Hi again, the clocks have changed and we are fully in the midst of spring, but first let me tell you about the previous couple of months on the farm.
Once a year a number of our suppliers are invited to an intimate dinner in the farmhouse at River Cottage. The dinner is to thank our suppliers for their continuous support throughout the year, and also a way for us chefs to showcase just how fantastic their produce is. Between the eight of us we created a sixteen course tasting menu with a variety of produce, textures and flavours from steamed buns to Bloody Mary & horseradish vodka shots served with a beef tartare. The night was a great success, the chefs introduced each course and it was fantastic to experience both cooking the dishes to serving them and hearing the feedback personally.
Now we have left behind the winter months, the farm is showing signs of vitality and a glimpse of the summer months. Not only have the gardens begun to blossom but we have also welcomed a number of new four legged companions to the farm. Twenty new piglets are making themselves comfortable along with the daily arrival of new lambs now it is lambing season. Out in the gardens, us chefs are getting excited about the new growth popping their heads through the soil, especially the asparagus. The beauty of cooking with seasonal ingredients is that you are made to be far more creative with recipes and dishes. Secondly, you crave and become excited about certain months of the year when more ingredients will begin to enter the kitchen - we are currently have an abundance of Purple Sprouting Broccoli and Rhubarb - both a welcome site in the kitchen after the winter months. They have been used in a variety of forms on the current menus in the kitchen, from Rhubarb Frangipane Tarts & Rhubarb Ketchups to Purple Sprouting Broccoli wrapped in homemade Lardo (cured fat from the back of a pig coated in a number of spices).
As for the apprenticeship cookery school the last two months have seen the introduction of meats and pastry. In February we were introduced to butchery, we were given sections of a lamb and a pig, which we then broke down into portions before making our dishes. With the leg of lamb we were shown how to butcher the leg into steaks for pan frying and also the shanks for overnight slow cooking to be picked down and rolled for a ballottine dish. With the middle or saddle of pork, we separated the belly from the loin (to be put aside for bacon) then with the remaining loin we removed the tenderloin and portioned off individual chops for a pork chop dish. Having the opportunity to work with a whole carcasses of an animal to learn on is incredibly valuable, not only were we taught how to cook the cut but we were able to trace the cut back to the its position on the animal and understand how the muscles work, allowing you to fully understand how it needs to be prepared and cooked.
After meats we moved onto pastry in march and a learned to make a variety of pastries such as Puff, Sweet and Rough Puff. We were then assessed on a savoury pastry dish, such as a pasty, a sweet tart, e.g. lemon tart, a filled steamed sponge pudding and finally choux pastries.