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.
©kam

 

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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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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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. 

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