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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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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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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