Eating food that’s in season makes a lot of sense – not only is it fresher and tastier, it saves transporting produce half way around the world. For all those reasons we take great care to make best use of the ingredients that are readily available in the locality at any given time of the year.
Radishes and spring onions, as the name suggests, burst onto the scene around now and I love their strong flavours and crunchy texture. But I especially look forward to the first crop of Rhubarb that emerges from the greenhouses in the springtime. Grown indoors it is sweeter, redder and more tender than the outdoor variety that ripens in the summer.
Rhubarb is terrifically versatile, and the distinctive flavour goes so well with so many other ingredients. I especially like to poach it with ginger, in light stock to make a syrup. This makes a spectacular foil for a foie gras terrine – the sweetness of the rhubarb goes particularly well with the rich fatty taste of the goose liver.
Rhubarb and custard tart is a firm favourite with our guests at this time of year for Sunday Lunch, while rhubarb soufflé with custard ice cream makes a very popular combination.
Another feature of springtime is the arrival of wild garlic. With four acres of landscaped gardens we find it sprouting all around the hotel right now, especially in the hedgerows. We’re very fond of foraging for our food at Summer Lodge, and are offering two Adventures in Food weekends where guests can go on guided expeditions along the seashore and into the woods to see what delicacies they can find for free – so we make extensive use of the garlic that pops up on the doorstep.
Wild garlic is easy to find – the smell gives you a strong clue! We just pick the leaves, then blanch and blend into sauces. Wild garlic soup is wonderful as well, so we generally make room for that on the menu at this time of year. I also like to use it raw, blending it with olive oil to make pesto. This then becomes one of the main ingredients in a delicious wild garlic risotto, which I generally serve as an accompaniment to fish dishes.
Purple sprouting broccoli is also a firm favourite of mine in the springtime. The appearance is spectacular, it’s packed with vitamins and minerals and tastes wonderful if you quickly blanch it then sauté in hot butter with garlic and almonds.
Last, and certainly not least, is the arrival of the fresh spring lamb. You can get lamb the whole year rond , but spring lamb is best because it’s milk fed and has not been running around building up muscle…so it is more tender. The older it gets, the tougher it becomes, so now is the time to enjoy lamb at its absolute best.
I use two different cuts in my signature dish, Roast Loin of Dorset Lamb and Braised Shoulder ‘Shepherds Pie’ with Savoy Cabbage and Rosemary Jus. I call it ‘Shepherd’s Pie’ but it’s a little more sophisticated than the dish you normally associate with that name – as you’ll see from the recipe.
1 x Isi Cream Whipper (with 2 x Gas cartridges)
Braised Shoulder of Lamb
1 lamb shoulder (de-boned and trimmed)
2 onions, 1 chopped and 1 finely diced
2 carrots, 1 chopped and 1 finely diced
3 garlic cloves
1 tbsp tomato purée
100ml tomato juice
200ml red wine
500ml lamb or chicken stock
½ celeriac, finely diced
1 swede, finely diced
2 large Maris Piper potatoes
300g potato purée
Salt and freshly milled black pepper
Roast Loin of Lamb
2 x 200g lamb loins
2 x sprigs rosemary finely chopped
6 rashers streaky bacon, cut into lardons
½onion, finely chopped
½ Savoy cabbage, shredded
Method for Braised Shoulder Shepherd’s Pie
Season the lamb shoulder and sear in a hot frying pan. Place the lamb in a deep casserole dish. In the same frying pan add the chopped onions, carrots and garlic and cook for 3 minutes. Add the tomato puree and cook for a further 2 minutes then adding the tomato juice, red wine and stock. Bring to the boil and pour over the shoulder. Cover the dish and place in a slow oven (140°C) and braise for 5 to 6 hours until the shoulder is falling apart. Remove the shoulder, allow to cool a little and flake the meat or roughly chop. Meanwhile, strain the cooking juice and reduce in a saucepan until well flavoured and sauce consistency. In a clean saucepan cook the diced carrot, onion, celeriac and swede until soft (but not pureed). Add the diced shoulder and continue to cook on a low heat. Add a little of the sauce to bind the lamb and vegetables together. Save the rest of the sauce to one side.
Method for the potato ring
Thinly slice the potato lengthways with a mandolin. Wrap a length of greaseproof paper around a metal ring and then carefully arrange the potato slices onto it, securing with a piece of string. Deep fry until golden brown. As the potato cooks the ring and paper should fall away allowing the potato to cook evenly on both sides whilst maintaining its shape. Drain on a piece of kitchen towel.
Method for the Potato Foam
Gently heat up the potato purée with the milk, cream and butter. Season to taste. When the potato has the consistency of whipping cream place in a cream whipper and charge with the gas.
Season and sear the loins in a hot pan and roast for approx 7 minutes, turning half way through the cooking. Remove from the oven and allow to rest. In a hot pan add the bacon and chopped onion and cook until the onions are soft. Add the shredded cabbage and cook for a further 2 minutes. Place the potato ring onto the plate and half fill with the shepherd’s pie (a ramekin can be used if the potato rings are not made.) Arrange the cabbage in front of the shepherd’s pie and place 3 slices of lamb on top. Finally place the potato foam on top of the shoulder mix. Add the chopped rosemary to the sauce and spoon a little of the jus around the lamb.
To complement this dish Eric Zweibel, our Cellar Master recommends a bottle of Galpin Peak Pinot Noir 2007 from the world renowned Bouchard Finlayson winery in Walker Bay, South Africa.
Hopefully the promise of tender spring lamb twinned with a lusciously dark fruity wine will be sufficient to tempt you to dine with us soon – especially as we are also offering these specials:
Luncheon Specials, Monday to Saturday
2-courses – £22.00 • 3-courses – £25.00
3-courses including a half bottle of wine and coffee – £36.00
Traditional Sunday lunch at just £28
Table d’Hôte Dinner
A superb value 3-course menu – £40.00
Spa Cupcake package
A fascinating lesson in the art of making the perfect cupcake followed by one of our special Spa treatments – all for just £98 per person.
For reservations, please call 01935 48 2000 or email email@example.com.
Finally, if you’d like to try preparing some of Mrs Tollman’s signature dishes at home we still have some copies of her “A Life in Food” cookbook available.