I’ve just discovered Somerset!! Sounds like a bit of a random statement but even though I’ve been there on a fleeting visit before, I didn’t really register its multitude of charms – The Mendip Hills, Gardens at Stourhead, Albert’s Tower, Hauser and Wirth, Glastonbury Tor and Abbey, Dunster Castle, Jane Austen Centre, Wells Cathedral, Quantock Hills, Chalice Well, Bishops Lydeard Mill, Rural Life Museum, galleries…..
My brother Rory O’ Connell and I had been invited to do a Pop-Up dinner at Roth Bar and Grill at Hauser and Wirth just outside the village of Bruton.
This complex has been painstakingly restored from an advanced state of dereliction by Iwan and Manuela Wirth. This dynamic pair are widely held to be the No 1 couple in the modern art world.
While we were there, a Don McCullin photographic exhibition was drawing people from far and wide. His powerful black and white photos from war zones in Africa, Vietnam and Biafran wars and England in the 1950s were profoundly thought provoking. More than one person emerged from the exhibition with tears pouring down their cheeks and Daphne Wright’s stallion sculpture quite simply awe inspiring. But we’d come to cook dinner with Steve Horrell and his team at the Roth Bar and Grill.
Rory’s delicious starter of fresh orange segments, cucumber dice, myrtle berries and marigold paprika leaves with a lemon verbena granita on top, really wowed the guests. Main course, was roast pork with crackling and spiced aubergines – a worthy celebration of a free range Sandy Black pig from the estate. Yoghurt and cardamom cream with pomegranate seeds and rosewater blossom made a perfect ending followed by a surprise piece of Ballymaloe fudge served with freshly roasted and brewed coffee.
The walls of the restaurant are hung with pictures from top contemporary artists from around the world. The bar was created by Björn, Oddur and Einar Roth from Switzerland. Carcasses of beef, lamb, pork and pheasant hang in the dry aging Salt house that is lined with 500 hand cut Himalayan salt bricks. That in itself looks like an art installation. Closeby there’s a blackboard offering a fine brace of wild pheasant and a pot of dripping for £20 pounds.
Steve’s food at the Roth Bar and Grill is simply delicious. We had many fresh, simple seasonal dishes, beautifully composed. A terrine of pork and pheasant was served with Medlar jelly and organic leaves from Charles Dowding’s garden in the nearby village of Alhampton. Charles is the grower who has championed the No-dig method of vegetable growing. I went along to visit his garden and was so impressed by the results that I’ve invited him to come and teach a class at the school in 2016, so watch this space. www.charlesdowding.co.uk
Somerset is also Cheddar cheese country. I’d visited Keens and Montgomery Cheddar on a previous trip so this time we were shown around the Westcombe Cheddar dairy in Evercreech by Richard Calver. They’ve been making cheddar on this farm since the 1980s, and now his son Tom make Caerphilly and are trialling a Comté type cheese. He’s also provided space close to the dairy for some exciting young craft brewers to make a range of barrel aged beers close to the dairy, The Wild Beer Company.
The village of Bruton itself with its charming narrow cobbled streets has a variety of little shops, café and restaurants, far more lively than so many rural towns and villages nowadays which seem to be made up almost exclusively of charity shops and estate agents. This revival according to the locals is largely due to Hauser and Wirth which entices people from London and beyond to view the world class exhibitions and enjoy the food from the estate farm and gardens.
At The Chapel, on the main street also gets rave reviews from locals and visitors alike. We loved a Taleggio pizza with field mushrooms and thyme leaves from their woodburning oven and the croissants and pan au chocolat were deliciously buttery and flaky. We never did manage to eat at Matt’s, a tiny restaurant where chef Oliver Matt cooks and serves the food himself – it was booked out until Christmas with a long waiting list. Next time we’ll book well ahead and I’m looking forward to going back for a Family Saturday at Hauser and Wirth early in the New Year. http://www.hauserwirthsomerset.com/events/festive-family-saturday
Pork and Pheasant Terrine with Medlar Jelly
Every charcuterie in France proudly sells its own version of Pâté de Campagne. They vary enormously in content and makeup – some are made with rabbit, game and even sweetbreads. A certain proportion of fat is essential, otherwise the terrine will be dry and dull. It is meant to be rough textured so the mixture should not be too finely minced.
8 ozs (225g) fresh pheasant or chicken livers or a mixture of both
2 tablespoons (2 American tablespoons + 2 teaspoons) brandy
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper (yes, put it all in!)
8 ozs (225g) very thinly sliced, rindless streaky rashers (you may need more if they are not very thinly sliced) or better still, barding fat.
1/2 oz (15g/1/8 stick) butter
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 lb (450g) streaky pork, minced
8 ozs (225g) pheasant, minced
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1/4-1/2 teaspoon ground allspice (Pimento or Jamaican Pepper)
a good pinch of ground cloves
1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon +1 teaspoon) freshly chopped Annual Marjoram
2 small eggs, beaten
salt, freshly ground pepper and nutmeg
2 ozs (50g) shelled pistachios
6-8 ozs (170-225g) piece of cooked ham, cut in thick strips
sprig of thyme
Medlar Jelly (see recipe)
Cornichons; French breakfast radishes and a little salad of organic leaves and fresh herbs
Luting paste (see below) or tinfoil
3 pint (1.7 L/7 1/2 cups) capacity terrine or casserole with tight fitting lid
Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4.
Wash the livers, separate the lobes and remove any trace of green. Marinade in the brandy and 1/2 teaspoon of ground white pepper for 2 hours. Line a terrine or casserole with very thinly sliced bacon or barding fat, keeping a few slices for the top.
Sweat the onion gently in the butter until soft but not coloured. In a bowl mix the sweated onion with the pork, pheasant, garlic, allspice, ground cloves, chopped marjoram, beaten eggs and the brandy from the chicken livers. Season with salt, freshly ground pepper and lots of grated nutmeg. Mix very thoroughly. Fry a little piece and taste for seasoning – it should taste quite spicy and highly seasoned. Add the pistachios and beat until the mixture holds together
Spread a third of the farce in the lined terrine, add a layer of half the ham strips interspersed with half the chicken livers, then cover with another third of the pork mixture. Add the remaining ham and livers and cover with the last third. Lay the reserved barding fat or bacon slices on top, trimming the edges if necessary. Set the bay leaf and sprig of thyme on top of the bacon or barding fat and cover with the lid. Seal the lid with luting paste (see below) or else use a sheet of tinfoil under the lid.
Cook in a ban-marie in a preheated oven, 180C/350F/regulo4, for 1 3/4 – 2 hours or until a skewer inserted for 1/2 minute into the mixture is hot to the touch when taken out. If you are still in doubt remove the lid and check: the pate should also have shrunk in from the sides of the terrine and the juices should be clear.
Cool until tepid, remove the luting paste or tinfoil and lid and press the terrine with a board and a 2 lb (900g) weight until cold. This helps to compact the layers so that it will cut more easily. Keep for 2-3 days before serving to allow the terrine to mature. It can be frozen for up to 2 months.
To Serve: Unmould the terrine, cut into thick slices as needed and serve with medlar jelly, a good green salad and a glass of red wine. Cornichons and crispy radishes are delicious as an accompaniment.
8 ozs (225g/2 cups) flour
5-6 fl oz (150-175 ml/generous 1/2-3/4 cup) approximately water
Mix the flour and water into a dough firm enough to handle, roll into a rope and use to seal the lid on to the casserole to prevent the steam from escaping during cooking.
31/10/2013 (SH/DA) (3920)
Makes 6-8 jars depending on size
Serve with game, pork or coarse patés or goat cheese
2 lbs (900 g) medlars
2 lbs (900 g) Bramley or crap apples
piece of cinnamon stick
2 star anise, optional
2 strips of lemon
Cut the fruit into quarters, put into a stainless steel saucepan. Cover with water, bring to the boil and cover until soft. Pour into a jelly bag and leave to drip overnight. Don’t squeeze the jelly through the bag or the juice will be cloudy. Next day measure the juice and allow 450g (1 lb) of sugar to every 600ml (1 pint) juice. Heat the sugar and add to the hot juice. Add the spices and boil until setting point is reached. Pour into hot sterilized jars and cover immediately.
Roth Bar and Grill Doughnuts
250ml (9 fl oz) milk
50g (2 oz) sugar
500g (18 oz) strong white bread flour
40g (1¾) oz butter
15g fresh yeast
Sugar & little cinnamon powder for sugaring
Warm the milk and sugar in a pan until tepid. Mix the flour, butter, yeast & eggs in a mixing bowl – with a dough mixer. Add the yeast to the milk and sugar mix, then pour the milk mix into the flour mix.
Beat on a low speed for 5 minutes followed by 5 minutes on high speed. Place the dough in a bowl covered with cling film to prove. Take out the bowl, cut into 15g portions and roll in to balls. Place on a lightly oiled tray with cling film over the top
Leave to prove again until they double in size.
Deep fry at 180 degrees until golden brown – turn over half way through. It is best to do only a few at a time. Remove and drain onto kitchen paper.
Sugar the balls – they are now ready to serve
Roth Bar and Grill Roasted Squash & Pearled Spelt Salad
1 Butternut squash
2 cloves of garlic
A small bunch of hard herbs – thyme, rosemary & marjoram
Spices – dried chilli, coriander seeds, fennel seeds
Pomice oil, olive oil & red wine vinegar
Parsley – chopped
Salt & pepper
Peel and deseed the squash – cut into long chunky wedges. Take a level teaspoon of each spice and ground in a pestle & mortar. Peel and thinly slice the garlic. Pick and roughly chop the hard herbs.
In a bowl, sprinkle half the herbs, half the garlic, half the spices, salt and pepper and a good glug of pomice oil over the butternut squash.
Get your hands dirty – ensure the squash is covered in the oil, herbs & spices
Remove the squash and put on a tray – retain the bowl of oil.
Cut the cherry tomatoes in half, squeeze out the seeds and toss them in the oil bowl with the rest of the herbs and spices and salt and pepper – put in a small separate roasting tray.
Put the squash in the oven on 220°C/425°F gas mark 8 for 15 minutes – shake & turn frequently until golden brown then remove from the oven and leave to cool.
Roast the tomatoes in their own tray at 220°C/425°F gas mark 8 for 10 minutes – remove from the oven and leave to cool.
Put the spelt into a pan of salted cold water – bring up to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Strain off the spelt, whilst still warm add a good glug of olive oil, red wine vein gar, chopped parsley and grated Parmesan.
Mix the squash, tomatoes and spelt together in a clean bowl – gently combining all ingredients using your hands.
Taste to check the seasoning and adjust to taste.
Serve and enjoy – great with grilled meat or fish or by itself for a light lunch.
Rory O’ Connell’s Salad of Oranges, Cucumber, Marigold and Myrtle Berries with Lemon Verbena Granita
4 oranges carefully segmented
2 tablespoons (2 1/2 American tablespoons) of peeled and very finely diced cucumber. Avoid using the seeds in the middle of the cucumber
2 teaspoons of honey
2 -4 teaspoons of lemon juice
1 tablespoon (1 1/4 American tablespoons) of tiny marigold leaves
1 tablespoon (1 1/4 American tablespoons) of Myrtle berries
2 tablespoons (2 1/2 American tablespoons) of lemon verbena granita
2 teaspoons of marigold petals
Place the orange segments and diced cucumber in a bowl and add the honey and lemon juice. Stir very gently to mix. Be careful not to break up the orange segments. Taste and correct the sweetness if necessary with a few more drops of lemon juice. Add the marigold leaves and myrtle berries to the bowl, mixing them in gently. Cover and chill until ready to serve.
To serve, divide the orange mixture and its juices between 4 shallow bowls. Place 1 dessertspoon of granita on top of the fruit and finally sprinkle on the marigold petals.
Lemon Verbena Granita
This is a master recipe in that the leaf of choice, lemon verbena in this case, can be successfully replaced by others. The first time I made this recipe, I used blackcurrant leaves as in the leaves from a blackcurrant bush. For a few weeks in May, the leaves are highly scented and you end up with an ice that is pure white in colour, but tasting intensely of blackcurrants. Fabulous. Interestingly, the leaves of redcurrant or white currant bushes are not scented at all and not suitable for this recipe. If you have currant bushes in your garden, and as they will not be in fruit when you are making this recipe, in which case you may not be able to remember which bush is which, just pick a leaf off each bush, rub it between your fingers to release its aroma, and if it smells intensely of currant, then that’s it. Many other leaves such as spearmint, lemon balm and rose or lemon scented geranium all work brilliantly. Elderflowers, though not a leaf but with a heady muscat flavoured scent, also work really well. As this is a granita we are expecting a slightly coarse, flaky and icy texture, so forget about your ice cream scoop here and just spoon it into pretty serving dishes. You will not need an ice cream machine here, though if you have one and freeze the mixture in the machine, it will then be a sorbet. The recipe is simple but watch out for the subtleties involved, such as using cold water with the sugar when cooking the leaves to draw out their flavour and allowing the syrup to cool completely before adding the lemon juice. The granita will keep for several weeks in the freezer but is considerably better when eaten as soon as possible after it has been frozen.
This granita of lemon verbena is good on its own but is even better when served with a splash of a dry sparkling wine. Serve as a light and refreshing dessert or as an equally light and refreshing starter on a scorching Summer’s day.
Make a syrup with the leaves, sugar and cold water.
Cool the syrup.
Add the lemon juice, mix, strain out the leaves and freeze.
- Lemon verbena, a wonderful citrus scented herb is used to flavour many sweet dishes such as mousses, creams and ices. The sharp pointy leaves are intensely lemony and make an utterly refreshing ice.
3 handfuls of lemon verbena leaves
225g (8oz/1 cup) granulated sugar
600ml (1 pint/2 1/2 cups) cold water
Place the leaves, sugar and cold water in a saucepan. Place over a moderate heat. Stir occasionally to encourage the sugar to dissolve and bring it to a simmer. Allow it to simmer gently for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool until it is completely cold. You will end up with a pale green syrup. Juice the lemons and add to the syrup and right before your eyes you will see the green tinge leaving your syrup. Strain out the leaves through a sieve and I usually press on the leaves to extract as much flavour as I can. Place the strained syrup in a wide container and freeze until set. Remove from the freezer and break up the ice with a fork. It will look like a slushy mess. Refreeze and repeat the process twice more, three times if you can bear it, and eventually you will end up with the distinctive shard like consistency of a granita. Refreeze covered until you are ready to serve it. I serve it in coloured glasses or glass bowls, with a single relevant leaf to decorate and a splash of chilled sparkling wine