Notes From a Working Kitchen May 2015 Asparagus

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Notes from a Working Kitchen – May 2015

From the end of May and throughout the whole of June in a good year we get to serve up kilo’s of one of my seasonal favourites ‘Asparagus’. Cultivated in England since the 16th century when it was more commonly known as ‘Sparrow Grass’ it has become a firm kitchen favourite throughout England and Europe. The end of the wild garlic season is signalled by the blossoming white flower heads and their tiny black seeds, we stop collecting the leaves then to allow the plants to work their magic and ready themselves for another year. It is then that we turn our attention to Asparagus, luckily we are able to source ours from just a few miles up the road in Manton, at the golf courses pick your own farm, as demand increases we must look further afield towards Oundle or Heckington. Years spent in the Swiss Alps has really given me a love for this treasured vegetable and although we used exclusively white asparagus there it takes no rocket scientist to substitute that for the English green variety that is cultivated right on our doorstep. The specials door is where you will find the kitchens seasonal asparagus offerings, butter poached and topped with the likes of garlic seared tiger prawns, calves liver, lamb sweetbreads or just plain with hollandaise. Rich creamy asparagus soup and sourdough bread hot from the oven has also been popular on some of the colder spring days we have had.

Also from Manton the first of this seasons English strawberries have made it into the kitchen, fair to say they did not last long and were quickly gobbled up with fresh cream and homemade double vanilla ice cream. Once the season is in full swing we shall play a little with this local treasure, the sweeter varieties first hit their peek as things warm up, that’s when the likes of parfaits, mousses and jellies will be served up for fans of the strawberry. Not until later in the season when they start to go over will we then think about juicing them, making ice creams and vodkas or breakfast preserves.

Mike Berry’s Fynburys Cider is finally on, the hand pull on the bar is going great guns serving up pints of this local brew. The fruit varieties in the fridges are also proving very popular ‘Blackberry and Nettle’ has turned out to be a real star. It’s a real pleasure to be able to serve up such a quality cider knowing it is made exclusively from Rutland apples. We can’t wait for the Perry, Apple Champagnes or the Brandy he is working on. A cracking local producer whose attention to his product shines through and we see it in the faces of everyone who comes to try his ciders.

For the last 10 years our Jimmy’s Rutland Smokehouse has been producing smoked eel for the menu, the eels were a by product of a commercial trout farm. Sadly with the increased protection of their predators such as cormorants and otters, and the voracious ‘freed’ ex fur minks, stocks are seriously dwindling. We have therefore decided that in order to give them a chance it was time to call it a day. The smokehouse will of course continue to produce everything else from beef bresoala, coppa, salami, bacon, sausage, black pudding, trout etc with the focus on our local links. Seasonal specialities like venison bresoala or air dried mutton will also be on our favourites list. As expected the freshly drilled fields has seen a lot of pigeon activity some of which we have now  gotten brined and cold smoked, ready for pan frying on the menu, well worth trying if you never have before. The baby beetroot that is on the way pairs up wonderfully with pigeon in a salad.