Somerleyton Diary: Make your evening go with a banger
PUBLISHED: 15:27 07 November 2016 | UPDATED: 15:27 07 November 2016
Eating alfresco on Bonfire Night is all about heart-warming family fare for Somerleyton Estate's chef-director Stephen David
It makes me smile when I think of the torture I put my parents through every November 5. However stormy the weather, my siblings and I insisted we all venture outside and enjoy ourselves.
In my rose-tinted nostalgia, the bonfire blazed to the heavens, the fireworks flew safely sky high, the sausages were perfectly caramelised and I never burnt my fingers on the wrong end of a sparkler. But let’s be honest, I might have forgotten the years when the heavens opened, the trees were bent in half, the less than flaming pyre petered out in a smoky haze, the Catherine wheels where damp squibs, the bangers split their skins, black outside and raw inside. And as for trusting this tearaway with anything pyrotechnical . . .
Poor Mum and Dad, however much it rained, gusted or even snowed, happily joined in with trademark good humour.
While early November is far from the summer’s sun-kissed, azure-skied evenings we already crave, it’s the perfect excuse to get the barbecue going again. Regardless of how many padded layers we have to don, outdoor char-grilling and griddling is back on the menu for one night only.
At The Fritton Arms, we’re lucky to have a wonderful wood-fired brick oven in our kitchens, which is so often commented on by guests as “what’s that lovely barbecue smell outside?” Cooking over charcoal, or surrounded by glowing log embers, is more than just culinary theatre. The smoky roasted edge and the pervading flavour imparted to the food is unlike anything you can achieve on the hob or in the oven. If you haven’t considered a clay oven for your garden, put it on your bucket list for next summer – and Bonfire Night of course.
For this month’s recipes, it’s all about homely cosy comfort food perfect for November 5. Flatbread is so easy to make, just three ingredients, little kneading or proving, and a great base for whatever you want to top it, pizza-style. You can eat them simply brushed with a garlic and parsley butter or a caramelised shallot purée. I also love them spiked with local feta cheese and green chillies, tandoori-style.
Bonfire Night just wouldn’t be right without a hearty sausage supper so I have come up with a local version of cassoulet, that heart-warming classic from French Gascony. We also love using our wood oven to cook our heritage breed estate meats. It works best with the prime cuts, the Welsh beef steaks and our Suffolk lamb cutlets. The latter is a firm favourite, kept whole as a rack, baked in good rapeseed oil and lots of fresh thyme from the kitchen garden, which means you can roast it longer for all that crisped savoury exterior and beautifully rosé pink inner. Throwing in some simple well-seasoned butternut squash in chunks is a lovely addition. Bake off a creamy dauphinoise potato and a rustic ratatouille selection of Mediterranean vegetables and there’s Sunday lunch sorted.
Have a happy safe bonfire night wherever you are, enjoy! Stephen
For stylish weddings and parties at the estate and all over Suffolk and East Anglia, visit www.somerleyton.co.uk or call Rebecca Mackenzie, director of Private Somerleyton on 01502 734907.
Griddled flatbread with roasted vegetables, radish, shaved beets and goats’ curd
Top your puffy breads with your favourite pizza toppings or naan bread flavours. One of our favourites at The Fritton Arms is a popular vegetarian choice, we first lightly bake roast various roots, fennel, squash, trimmed baby beetroots in different colours and whole shallots until just tender (and then topping, tailing and skinning the latter two when handle-able), which we then bake on top of the cooked breads.
350g local self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
350ml organic natural yoghurt
Pinch of sea salt
Mix up the ingredients in a bowl or pulse in a processor until just coming together. Tip onto a clean board and briefly need into a dough. Chill for 5 minutes. Cut into four pieces and then divide each into 3 balls. Roll out well-floured on each side to a few millimetres thick and to a rough 10cm diameter. Nb You can make fewer balls and roll them wider. Heat up your griddle pan or wood-fired oven until hot, wipe your bars or griddle pan with oiled kitchen paper, lay dough pieces on and then cook for a minute or two on each side, until just set and puffy (but not too coloured), turning with tongs. Keep warm and repeat.
Whole butternut squash, baked as seasoned wedges
Large goats’ cheese log
Sea salt and black peppermill
Beetroot, trimmed and peeled
Peel the cooked squash and purée in a processor. Spread a thin layer on the breads, top with roasted vegetables and brush bread edges with clarified butter. Bake until browned and bubbling. Meanwhile process the cheese down with enough cream to a smooth but very thick spoonable consistency. Halve the radishes and with a knife or mandolin, very carefully slice the beetroot as fine as possible. Garnish the breads with the cheese mixture, radishes and beetroot before serving.
SUFFOLK SAUSAGE BEAN CASSOULET
If you have time, an authentic cassoulet is best made with dried beans, soaked overnight and simmered until soft, but to be honest, more often than not at home, I grab a trusty can or two. Do look out for Hodmedod’s local pulses, both dried and canned, they only retail British-farmed beans and peas and it’s a great Suffolk product, based as they are in Halesworth. If you are really short of time, I recommend their baked beans too! Sausage-wise, do support your local independent butcher’s shop; I tend to go for a coarse simple seasoned pork variety, the old-fashioned butcher’s banger, seems to please all the family but you can experiment with more herby and spiced versions. Prepare the meat and bean elements at the same time and combine when serving (or if using, before gratinating with the optional cheese crumb crust).
18 fat butcher’s sausages
Sea salt and black peppermill
Rapeseed oil or olive oil
200g smoked Suffolk bacon, roughly shredded
1 large onion; 1 celery stick; 1 large carrot; all peeled, halved and thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
Approx. 700g (or 3 drained tins) cooked beans eg Hodmedod’s fava or haricot beans
300ml good chicken stock
2 tbsp tomato purée
3 tins whole plum tomatoes, roughly chunked
2 -3 bay leaves
Few fresh rosemary, sage or thyme sprigs or 1 tsp dried
3 handfuls fresh white breadcrumbs (optional)
1 handful parmesan cheese, grated (optional)
Fresh parsley leaves, shredded
Pre-heat your oven to 180c equivalent.
Oil the sausages with your hands and bake in the hot oven or griddle over the barbecue whilst starting the bean stage of the recipe below. Halfway through cooking the sausages, mix up equal quantities of mustard and honey into a glaze and brush all over. Every few minutes, toss the sausages around to recoat and continue until nicely-crusted and fully cooked-through. Remove to somewhere warm.
Meanwhile for the beans, heat up a light covering of oil in a wide deep frying pan over a medium heat, add in the bacon and fry until lightly browned; next tip in the onion, celery and carrot and continue frying until well-caramelised before adding into a hobproof lidded casserole. Drain the tomatoes (but reserve juice in case the cassoulet dries out later) and cut into big pieces. Add to the bacon mixture with the beans, stock, purée, bay, herb sprigs and seasoning, cover and bring to a good simmer. Then bake for 30 minutes in the oven (remembering to increase heat to 220c 15 minutes in). Slice each hot sausage into three diagonal pieces. Mix the crumbs, parmesan and a good grinding of black pepper together, uncover the cassoulet, stir in the hot sausages, scatter over the crumb mix and bake until gratinated brown on top. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10 -15 minutes. Before serving, sprinkle with parsley for a final flourish.