Notes from a Working Kitchen – September 2014

James Goss, owner of The King’s Arms in Wing, gives us a seasonal account of how his kitchen menu changes with the local produce that comes from his kitchen garden and the fields and producers around Rutland. Join the Great Food Club for 15% off the a la carte menu at The King’s Arms.

It’s scrumping time again. This has to be the best month for free English produce. Just a walk out the back of the pub with the dogs and down the hill into the valley and the place is exploding with fruit. The blackberries are having a bumper year. Crumble bases and jams for the residents breakfasts are already on the stove or in jars. Although only a small crop it looks as though we will be able to knock up some more sloe gin this year, we are just waiting for the first frost before we pick the berries and then it’s time to macerate them with sugar and gin. Damsons are also not to be ignored and there are plenty about this year, dark purple fruits, great for gins or fruit jellies alike. The only hard thing is the long wait for the gin to mature. Hanging thick from the hedgerows this year are the elderberries, a particular favourite here, jelly is a big thing to go with the game dishes in the restaurant.

Also now in abundance are wild mushrooms, field mushrooms are easy to spot and if you are very lucky like we were out on a walk, super firm fleshed ‘Puffball’ mushrooms are also to be had. What a treat to slice a slab off this, griddle it and enjoy it with a decent steak or piece of gammon. I can highly recommend it. Our fruit trees were bursting, the pears now so heavy that they have snapped branches, we have shored the remaining ones up. Great poached in red wine, bottled and pickled for later or again in chutneys for the Christmas cheese board.

With permission, we got to help ‘tidy’ my partner’s mother’s orchard and vegetable garden. We collected plums, apples, courgettes, beetroot, mini orange cherry tomatoes, leeks and a massive rhubarb patch was also cleared. So into the back of the land rover and into the kitchen they all went. Although things are slowing down a bit, this time of year is a busy one in the kitchen. Plum and apple chutneys, apple and tomato relish to cook, courgette and onion and crab apple pickle, the list goes on. The rhubarb is on the list or stewing and once passed through a sieve ready to become Rhubarb Ripple Ice Cream. The beetroot has been poached in aged balsamic vinegar and sugar to go with starters, and some more cooked to puree and then thickened with chocolate another little touch for the a la carte menu. While there is so much in abundance, free and readily available it would seem a shame to ignore it and let it go to waste. Don’t be afraid to experiment, take a basket out bring back what you find and hit the kitchen. A great way to spend the weekend.

It’s great to see such a resurgence of interest in artisanal charcuterie at the moment. We have been curing and smoking meats and fish onsite for over 10 years now, products like air dried hams, salamis, & Bresoala. What’s great is that we are not limited to just beef and pork. Just to coincide with the ripening figs our air dried wild boar and goat legs have reached maturity. So with a drop of Colwick cheese and under the grill, we serve them up with thinly sliced, boar, goat or one of the 2 different Coppa’s we also cure and age here.

Cured Goat & Boar

We are already enjoying grouse on the menu, whole roast or just the breasts for the uninitiated as smaller dishes to have a go at this rather expensive bird. Wild ducks are slowly coming back in season and not far behind are the partridge, then pheasant, woodcock and snipe. We use a lot of game birds here and there shall be plenty of tips and hints to follow in the months to come. Saturday the 13th of September is The Rutland Food and Drink Festival again. There will be lots of us there shouting about what is great here in Rutland. Shaun my long suffering Sous-Chef and I will be along sometime between 3 and 5 in the afternoon to talk a little about fallow deer, with a butchery demonstration, some cooking and then a little tasting. So if you want to find out more about what goes on behind the kitchens doors come down and visit us all there at Sykes Lane, Empingham on Rutland Water.

The author:

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