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

Do you remember the Apple blossom photographs from our April blog ? Well, harvest time is here !  Whilst it’s sad to wave goodbye to summer days in the garden, the sheer abundance of outstanding Shropshire produce makes Autumn a very exciting time at the Hundred House.

The next few blogs will be dedicated to showing how we  make the most of our delicious local and homegrown produce, starting with our glorious apples.  If you’re anything like me you can’t wait for steaming hot bowl of apple crumble and custard, or succulent, rich roast pork (complete with crackling) beautifully paired with a tart apple sauce.

Whilst modern production and storage methods mean apples are available all year, there is something extras special about the first harvest of our own fruit. Signs for apple pressing days are springing up, and many local communities have wholes dedicated to celebrating this unsung hero.

I wonder what our chefs will transform this beauty in to ?

 

There are around 7,500 varieties of apple in the U.K. !

There are so many ways of using apples, they deserve their own blog.That’s quite a task though so I’ve picked out a couple of favourite Hundred House recipes for you to try at home. The first one is a stunning side dish that works well with pretty much any delightful Autumn dinner you could create.

Braised Red Cabbage with Caraway and Apple

Ingredients:

2 Red cabbages (thinly sliced)

4 onions (thinly sliced)

2 Bramley apples

4 Tbsp. oil

½ Pack of butter

2 Tbsp. caraway

¼ Pint of red wine vinegar

2 Pints red wine

2-3 Tbsp. of crab apple or redcurrant jelly

Zest and juice of 2 oranges

Method:

  1. Sweat onions, cabbage and caraway in the oil and butter for 20 minutes
  2. Add balsamic and reduce by half
  3. Add red wine and reduce to a glaze then add orange zest and juice.
  4. Stir in the jelly then cook further for 10 minutes.

From this…..

 

 

 

Delicious, warming and very good for you !

This recipe will serve a crowd, but it’s easily halved. Any leftovers will freeze well too. It works well as an accompaniment to many autumn and winter dishes but my favourite is when it’s served alongside some deliciously simple roasted duck.

Another favourite is our Apple and Cinnamon Crumble Flan.

 

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Pegasus

Did you know we have our very own donkey ?  This may be a surprise, since dear Pegasus is safely positioned away from the hustle and bustle of the Hundred House.

 

Waiting for apples

We gave a home to Pegasus around four years ago, as a companion to Donk. She’s five years old and gorgeous.

 

Her favourite person is Libby, who feeds and cares for her. Pegasus does her bit for recycling too, taking great delight in the leftover apple and potato peelings. She’s the most recent in a long line of rehomed donkeys, and another of the things that make the Hundred House such a unique and charming place.

There’s nothing quite as lovely as a donkey’s nose.

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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
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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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Beautiful blooms

Our garden is one of our favourite things. It’s what makes us unique and we know that our guests love it too.  Whilst the glorious summer flowers are fading, we’ve just harvested the latest crops for creating our hanging herb posies. All the herbs and flowers that we use to decorate the Hundred House are grown, harvested and dried right here. Libby had just created some beautiful new arrangements, and we think they look stunning.

Helichrysum, and Love in a Mist
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Perfectly preserved
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We’ve commissioned some gorgeous slate labels too, the heart shape gives a stylish retro feel.

The contrast between slate and delicate Angelica is beautiful
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I love the vibrant purple of the Globe Thistle against the soft red brick.
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Pop in soon to have a look and a bit to eat, everywhere is looking beautiful and of course the food is fantastic !

Ready for a lovely lunch
©kam

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Hollowdene Hens

 

Can you imagine how many eggs the Hundred House needs each week? As well being part of our delicious breakfast dishes, we use them in cakes, glazing pastries, sauces, side dishes, you name it, eggs are involved in the kitchen every single day. As you know, we really care about where our ingredients come from and whilst we like to use as much of our own produce as possible, space and time mean we source our some of our ingredients from local suppliers.Over the next few months I’ll be finding out about many of our suppliers and the essential egg seemed like a great place to  start. Peter Jarvis, owner of Hollowdene Hens was kind enough to answer some questions and take some fab poultry pics!

Happy hens mean tasty eggs

HH What can you tell us about Hollowdene Hens?

PJ I’m a former dairy farmer, and went into free range egg production just over 10 years ago. We run 3 separate flocks of about 2000 birds in each. This gives us a continuous supply of varying size eggs. Each flock is re stocked about every 15 months. Effectively this means we are re stocking one flock every 5 months.

HH Why are free range eggs better than other methods?

PJ The hens have the freedom to go out during day light every day. Judging by the speed they rush out every morning, this is something they truly enjoy. I haven’t said much about caged hens. Clearly, they are easier to manage, they eat less (therefore it’s cheaper to produce eggs) due to lack of exercise, but they have no life, other than that of a prisoner.

Here’s to happy hens !

HH What do you enjoy about your job?

PJ   For me, this is a very enjoyable job, although the down side is, it is truly 24/7, 365 days a year. Days off are few and far between.

HH Can the public buy your eggs?

PJ Our eggs are used in many top hotels and restaurants in the Shrewsbury / Telford area and can be bought in many independent shops in this area too. Under the Hollowdene hen’s logo.

HH Finally, do you have a favourite hen?

PJ the two resident cockerels are the only ones we have named. Colin and Stanley! Pictures attached. Stanley is the one posing in the back of the van, next to the egg boxes.

Stanley the Cockerel

 

Free range eggs not only taste better, they really do come from hens that have had happy lives. Thank you Peter for telling us a bit more about Hollowdene Hens, and for taking the smashing photos.  I’m pretty sure Stanley will be ready for a modelling career soon !

Colin the Cockerel

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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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