Do you like to experiment with different dishes at Christmas?

LCH_Food_ 17[2]With snow on the horizon, twinkly lights in sight and carols in the air, we’re getting into the festive spirit at the hotel. Whilst Christmas preparation may include shopping for that Rudolph jumper or pre-ordering the Xbox One, we know many of you will already be thinking about what dishes to serve on the big day itself.

Turkey is traditional and there’s no doubt, that with careful buying and accurate cooking, it can be a stunning and delicious centre piece. With so many fantastic suppliers on our doorstep, our head chef, Mike Hendry, has decided to break the mould and create a warming, wintery dish of Bwlch venison, served with the freshest seasonal vegetables picked straight from the garden. Whether you’re planning on serving this on a cold winter evening or straight before the Christmas pudding, it is sure to leave all of the family glowing.

Do you like to experiment with different dishes at Christmas? We’d love to hear from you.

Smoked Brecon venison with Llansantffraed celeriac, beetroot, heritage carrots and wild mushroom.

Equipment

You’ll need a smoker, or you can easily create your own by using a roasting pan, a metal cooking rack and some good quality cooking foil for a lid
Maple chips
Food processor
Cooking pans

Ingredients

One whole peeled celeriac
On well-aged, trimmed Brecon venison loin
1 pint of full cream milk
20 garden beetroots, the golden variety have the best flavour
400g of fresh Blewit and girolle mushrooms
4 heritage carrots
2 cloves of garlic
2 sprigs of fresh thyme
Unsalted welsh butter
Welsh Rape seed oil
Halen Mon Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method:

  • Take the whole loin and put it in the smoker on the metal grid with the maple smoking chips below a gentle heat sauce. Lightly smoke the venison for 2 minutes on each side, keep the heat very low as you don’t want to cook it at this stage, and put it to the side
  • Peel and roughly chop one celeriac into 1 cm dice, cover it with milk in a thick bottomed pan, and gently simmer until tender all the way through
  • Once tender, drain fully, and then blitz the celeriac in a food processor to make a completely smooth purée
  • Using a casserole dish with a tight fitting lid, place the peeled carrots in with 100g of unsalted butter, fresh thyme and garlic (chop in)
  • Place the carrots in the oven at 180 degrees and cook until only just tender
  • Clean and cook the beetroots in boiling salted water until tender, and  then the skin will easily peel away
  • Place the previously smoked venison loin into a hot, heavy bottomed frying pan and season with a little bit of rape seed oil
  • Add a knob of unsalted butter and let the venison cook and caramelize in the juice for a maximum of 3 minutes on each side
  • Warm the carrots and beetroots in the saucepan, add a knob of butter and season to taste with sea salt and ideally white pepper
  • Clean and check the mushrooms, and put them into a hot pan, sauté until they start to colour but be careful not to break them up as they move in the pan.
  • Let the venison loin rest for 10 minutes in a warm place, then carve it into generous slices on to the plate – it should be nice and pink in the middle- and present with celeriac purée, mushrooms, carrots and beetroot
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Is it any wonder we’re a nation of chocoholics?

LCH_Food_ 093What’s not to love about the creamy rich dark, milk or white stuff?

Chocolate is internationally adored and in celebration of it our Head Chef, Mike Hendry, wanted to share one of his award-winning restaurant favourites with you to recreate at home.

His Chocolate Cremeaux has our guests making all kinds of noises in the dining room! We’d put good money on you struggling to resist the urge to lick your plate.

Chocolate Cremeaux

Ingredients:

120 ml of Welsh double cream
240 ml milk
3 x medium free range eggs, they will need to be very fresh
90g caster sugar
180g of good quality dark chocolate (at least 70% ), broken into individual squares

Method:

Boil all of the cream with 40g of the caster sugar and allow to cool until just warm
In a separate bowl, whisk the whole eggs and the remaining sugar
Pour the cream and sugar mixture over the eggs, slowly, gently stirring as you do so
Heat the combined ingredients to 85 degrees, add in the broken chocolate until it’s melted
Blend with a whisk or hand blender until completely smooth

Pour into a large rectangular mould that will fit into a suitable place in the freezer. Leave to set over night. Remove from the mould and cut into slices and chunks.

Serve with seasonal berries. At the moment Mike is serving this with a double chocolate hit of Vodka and White Chocolate Sorbet.

Enjoy.

Fat and Smiling Cabbage Whites …

Photo 27-09-2011 16 20 46So at the last count there were 56 varieties of vegetables, 25 herbs and 28 different fruits, all growing in the walled garden.  And it seems that they are all ready at once!

Restoring and running your own walled kitchen garden is a very steep learning curve.  Yes, I know we should have sown lots of successions, and in fact we did, but the seeds that went in first just ground to a halt until the later planted seeds caught up, and then they all rushed to shoot out of the beds and crop like mad, as if to deliberately give the Kitchen team a Vegetable Challenge!

This year has been a resounding success, with the garden almost producing more fabulous fresh vegetables than the hotel can use.  We recently had a full week when we didn’t order a single carrot, spud or raspberry in, every single vegetable on every single plate leaving the pass, was picked in the walled garden.  That felt good.  We even managed to supply the Chefs with enough fresh Monmouthshire strawberries to serve 100 at lunch on the Friday.  Never mind low Food Miles, that lunch even had low Food Yards!  We were able to give away a few boxes of veg to some loyal customers in return for a donation to a local charity. It’s not exactly Riverford, but it was a great ‘feel good’ thing to do.

However, whilst it’s been gratifying to see the garden come on stream properly, the new fruit cages increase yields massively, and the test beds show great promise, it’s not all been completely plain sailing.  As part of our push on towards gaining certified Organic status we tried some companion planting of marigolds and nasturtiums to keep the bugs away from the vegetables, and it would be fair to say this has not been an unqualified success.  The caterpillars seem to enjoy the Cavelo Nero even more than the customers do, and I suspect they eat more of them too.  The only thing growing fat on the Hispis is the pesky Cabbage White butterflies!  We did however have a much better crop from the nasturtiums.  As some varieties are coming to the end, we are now clearing the beds for successions of root and winter vegetables, along with some planting for early spring harvesting.

Our first Walled Garden Open Day on 1st August saw well over 150 keen green-fingered types visit to see our stuttering progress.  The grass was stripy, the sun shone, all the vegetables were dutifully labelled, our Head Chef did cooking demonstrations, revealing some top tips from a high quality commercial kitchen and we had to turn people away from the restaurant at lunchtime.  We made vegetable based cocktails, purely medicinal obviously, gave garden tours and sold our own jam and chutneys.  A great day and we plan to do it again soon.  Suggestions that we join the National gardens Scheme were put down to too much sun and a great many cocktails.

As I write the Great Glasshouse is slowly taking shape.  It’s bigger than we thought, much bigger, but thoughts of grapes, melons and oranges hanging from the inside mean that the excitement is mounting.  It’s easily big enough to drive a tractor through, and would probably be big enough for a game of indoor touch rugby.  Planning for raised beds, the rain water harvesting tank and sprinkler system need to now be finalised.  By the next time you hear from me we may well have scored our first try …


Mike Morgan

Make the most of Autumn vegetables

P1000215To celebrate the beginning of October, our head chef, Mike Hendry provides some tips on how to make the most out of your garden during the season:  

Autumn is a lovely season to grow produce in the garden.  At Llansantffraed Court, we have a large restored Victorian walled garden, where we grow over 100 different varieties of vegetables, herbs and fruits. The best produce in season at the moment is beetroot, blackberries, wild mushrooms, butternut squash, pumpkins, carrots, parsnips and red cabbage.

When growing your own vegetables for the table, space can be at a premium, and its really important to utilise space well by planting fast growing salad types such as radish and lettuce in between rows of cabbages. Prior to sowing the seeds, create neutral ground by putting compost on top of damp, stone-free soil. Placing fine netting over the top of brassica vegetables, such as cauliflowers and sprouts, can protect them from caterpillars.

For culinary ideas, venison and garden beetroot complement each other very well. In addition butternut squash, seabass and artichokes are an ideal combination, and are fabulously comforting foods as the evenings draw in.

A simple but delicious dish is butternut squash crumble, perfect to share with the family:

Butternut squash crumble (serves 4) 

Ingredients

2 x butternut squash

100g of toasted pinenuts

Sage

Shallots

Garlic

200g of flour

100g of butter

20g of oatmeal

50g of Parmesan cheese

Equipment

1x tin foil

1 x ovenproof dish

1x wooden spoon

Method

  • Wrap butternut squash in tin foil
  • Roast butternut squash in oven at 180 degrees
  • Once soft, take butternut squash out of the tinfoil, cut them in half, take the seeds and flesh out
  • Discard seeds and skin and add 100g of toasted pinenuts to the flesh mix
  • Mix sage, shallots and garlic together with mixand put in ovenproof dish
  • Rub 200g and 100g of butter between fingers to make a crumble
  • Add 20g oatmeal and 50g Parmasan cheese to the mix
  • Put crumble mix on top of butternut squash flesh and leave in oven for 20 minutes at 180 degrees

Giving custard a make over

dessertAs the summer draws to an end, make the most of your garden by creating a fantastic but simple custard dish served with seasonal fruit. Head Chef, Mike Hendry, shares his recipe for potted lemon custard below.

“There’s something so comforting about custard, isn’t there? It reminds us of those more traditional puddings – crumbles and pies bobbing around in a sea of yellowy creamy deliciousness. The stuff Sunday afternoons were made for.

But custard’s had a bit of a renaissance – and a facelift. This recipe is one of my all time ‘summer meets a traditional winter accompaniment’ recipe favourites.

At Llansantffraed we’re blessed with a fruitful walled garden. Every day there are so many delights ripe for the picking. At the moment we’re inundated with the antioxidant powerhouses that are blackberries and blueberries; most certainly the ideal accompaniment to offset this considerably more indulgent creamy lemon custard.”

Potted lemon custard (serves 6)

Ingredients

  •  9 eggs
  • 12 ounces of cream
  • 10 ounces of sugar
  • 4 lemons (for zest and juice)

Equipment

  •  6 ovenproof ramekin moulds
  • cling film
  • 1x whisk
  • 1x cooking pan
  • 1x ladle

Method

  •  Line ovenproof ramekins with the cling film
  • Mix together sugar and eggs
  • Remove lemon zest and juice the lemons
  • Mix lemon juice and zest with cream
  • Add lemon juice, lemon zest and cream to eggs and sugar mixture and whisk
  • Put mixture into pan on a very low heat for five minutes
  • Once bubbles have risen to the top, use the ladle to skim off the surface of the mixture to ensure a smooth surface
  • Put equal amount of mixture into the six ramekin moulds
  • Place moulds in oven for 10-15 minutes on 120°
  • Check consistency after ten minutes
  • Once ready, the mixture will have a slight wobble
  • Take out and leave to cool in the fridge

Serve with fruits fresh from the garden – blueberries and blackberries are an ideal accompaniment, especially to the tartness of the lemon.

Thoughts from the Front Desk

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23.06.13 mh Llansantffraed Court Hotel 25 - MM mug shotMike Morgan has owned Llansantffraed Court for 17 years and has developed it into a thriving business. With ambitious plans afoot to re vitalize the well-known restaurant, including developing a cocktail bar, brasserie and small cookery school, Mike spared a few minutes to share his favourite places and foodie secrets.

 What first attracted you to Llansantffraed Court in 1997?

I was looking to buy a hotel in the area and wanted to review the competition. The agent showed Llansantffraed Court to me on a fantastic morning, with the beautiful Monmouthshire surroundings in their full glory. The sun was shining, the daffodils were out and I fell in love with it. It needed a lot of TLC but I could see the potential.

There’s loads of great places to visit in Monmouthshire, where is your favourite place to recommend to guests?

I always suggest joining the Otter trail, which is directly accessible from the bottom of the hotel drive. The Usk Valley walk takes people along the stunning river and then they can visit the array of great pubs in Usk. This is particularly popular with guests. Another  day out leads to Llanthony Priory,  and for the more ambitious guests and climb up to Gospel Pass and Hay Bluff which has spectacular views and is near Hay on Wye, with its world-famous bookshops and excellent cafes.

Being in the hotel industry you’ve probably hosted many dinner parties. What is your staple dinner party dish?

You can’t beat well aged Monmouthshire Beef Wellington, which is popular with everyone. I normally serve it nice and rare with boiled pink fir apple potatoes and fresh vegetables from the garden.

What would be your main advice to somebody hosting a business lunch? 

Look for somewhere where the service is impeccable and the restaurant understands the customer’s needs. For example, depending whether the customer wants privacy or a nice table in the garden, it is important that your requirements are met.  When booking a business lunch, let the restaurant know what size table is needed, what time the lunch needs to end and so on. At Llansantffraed Court, we always ensure people on a business lunch get away on time. Having spent many years in the hotel trade, I know how important an express lunch is to busy business people!

You have a large walled garden at Llansantffraed Court, what is your favourite seasonal ingredient? 

I can’t wait for the runner beans to start cropping, as they are delicious. In the winter, I love butternut squash as it is a fantastic comforting ingredient and is lovely in warming wintery soups.

What seems to be the most popular wine among your customers at the moment?

In the hot weather, people love a cold glass of Ancre Hill Sparkling rosé on our terrace, made just a few miles up the road. I always recommend a nice glass of dry Riesling with seafood, which is lovely.

There is a growing ‘foodie’ scene in Wales, and in Monmouthshire in particular, how have you tapped into this market?

I am proud to have played a part in establishing the foodie scene here in Monmouthshire. I was on the board of the first ever Abergavenny Food Festival. The restaurant and food festivals go hand-in-hand, as food festivals help to publicise the restaurant s. Our close proximity to great local produce and ‘foodie’ events means we are in a perfect location for those that are passionate about food.   We are seeing a huge growth in Food Tourism with guests coming to the area for a few days to try all the fab eateries

You’ve got some fantastic food festivals on your doorstep, which is your favourite and why? 

The Abergavenny Food Festival is my obviously my favourite. It’s true to its roots as it is a farming and artisan-produce driven event. Whilst it is now a big festival, it is not overly commercial and hasn’t ‘sold out’ like some of the bigger festivals.

If you could invite anybody in the world to have a drink at Llansantffraed Court, who would it be? 

I’d like to invite Carwyn Jones, the First Minister, as I think it would be interesting for him to see what’s available on his doorstep. I’d also like Katherine Jenkins to visit, as she is a talented homegrown singer, and would add a touch of glamour to our dining room!

Questions for Mike Hendry

23.06.13 mh Llansantffraed Court Hotel 12Mike Hendry is our Head Chef here at Llansantffraed Court. Originally from Ayrshire, he began his career as a chef aged 21 and moved to Wales in 2003, after being offered a position at the Michelin-starred Crown at Whitebrook.

He has built up a wealth of experience in fine dining, he is passionate about using produce from trusted Welsh suppliers and especially from our large walled kitchen garden.

He has recently devised new six or nine course tasting menus which will be presented with carefully selected matched wines from our award winning list. During a break from the busy kitchen, he gave us an insight into life at the pass:

Your menu varies. Do you feel it’s important to mix inventive recipes with more traditional ones?

The current trend is to mix old school classics with a modern twist. I know what ingredients work well together and it’s always good to use new techniques.

As a chef who has been cooking from an early age, who would you say your biggest influences have been along the way?

My dad and grandmother were always in the kitchen and inspired me with their cooking, which I will always be grateful for.

What did you find most challenging as a young cook learning your trade?

When I started off I was given jobs that weren’t necessarily enjoyable. The most important thing is having the willpower to continue – it’s not a trade where you expect praise very often, but that’s what drives me.

You use a lot of locally sourced ingredients, what is your favourite dish to cook?

I don’t have one, as all my food is fresh and follows the seasons. Dishes taste the best when they are made out of the fantastic vegetables, fruit and herbs picked in the garden, sometimes literally minutes before they are on a plate in the Restaurant. I use a trusted network of around 75 local suppliers to help the community and it is important to cook with top end, fresh produce.

Monmouthshire is renowned for its culinary scene and with so many suppliers to choose from. How do you pick?

We choose whatever is best for us, building a good working relationship over time, for example, we use suppliers in Brecon who are fantastic. For our venison, we use the Welsh Venison Centre as I have known the guy who runs it for years and he always provides top quality meat.

How do you learn what ingredients work best together?

Training is really important. However, some people have a natural flair with ingredients, for example my Sous Chef is Mediterranean and a natural cook. There are tried and tested ways of putting things together and he has been doing it for a while. I normally test new dishes by putting them on the menu and gaining customer feedback from a usually very willing audience!

Is there a technique you have mastered that you’re most proud of?

New techniques such as liquid nitrogen, paco  jets, water baths and so on are great, but it’s important to get the basics right. I’m proud of my fish preparation skills. I spent some time at Ashton’s in the fish market in Cardiff to master it and was even put behind the block, which was great experience.

What are your favourite cookbooks that you would recommend every home cook own and why?

For the home cook, I’d say Keith Floyd and Elizabeth David are really inspirational and have good techniques. As a chef, I think Eleven Madison Park is a great book as the recipes are amazing. The Flavour Thesaurus by Niki Segnit  is the cookery bible for chefs as it lists all the classic techniques and ingredients.

You’ve just developed new tasting menus for LLCH? How did you plan it?

We don’t have a set tasting menu as we like to create dishes suited to the customer, and to show off the ingredients, for example, if a diner has a preference we can tailor the menu to their tastes but with a few surprises thrown in..  We try to plan in whatever is fresh that day and do something nice with it.

Have your team influenced your cooking in any way?

It is a real team effort here and if somebody has an idea, we will cook it and test it. If something is good enough, we will put it on the menu – I’d be daft not to use their skills.

What does LLCH offer that similar restaurants don’t?

It’s top quality- high end cooking, but the price is very reasonable. For example, customers can get a three course lunch for just £19.50. It’s excellent value in beautiful surroundings.

If you were to eat out in any restaurant in the world, where would it be?

Eleven Madison Park in New York as it has a great standard of food and is a really nice place to eat. I would also love to eat at El Celler de Can Roca in Spain, which has been voted the world’s best restaurant.

Who is your favourite chef and why?

There’s so many, it’s difficult to choose. Heston Blumenthal has good techniques and Tommy Keller’s attention to detail is phenomenal, especially when he pioneered cooking with water baths at The French Laundry in California. He is a genius.

You’ve been appointed as a Head Chef, but what are your dreams for 2013?

I would like the team to keep motivated and build on their strengths, but most of all I want to  please the customer. Ultimately, I want to continue with what we’re doing and develop the menu. Hopefully the recognition will follow.