Luscious Lamb

Monday was a fun day. Now I know that’s an unusual thing to read but it’s true. I had chance to spent the morning with Andy, finding out about the some of dishes on the Hundred House menu this season.

I have to admit I was surprised at how complex each dish is. Perhaps this sounds like an foolish thing to say, but because Hundred House has such relaxed,simple style, it’s easy to think the food just happens. This is a clever ruse to make which makes us diners feel even more at home. Andy explained how each dish has several elements,each element has several processes and every part of what goes on to the plate works with the other. It is this that takes a dish from something lovely, to something outstanding.

One of the highlights of the menu celebrates lamb by marrying  a lightly seared lamb cutlet with often overlooked lamb breast and kidney. This trio of flavour and texture is sharpened by the onion cream and brought together by the subtle tarragon jus. It is one of the nicest things I have eaten.

Andy talked me through each stage, starting with the preparation of the lamb breast. Cooking this cut low and slow means the natural flavours of the meat melt right through, needing little more enhancement than the classic flavours of garlic and parsley.

Breast of lamb is trimmed of excess fat, and rubbed with a garlic panade.
©kam

 

The meat is rolled, tied and cooked sous-vide for ten-twelve hours.
©kam

Lamb cutlets are seared with garlic and rosemary, and seasoned, and the lambs kidneys are sauteéd in butter.

Lamb cutlets are seared with garlic and rosemary.
©kam

Our garden vegetables are used to provide contrast in texture and augment the lamb flavours. These accompaniments vary according to the produce available. The confit chantenay carrots (made by cooking the carrots sous-vide with butter, carrot juice and thyme) are so silky sweet they could star in their own dish.

Ready for assembly; grilled spring onions, confit chantenay carrots, leek wrapped potato cake and burnt onion cream.
©kam

The dish is assembled with accompaniments that enhance the sweet flavour of the lamb. Burnt onion cream is created by blending caramelised shallots with reduced lamb stock.It sounds so simple, but the deeply savoury taste contrasts with the lamb to  create complex layers of flavour.

Lamb breast, sauteéd kidney potato cake and burnt onion cream
©kam

The final stages of preparation. I’ve counted at least twelve stages before Andy reaches the point of cooking the cutlets.
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Roast Shropshire Cutlet, Braised breast of lamb,sauteéd kidney burnt onion cream and a tarragon caper jus.
©kam

The best way to find out how this masterpiece tastes is to visit the Hundred House but I can give you a sneak preview. It would be easy to just say it’s delicious, but there is much more than that. Earthy, piquant kidney makes the delicate lamb taste even lighter, then the a mouthful of rich slow cooked breast reminds me of unctuous casseroles and winter evenings. A dip into the burnt onion cream and a slick of the tarragon jus give contrast  and keep me going back for more. I can’t think of a better way to brighten a chilly evening !

 

 

 

 

 

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Edible Flowers – Viola

I’ve been so taken with the summer trend of using flowers in food, I feel a bit sad that salad season is almost over. The vivid colours and peppery notes of flavour have brightened many a meal for me this season.

There is a way to keep using these dainty delights though, and it’s probably in your garden right this minute.

Happy little faces brighten the morning.
©kam

Yes the humble viola mainstay of many a patio pot and a bright little face to cheer the days as winter draws in, is also a diamond when it comes to culinary delight. They can be used to give a delicate flavour to many recipes, and look absolutely delightful. Take care which variety you choose though, since not all are edible. The most common edible ones are Viola Cornuta, Viola x wittrockiana and Viola tricolor .

Growing Violas in the Herb Garden means the Hundred House has an endless supply.
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As well as adding a pretty zing to your favourite dishes, Violas also work beautifully when crystallised. It’s incredibly simple to do and makes the humblest of cakes look like a work of art.  I use this method which features on the BBC Food website.

Crystallised Flowers

Ingredients

Method

  1. In a small bowl, stir together the egg white and water. Grasp the petals with a pair of tweezers and carefully brush the egg mixture onto the petals, lightly coating both sides.
  2. In another bowl, toss the petals with the sugar and transfer to a rack. Allow the petals to dry at least 6 hours, longer if necessary.

    Crystallised violas
    ©kam

I find using a flat paintbrush gives me a more even finish. The main thing is to pick flowers that are at their best. Any little nicks or blemishes will be more obvious after crystallisation. It’s a lovely way to cheer up a grey afternoon!

The finished article. Not bad for a first attempt.
©kam

 

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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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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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