Archive for the 'gnocchi' Category

On the road: The Wellington Arms

It has been a while since my last blog post – it came as quite a shock to see how much time had past since I last properly posted here. I’ve still been trying new recipes and ingredients but only recently realised how much I’ve missed writing about my culinary adventures. After what has been a tough year so far, I’ve decided to return to blogging and plan to post here regularly – at least once a week. I will continue to focus on seasonal, local ingredients, with the odd detour along the way, including documenting any great restaurant finds.

Indeed my first post is on a fantastic restaurant Bill and I discovered with friends a few weeks ago – The Wellington Arms in Baughurst, Hampshire. I was tasked with finding a country pub or restaurant halfway between Surrey (where we live) and Oxfordshire and after some searching came across the Independent’s Top 50 Country Pubs where The Wellington Arms came highly recommended.

After visiting the website I came across a glowing recommendation from one of my favourite food writers, Diana Henry: “At this tiny but perfectly formed pub, it is worth fighting for one of the twelve tables.” My mind was made up and I desperately hoped they would be able to squeeze us in. Our luck was in and I managed to secure a last-minute booking for Saturday lunchtime – no fighting needed.

The drive along winding country lanes to the tiny village of Baughurst was beautiful and picturesque – I wish I had had a proper camera with me to take photos of the stunning countryside with contrasting fields of vibrant yellow oilseed rape.

Arriving at The Wellington Arms, we were greeted by this sign:

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The Wellington Arms has its own rare-breed hens, along with pigs, sheep and bee hives. Using homegrown, local and organic produce, the owners Simon and Jason grow salad leaves and herbs in their kitchen garden (using polytunnels in winter) and asparagus, courgettes, pumpkins, salads and root vegetables in raised beds.

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This already seemed like a special place and worthy of the rave reviews I had read online. This was confirmed when we settled down at our table (after a very warm welcome from Simon) and read through the excellent menu.

My starter, twice-baked Westcombe Cheddar cheese soufflé on braised leeks with double cream & Parmesan, was incredible – rich in flavour with a light, fluffy texture.

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My main, baked potato gnocchi with roasted butternut squash, walnuts, sage and Parmesan, was equally delicious and incredibly filling. The flavours worked in perfect harmony, with the sage and Parmesan providing the perfect savoury foil to the sweet squash, caramelised walnuts and sticky balsamic dressing.

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My dessert (yes, I was full but there was no way I was turning this down) was a warm and comforting Seville marmalade sponge pudding with homemade custard.

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This restaurant embodies everything I love – seasonal, local produce cooked well. No fancy techniques, just great food, with the produce the stars of the show. We shall definitely be back.

Goodbye winter, hello spring

Spring is finally here, and I’m back blogging. I don’t deal very well with winter, so decided to take a break from this little corner of the web; I wasn’t feeling very inspired and B. ended up cooking for most of the season. But now I am back and full of ideas – and, most importantly, feeling excited about food again.

When produce that has been absent for so many months comes back into season, it really does feel like I’m welcoming back old friends. I was so happy to get hold of some purple sprouting broccoli (finally!) and wild garlic this week – two signs that spring has finally sprung.

I had great plans to experiment with PSB this year, but because the season is so short, when it came down to it I had to have purple sprouting broccoli with cream (courtesy of Nigel Slater). Possibly my favourite dish ever, I have now had it three times in two weeks!

As well as having a fantastic mild garlic aroma, ramsons (as wild garlic is also known) adds great colour and vibrancy to many dishes, including soups, omelettes and salads.

After last year’s risotto, I decided to try something new with my wild garlic, even if it was still on the Italian theme. Pesto is so simple and seems to be a popular way to use up wild garlic, so I decided to give it a go myself and branch out from the classic basil variety I usually knock up.

I warn you now, this stuff is potent – you and your house will smell of garlic but it is totally worth it. I added some basil leaves to temper the flavour, and used a grassy tasting good-quality olive oil.

The resulting pesto was, as you would expect, very garlicky, and had quite a kick to it. I stirred it into gnocchi and these little potato dumplings were the perfect partner, adding substance while allowing the wild garlic flavours to sing. I found this pesto to be a fantastic alternative to basil, plus I didn’t get the usual indigestion I have following a particularly garlicky meal – bonus!

There was enough pesto leftover to turn into a fish stuffing the following day. To bulk it out I added a bunch of fresh parsley and coriander, capers and a couple of anchovy fillets to turn it into a pesto/salsa verde filling for mackerel. The flavours were a perfect foil for the oily fish; it was a fantastic spring lunch served with potato salad and fresh bread rolls.

All in all, this is a fantastic, simple sauce that heralds the arrival of a new season. Goodbye winter, hello spring!

Wild garlic pesto
90g wild garlic leaves, washed and roughly chopped
2 big handfuls of basil leaves
20g pine nuts, toasted
65g Parmesan, grated
Extra-virgin olive oil

1. Pound the wild garlic leaves and basil in a pestle and mortar (or in a food processor). Add the pine nuts, Parmesan and continue to pound/process.
2. Pour in enough olive oil to make a fairly loose consistency but not completely runny and season with sea salt and black pepper.


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© 2015 Sharon Lane

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