Notes from a Working Kitchen: October 2014

James Goss, head chef at The Kings Arms in Wing, tells us what seasonal treats to look out for over October, and how he will be using the goodies from the kitchen garden in his award-winning menu.  

Wow, instant Autumn. The fruit trees are all but stripped now, the medlars are still hanging on until the end of the month, the last of the blackberries are coming to an end, and as the leaves fall from the straggly hedgerows the bright red and orange rosehips become more prominent. As long as you don’t mind a few scratches and scrapes it doesn’t take long to liberate a couple of pounds worth, ready to take home to jelly. The perfect accompaniment to some cold game or even a good pork pie.

Quince, the jewel in our orchards’ crown is now turning a vibrant yellow, the last serious splash of colour left on the trees. Firm fleshed, but just a cursory sniff of these gorgeous fruits and there is a strong hint of the sweetness that lies within. Their smell reminds me of my childhood and sitting in my grandmother’s kitchen in Germany and watching her work her magic with the fruits my grandfather had plucked from the trees in their Orchard.  With a little coaxing there is so much to be won from these underutilised beauties. They add depth to apple pie with just a few slices. Make the most perfumed relish to serve with a ham hock and Foie Gras terrine. The classic membrillo or paste is great served with cheeses or air dried meats. We love to play with it here.

Quince Bowl

One of my all time favourites here at The Kings Arms is our ‘Bakewell tart’. But we use some of our quince jam in the tart and top with the traditional frangipane, the crowning glory is the rich double cream, vanilla & quince ice cream.

With Dudley and Wally in tow it’s hard to ignore the calling of the migrating geese above, while they follow their noses after every scent they can, pheasants and partridge have all been put out. It’s another reminder that although one season is drawing to a close, there is another equally vibrant and action packed one ahead. So as the season allows we make every effort to enjoy the bounty of the skies. Shaun my sous chef and his father enjoy nothing more than en evening out with the dogs and the guns and it’s not long before we are looking at a very plump goose in the kitchen. From Confit legs, to pies and goose breast Bresoala, we have tried a lot over the years. My personal project this season is to make Goose Breast Pastrami, first cured, then cold smoked, cooked sous vide for 6 hours and coated in the traditional coriander and pepper. When finished it should make for a lovely smoked meat starter on some rye bread with a little homemade relish.

As the temperature drops and my internal furnace requires something with a little more ‘Umph’, I find myself turning towards more hearty fare. Shin of beef and beef ribs, braised long and slow with root vegetables and winter herbs are a real hit at the moment, the thyme and oregano in the garden are unstoppable at present, great flavours for this job. It’s never a crime to cook too much, if you use it all. Kate and myself enjoy shredding up any remainders and topping with mash to make a cracking cottage pie. The same works for a big old shoulder of lamb, making the best base for shepherd’s pie ever and if like for us there is a rosemary bush outside, then just chuck some in. There is little more satisfying than coming in from a couple of hours outside in the cold walking the dogs or getting the winter garden jobs done and tucking into some hot fresh leek and potato soup made from smoked bacon scraps and beautiful seasonal leeks.

The combination of leek and bacon also works well as a cracking flavour base to the seafood star of the month ‘ Mussels’. Mussels are easy and quick to prepare and the flavour combinations are almost limitless. Supply is guaranteed and although Rutland is the furthest from the coast than any other County in England, the mussels from Brancaster (Norfolk) or Colchester (Essex) are some of the sweetest our coastline has to offer. Some of our favourites are, Pernod & Parsley, Thai Green Coconut Curry, Cider, Root Vegetable & Grainstore Ale, the list goes on. So don’t be scared to knock up a bowl of these little beauties, and if today’s flavour didn’t suit, it’s nice to know that there are plenty of other combinations to try and that mussels are relatively cheap to boot.   So get out there, enjoy the fresh air and the cold and remember there is no better reason to stoke that inner furnace, get the slow cooker on, the cast iron pots in the oven and the soup on the stove, and take comfort in a well earned ‘Food Glow’.

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The author:

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