Notes from a Working Kitchen – July 2014

Here is July 2014’s blog from James Goss, of The King’s Arms in Wing. This unique pub takes most of its ingredients straight from their kitchen garden and local producers. Join the Great Food Club for 15% off the a la carte menu.

Harvest has begun. Before hitting our own fruits too hard it was time for our annual pilgrimage out into the hedgerows nearby to gather the elderflowers. It’s always great to get something for free and with minimal effort. These beautifully perfumed flowering heads are a staple on the menu here in many forms, but with such a short season we need to get on with it. So the kitchen is awash with bags full of the flowers, we wash and pick them, then make syrups for sauces, infusions into vodka for our elderflower and champagne fizz cocktails, and sorbet bases to churn with yoghurt. Sometimes a little hint of lavender from the garden can really lift these recipes, so lucky they just all come out at once.

The lavender flowers are also of great use, our favourite here is to take an otherwise plain panna cotta with vanilla and then substitute the sugar for honey from next doors bees and a few lavender heads, pair them up with a few super succulent strawberries from Manton and you have an awesome taste of Rutland on a plate, so very simple. The spring Lamb from Gwilym over at Hill Farm, Launde, also gets a little lavender rub before roasting on a Sunday.

The other stars of the season for me are the gooseberries and they have just been amazing this year. We would be lynched if we didn’t make our double creamy gooseberry ice cream and so that has been number one priority, making a few extra bases to freeze for later in the year. The white rum is now filled with more of the same, this adds an extra twist to the classic Mojito and is ever popular with a tonne of mint which is now running rampant under the quince trees at the top of the garden. The ever present pigeons, a perpetual harassment to our local farmers, also get a chance to appear on the menu. Cold smoking the breast and pairing it with some of our homemade black pudding seems a fitting end to these flying pests, to cut through the richness a tart Gooseberry sauce.

We never shy away from pairing our fruits and flowers with the more savoury dishes. Why not give it a try, nature seems to be great at serving up these great matches for us at just the right times. Just listen to mother nature and like us let the great outdoors write your family dinners, sneaky snacks and yearly blowouts for you the way we let her write our menus for us.

The signal crayfish don’t seem to be getting any less in number, the warm and wet winter seems to have suited them down to the ground. In order to give our natives any sort of fighting chance at all it seems only right that we make as much an impression on their numbers as possible. Under license from the Environment Authority we are able to help, resulting in plenty of work for us.

Although an unwelcome invader from America we still treat them with the respect they deserve and waste nothing. After liberating the tail and claw meat from the crayfish we use the shells to lay down a rich bisque sauce base to see us through the year. Also a very seasonal ingredient we only really catch them for about 8 weeks. So during this time, we have pasta’s risottos and sauces with them in, we also have them in pints and half pints shell on and brined in our own special herbed vinegar and salt brine, this helps to keep them succulent and full of flavour. For me is there is little nicer than to sit in the sun with a cool drink a bowl full of freshly cooked and brined crayfish tails, some dill mayo, lemon and freshly baked sour dough bread. Such a change from the farmed and rubbery uniform crayfish tails in brine you get on the shelves in the shops, really worth all the hard work. Not only do you get the intrinsic pleasure of the meal itself but you also get to enjoy them in the knowledge that you are giving a struggling native animal a fighting chance in its natural habitat.

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The author:

James is head chef and owner at The King's Arms pub in Wing, Rutland