After a brilliant few days in southern Spain it’s a delight to come home to acres of blues sky, long may it continue! I have it on good authority from Susanna at The Good’s Shed that with all this lovely weather there will be Kentish asparagus in time for the end of April and so it features on the menu for the next supper. Having practically lived on wonderful Serrano ham for the last few days I wanted to bring that flavour to this menu, with an English cured meat which Macknade stock. The Mediterranean theme continues with a bouillabaisse and with my take on Spanakopita which uses the abundant nettles and wild garlic which have also been flourishing whilst I was away. To round it all off a seasonal crème brûlée with some local rhubarb – not ‘forced‘ in a darkened shed, but picked from outside my back door – couldn’t get much more local or seasonal than that!
Only a few weeks until the next supper and so the menu starts to come together. I am often asked where my inspiration comes from? Do I use recipes? How do I decide?
The answers are as varied as the questions, but essentially I am inspired by the place that I live and by the seasons, the weather and the food that is abundant. At the moment everything is bursting into life, in the fields (lamb), in the woodlands (wild garlic) in hedgerows and roadsides (Alexanders, chickweed, nettles) and so it goes on. This time last year I was lucky enough to spend two memorable days in the company of three amazing and inspirational wild-food specialists. Mark Williams (aka @markwildfood) who runs guided walks and cook-outs all about foraging from his idyllic base in Galloway, Christoffer Hruskova, Michelin starred Danish chef, previously of North Road in London and now developing an extraordinary ice cream range. And finally the dry, droll and very talented Gary Goldie who made is name at Ardanaiseig and as a former Scottish chef of the year, and now has his name over the door in Oban at “Gary Goldie at the Queens”.
Between the four of us and over two days we picked over 25 different wild food species and gathered ‘spoots’ at low tide – razor clams to you and me. And on the Sunday evening of that extraordinary weekend we cooked a 16 course tasting menu and I learned more techniques in one day than in the preceding year.
So I will be drawing on those memories and ideas, but as I am currently in Andalusia I am tempted too to let some Spanish influences creep in…..now if we can just find octopus on the North Kent Coast…..