Good food on our doorstep - Somerleyton Dairy
PUBLISHED: 11:57 07 June 2016 | UPDATED: 11:57 07 June 2016
Sunshine and warmth bring a welcome queue of new season Somerleyton Estate produce for chef-director Stephen David
When we arrived at Somerleyton back in late winter, ready ¬and¬ raring, we had propped a mental kitchen door ajar for the rush of farmhands, gardeners and foragers to enter. February was not the best time to see Somerleyton in all its productive glory, the promise of bounteous harvest seemingly a far ¬off dream. Fast forward just a few whirlwind months and gone are the post¬-winter blues of empty fields and depleted cold stores. Seemingly overnight it’s become a green and pleasant land once again, happy farmer and chef faces all round.
New season spring lamb is one of the first welcome returnees to the menu this month. Reared on the lush grass pasture of our listed parkland around the hall, its sweetness and tenderness is a much awaited delight, and a perfect pairing for end ¬of ¬season spears of Simper’s Ramsholt asparagus. Discover a couple of my favourite lamb recipes later.
Foraging is another exciting aspect of being on a country estate. I am delighted to be fostering links with wild foods expert Jon Tyler of Wild For Woods, who works all over Norfolk and Suffolk leading foraging courses and other fascinating bush craft activities, encouraging interest in nature, healthy eating and hearty outdoor exercise. Here at Somerleyton will be out there enjoying all three over the coming month, hopefully seeking out the last of the delicate St George’s mushrooms, and hedgerow crops such as nettle, wild garlic and sorrel. High on the list will be the arrival of white clustered blooms of heady elderflower, perfect for syrups and easier to make than Jon’s recent three hour labours of de¬petalling 320 dandelion heads for a few pounds of admittedly fascinating marmalade.
In the garden
Anna Outlaw, our unstoppable and talented head gardener, and her hard¬working team are being kept busy as the growing and harvesting year starts with vigour in the beds and borders of the impressive walled garden, which is well worth a peek if you come to visit the grounds of the hall. We can’t wait for the gentle stream of trugs filled with salads, herbs and vegetables to become a constant procession at the back door. Plentiful pink forced rhubarb and spring greens have brought welcome early zing on the menu.
I am soon to welcome the budding class of 2016 from the NSSA Chefs’ Academy in Halesworth for a special day out from the classroom, a treat to celebrate their passing out, after 18 months working with me, Luke and the other instructors to gain their NVQ catering qualifications. I wish them well in this rewarding industry.
Over at The Duke’s Head in Somerleyton village, the rare breed beef home-reared by our Crossley herd of Welsh Black cattle on the lush parkland can be sampled not just in our signature Duke burger, interesting variations on the popular patty and the expected prime steaks, but also unexpected cuts like salt cured rump and onglet, making use of the whole beast. www.dukesheadsomerleyton.co.uk
The summer brings the excitement of Walk with a Fork, the deliciously clever fundraiser by the admirable East Anglian young people’s charity, Ormiston at three venues across Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex and supported by Private Somerleyton, our new event service. Rebecca and I have been involved since its creation, helping to bring some of our generous producer friends on board too and it has been a huge success. To find out more about Ormiston’s edible Suffolk amble at Helminghall Hall on Sunday September 4, visit www.ormiston.org/walkwithafork.html. Thanks to Blythburgh Free Range Pork and Clarke’s of Bramfield butchers, we’ll see you there at our hog roast halfway round!
Early summer is all about the arrival of the first new season spring lamb on the estate menus. The misleading spring lamb label actually means those lucky offspring born as winter turned, letting them gambol about and graze on the lush new shoots of springtime pasture. Our verdant 17th century deer park surrounding Somerleyton Hall, part of our 2,000 acres farmed in ¬hand, quickly fattens our well ¬fed, well¬ bred Suffolk black-faced sheep, plumping their sweet, toothsome meat. So in celebration of its imminent arrival, here are two much ¬loved recipes, showcasing this delicious tasty meat, one of the most popular choices on our produce ¬led menus at the Estate’s pub ¬restaurants, The Duke’s Head and The Fritton Arms.
Herb-¬crusted lamb cutlets
The most tender cut of lamb, cutlets need little adornment, so favour simplicity over anything more complex in your accompaniments. Home¬made béarnaise is always a treat and the tarragon picks up on the herby theme of the crust. Keep your chosen combination of soft herbs for the crumb coating restrained in flavour. I favour milder chives, parsley and sorrel etc with just one of the stronger mint, tarragon, basil or oregano.
2 large French ¬trimmed lamb racks
Good local rapeseed oil
Sea salt and black peppermill
50g dry white breadcrumbs
Handful of soft green herbs, chopped
Flesh from a few slow¬ roasted garlic cloves
25g parmesan ¬style cheese, grated
2 tbsp melted butter
Dijon¬ style mustard
Pre¬heat your oven to 200c fan. Lightly oil the lamb and lay fat side down in a medium-¬hot pan until well browned on the side. Seal the ends of the meat too. Remove to a plate. In a food processor, blend up the crumbs with the herbs, garlic and seasoning. Pulse through the cheese and then drizzle in the melted butter as you blend. Once fully mixed, check the mixture clumps up when you pinch it, if not, add more butter.
Brush the fat side of the lamb racks with mustard and pack the herb crust neatly onto each, pressing in firmly. Place racks on a hot roasting tray, crumbed side upwards. Bake for approx. 20 minutes until golden and still pink inside. Allow to rest for 8 minutes. Carve down through the bones slowly with a sharp knife to keep the crust intact and serve.