheasant with Sage stuffing, served with a Pear glazed with Crab Apple Jelly, Sweede Puree and Potato Gratin

 

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Stuart, inspecting this year’s crop

 

Henry’s Herb Blog

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A couple of weeks ago, I spent the afternoon with Henry in the Herb Garden and Vegetable Patch, learning about just a handful of the varieties grown by him and the team.

Over 27 years ago, when Henry and Sylvia first took on and began renovation of the Hundred House, the gardens were not the spectacular site they are today. Henry describes them in their former state, as a mere lawn at the front and a run down vegetable patch to the rear, that had been neglected for a number of years.

Today, Henry alone spends upwards of 25 hours a week tending the gardens, along with Head Housekeeper Libby, and plant expert, Denise.

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You may or may not know that the rooms at the Hundred House, are named after plants and herbs that we grow onsite with Rose Geranium, Fennel and Dill and Anise being but a few.

Golden Marjoram~ According to English legend, Goblins hate Marjoram and should be sewn in one’s garden to ward them off. It is a very hardy plant and grows quickly with a sunny hue and an uplifting, zesty taste. Works very well in tomato sauces and in salads or casseroles.

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Anise~ Over the years, Anise was thought to be a cure for sleepiness when chewed and used as a very early antiseptic. Has a similar flavour to Star Anise, Fennel and Licorice. The seeds can be ground in a Pestle and Mortar and used in Jams and Compots.

Angelica~ Pagans believed that Angelica would protect against negative energies and and promote healing. Identified by its lovely large, star burst flowers. This ‘herb of Angels’, is actually a member of the Parsley family. Candied Angelica is popularly used to decorate cakes and desserts or to flavour Gin and sweet wines.

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Rose Geranium~With a very sweet, rosy scent with minty overtones; Rose Geranium has been used through the ages as an antidepressant. Excellent when used to infuse jams and preserves and can be used in many cakes and desserts.

Buckler Leaf Sorrel~The name supposedly derived from the French word for ‘sour’, Buckler Leaf Sorrel has a tangy, lemony flavour. It can be used in salads, as a garnish, in soups, or compliments fish excellently. Because of its strong taste, large quantities are not needed.

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Sheila’s Summer Pudding

One of our customer’s absolute favourites; this superb seasonal dessert is a real show stopper and is really quite simple to make.

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One Pudding serves two people. All you will need is the following:

An even amount of fresh Strawberries, Red Currants, Black Currants, Blueberries and Raspberries.

1Tbsp of Sugar

A splash of water.

A load of medium sliced White Bread.

Fresh cream and fresh Fruit to garnish.

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Begin by simmering the Strawberries, Red Currants, Black Currants and Blueberries in a saucepan, on the hob with a splash of water and the sugar. It is important that you don’t allow the mixture to boil. The fruit should become soft, but not mushy.

Once off the heat, add the Raspberries and leave the fruit to cool.

Meanwhile, cut out tops and bottoms for your puddings, using whatever vessel you are going to use for a mould as a guide (Sheila uses glass trifle bowls). Also cut out strips of bread to form the sides of your puddings.

When your fruit mixture has cooled, pour into a colander and capture the juice in another bowl. Soak your bread pieces in the juice. Do not throw any excess juice away; you will use it when serving your puddings.

Fit your bread pieces around the moulds and fill until they are bursting full of fruit. Place the bread lids on top.

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Find something flat, like a tray, to place over the top of the puddings and put something heavy top to weigh it down. Leave like this in the fridge for one day.

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Once the puddings have set, tip them carefully upside down and out of their moulds. Cut each pudding into quarters using two ‘triangular’ shaped quarters per dessert. Pour over some of the remaining juice and pipe freshly whipped cream between the slices. Garnish with fresh fruit.

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Aberaeron Seafood Festival July 2013

Aberaeron Seafood FestivalHead Chef Stuart Philips, has attended the Aberaeron Seafood festival for the last ten years. The festival takes place on the quayside of Aberaeron and is now established as a highlight on the Welsh food calender. Chefs present samples of their food using seafood, fish and local produce, all at £2.50 per portion. This money goes to cover the cost of the festival and is donated to local charities.This year, Henry, Jo and Stuart’s neighbours Mandy and Trevor (previous Masterchef  cookery class pupils) all joined him to help out.

The stall was set up by Henry, Mandy and Trevor with a lovely Beurre Blanc, spiced bean casserole with dill mustard and creme fraishe. Stuart and Jo arrived on Stuart’s motorbike, jumped out of their leathers, straight into whites and began cooking! They were soon knocking out Dill crushed new potatoes with Buckler Leaf Sorrel and Beurre Blanc and Hake Casserole with Turmeric spiced beans, Garlic butter and Lime and Coriander.

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There were boxes of iced fish neatly stacked from Debbie and Paul at Swansea Fish. A brilliant array of the best Welsh produce including Razor Clams, Langoustines, Cockles, Mussels, Hake, Bass and Monkfish. Henry was kept busy filleting and portioning, while Stuart kept on producing pan after pan of Bouillabaisse, Scallops with Chorizo, Langoustine with Fennel, Clam  and Mussel Risotto. Mandy was stirring and cleaning while Trevor was slicing and dicing!

It was a boiling hot day, with around 7000 visitors roving up and down the quay from stall to stall from 11am-4pm.

P1000913Stuart says, “It’s a great day out with a great bunch of chefs and helpers. I really enjoy seeing people tuck into the different dishes and answering questions as people peer into bubbling pots. Thanks again to Glynn and Menna for organising it all.”

For more information visit http://aberaeron.info/seafood/

British Asparagus season

The British Asparagus season typically lasts a mere three months, between April and June (British weather depending!), giving all the more reason to make use of it while it lasts.

Asparagus-1It is known to have high levels of Vitamin A (an antioxidant) and folic acid, helping to fight against cancer, and at an average of less than 4 calories per spear, it really is a super food!

At the Hundred House, we are lucky enough to have one of the top UK Asparagus growers a mere five miles up the road in Quatt. Lodge Farm has been in three generations of the Lees family, with Asparagus produced there since 1972. At the peak of the season in June of this year, Head Chef Stuart Philips, went to visit Father and Daughter team, Caroline and Trevor Lees, to find out more about one of his favourite ingredients (and have a go on one of their buggies used for picking…).

Lodge Farm currently has up to sixty acres in full production of Asparagus growing. Waitrose are their main buyers, who take a keen interest in the Lees family as one of the biggest growers in the UK for Asparagus trials. Caroline and Trevor explain that they currently have around 1000 different varieties of Asparagus in testing that have already spent five years in a lab before reaching their farm. Out of these thousand, only about five varieties will actually make it to market, and that will take up to another fifteen years before you see them on the shelves.

Asparagus-buggie

Asparagus is grown from seed and planted as a one year old crown. These crowns are then harvested and sent to Lodge Farm at the beginning of April (this year was a little different, with unseasonal weather meaning they could not plant until May). Very little is done to the Asparagus in the second and third year of its life, but in the fourth year the first cut is taken. The farm will then get eight years of harvesting the plant, with one spear per week per crown being produced in the eight week cutting season from crops around 10-12 years old. This year at Lodge Farm, 140,000 crowns were planted, around 12.5-13,000 per acre (hence the buggies).

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Stuart’s Asparagus Risotto

Perfect for a sophisticated dinner party. Serves six. Can be made a day in advance. Suitable for Vegetarians.

Asparagus-blog-1After following this recipe, you should end up with each grain of rice floating it its own sauce. This should be creamy, due to the starch of the rice mixing with the stock. Be careful when adding your stock, as too much will result in a wet rice pudding!

You will need:

  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • ½ kg Asparagus
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 3 Garlic Cloves, finely chopped
  • Bouquet-Garni of Thyme and Bayleaf
  • Zest of half a Lemon and its juice
  • 3 Flat Mushrooms
  • 50g butter
  • 2 ¼ pints Veg Stock
  • 200g Risotto Rice
  • ½ cup Dry White Wine
  • Freshly ground Black Pepper
  • 3-4 tablespoons of grated Parmesan Cheese
  • Parsley, Chive and Buckler Leaf Sorrel

To prepare your Asparagus, wash and cut off the tough, woody section at the base, this should be around an inch in length. Slice the remaining Asparagus stems into rounds. Keep some of the tips for garnish.

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Begin by heating 6 tbsp of Olive Oil in a wide pan. Sweat the onions until soft, but still with no colour. Add the Bouquet Garni, diced Mushrooms, Lemon Zest and crushed Garlic.

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Add the Asparagus rounds and sweat until soft. Add another 4 tbsp of Olive Oil and stir in the Risotto Rice. Cook gently for 3-4 minutes, until edges of the rice is opaque. Then add half a cup of White Wine and cook for two minutes. This will reduce the acidity.

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Add the boiling Vegetable Stock, around two ladles to start. Begin on a high heat, stirring constantly. When the stock has been fully absorbed and steamed off, continue to add half a ladle at a time, until the rice is just chewable and 90% cooked.

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If you are preparing this meal ahead of schedule, allow to cool and place in the fridge until you are ready to finish and serve.

To Cook and Serve- Remove from the fridge and place in large based saucepan. Add Lemon juice, freshly ground Black Pepper, Parmesan and the Parsley and Chives. Place on high heat and stir in a small ladle of stock (you can always make some more if you have run out), stir vigorously and add more stock until the Rice is al dente.

To finish, add 2 tbsp butter, check seasoning and then pour into bowls. Garnish with Sorrel, Chive Flowers and Beetroot tops, more fresh Parmesan and Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Top with your reserved asparagus tips after you have soaked them in the stock.

Notes: Never add cream, to your Risotto, butter will lighten it instead.

Make stock with a Vegetable stock cube-not too strong, don’t bother adding any extra salt as stock cubes are usually quite salty already. For depth of flavour, add skins from onions, garlic and some fresh herbs.

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