Notes from a Working Kitchen – April 2015

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So spring has finally sprung, we have used the past month readying the garden for the coming growing season. Fruit cages have been weed matted, netting repairs made and a wire mesh fitted to the front to try and prevent ripping from our more clumsy customers. The fruit trees and bushes have all been trimmed and tied back, the green leaves are bursting forth, blossom is just peeking out of the glossy buds and juvenile berry trellises are already forming on the currants. Even the lilies are looking strong again in the planters at the front of the pub, soon to take over from Kate’s waning flowerbeds whose vibrant colours we have all enjoyed over Easter.

First to harvest though has been the rhubarb. Served as a sweet in crumbles, or poached to serve in vanilla Yorkshire puddings with its own ice cream. As a savoury accompaniment lightly roasted it cuts through the rich and oily flesh of mackerel and with a dab of curried egg salad has been a real winner recently. Next up will be the gooseberries equally suited to desserts or fish. A real classic here is to pair it up as an instant pan relish to go with a grilled mackerel salad. Or dare I say it in a wonderful gooseberry ice cream a dead cert with a classic chocolate tart, we have some cooling as I type this, chefs perks to look forward to later.

The wild garlic has come on strong and is spreading nicely. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to put together 3 spring classics to make an awesome meal. Spring Lamb, Leeks and Wild garlic just work so well together. The creamy leek and wild garlic gratin served up with Gwilymns Launde Lamb Racks has been a roaring success. Gwilymn has also managed to organise a decent rotation of Mutton for us, so without wasting anytime, we are getting on with our Air Dried Mutton legs. These will be enjoyed in about 6 months time, cured with the fresh spring herbs, they give us a reminder of the spring garden when it is long gone. Before all the wild garlic goes to seed we will use what is available to make some soups and deliciously rich pesto’s to enjoy throughout the spring months. A cheeky little lunchtime treat is a Moorish leek and wild garlic tart, we will be looking forward to those with gusto, knowing that the asparagus season is not far off now.

As the days warm Eyebrook and Rutland water also starting warming up, the bait flies and larvae are hatching and the trout are beginning to get a little more eager. As they feed they give the keen angler plenty of opportunity to snag a few. Luckily we know plenty, as the stocks of cold smoked, braden rost and pate have dwindled we look forward to a fresh supply of these local beauties. Getting ready to re-stock our depleted supplies is always tempered with a small sense of dread when remembering the hours spent scaling, gutting, filleting of previous years. Luckily we have new staff starting who can get to learn to enjoy that particular seasonal chore for themselves.

The warmer temperatures have also induced a state of laying frenzy in our 30 Hens. After months of maybe 2 or 3 per week we are now scooping a good 20 to 25 out of the hen coup every day. Such delicious eggs certainly do not go to waste. A revived old veggie classic has been going down a storm here. A creamy mushroom and thyme fricassee flambéed off in cognac is served on top of lightly toasted sour dough bread and then topped off with a poached hen’s egg. We are looking forward to some duck eggs from Bob Jeynes in the village at Westerway poultry in the next week or 2 for some extra luxury. As I have already hinted the asparagus season and the full Kings Arms Asparagus Menu are just around the corner.

Now that the farmers have all drilled the fields and the baby shoots are all beginning to pop their heads up above the warming soil, the ever present enemy, the wood pigeon is making a nuisance of itself. As vermin the season on these birds is never over and pigeon is the quarry of the sporting shooter over this time of year. We have already placed our orders for pigeon breasts. We love nothing better than to lightly brine and cold smoke them to use later. In salads or even as the shining star in more hearty mains it is a wonderful ingredient, won from one of the most prolific pests of the Rutland Countryside.

On a final note, as the game season has drawn to an end we have been invited to join a small band of dedicated cooks and chefs alike to submit what we would like to be our ‘Signature Dish’ to maybe take part in a book by the same name. As such we have plumbed to go with what we know best. Muntjac, local, available all year round, and although cute, also vermin that is controlled all year round. So fingers crossed and we will see ‘The Poachers Supper’ in hard back by September.