Slow Cooked Loin of Pork from Lewtrenchard Manor, Devon - recipe
PUBLISHED: 19:11 14 January 2010 | UPDATED: 15:19 20 February 2013
Malcolm Twigg is entertained to a dinner like no other at Lewtrenchard Manor's Purple Carrot where they have developed a whole new culinary adventure, 'Chef's Table' where the diner is taken (virtually) into the kitchen.
Lewtrenchard Manor has developed a whole new culinary adventure, 'Chef's Table', and a party of us were there to experience it in their new private dining area, The Purple Carrot. As a dining concept the Chef's Table brings Lewtrenchard right into the forefront of contemporary dining culture and finally fuses the worlds of cooking and entertainment into one indissoluble whole. Especially so in the hands of chef/patron Jason Hornbuckle who can out-celeb the best of the TV celebrity chefs around, aided and abetted by his team of chefs and serving staff.
Gordon Ramsay is credited with first developing the concept of Chef's Table - which I found surprising, because you might well imagine your lettuce curling at the edges or your pannacotta curdling on the plate at the effing and blinding likely to erupt from the kitchen. But that's what Chef's Table is, warts and all: it's a concept that takes the diner into the kitchen and the kitchen onto the dining table; if things go wrong they go wrong and you can see how the chefs deal with it and turn it around. You can watch your food being prepared and cooked either through windows or via a series of split-screen TVs and you can hear the chef describing the process. You can even chat to the chefs across the spice bar at Lewtrenchard to get some tips on what they're actually doing.
Lewtrenchard Manor is part of the von Essen group of hotels, renowned for comfort, class and quality throughout the country. All are found in abundance here, with a huge supply of unfussy friendliness that makes it a home-from-home for the guests and diners. And 80% of Lewtrenchard's produce is home-grown in the walled garden of the old manor house - all stolidly cultivated in the old-fashioned manner by Bill, the 73-year-old gardener.
When Jason Hornbuckle became chef/patron it automatically thrust his kitchen into front of house anyway, so the Chef's Table concept is a simple progression from that. It is founded on the increasing public awareness of food and its origins and people's hunger to know more about the food they are eating.
There was a time when anyone who didn't belong in a chef's kitchen set foot in there at their peril, but Chef's Table sets that notion right on its head. "The chefs love it," Jason said. "We're in the entertainment business at root, so why not make the most of it? The whole experience is like no other and you take away from it what you want. It doesn't even have to be a good memory about the food. So long as you've enjoyed the evening and have been well entertained, we're happy."
Jason jumped on the idea when he completely revamped his kitchen. "We had this small staff-room adjoining that would be ideal to use as a private dining room, so we incorporated that into the design, adopted a contemporary dcor, with all furniture and fittings being built by local craftsmen, and set the whole thing running. Customers love it." So, apparently, do the chefs, despite doing their work in something of a goldfish bowl.
The Chef's Table at Lewtrenchard can cater for between four and eight people, with champagne and canaps on arrival, an eight-course menu with different wines to accompany each main course (provided by Bibendum Wine Ltd), a running commentary on what is happening in the kitchen if you care to turn the sound on, and an explanation by the sommelier as to the choice of wines to accompany the particular courses. Menus can be either pre-designed by the customer or left to the chef's discretion. One of the main courses will actually be cooked in the dining room with an explanation by the chef as to how to approach it and the opportunity for guests to take part in the process. And the wine flows, and flows. The whole intention is for guests to enjoy an entirely relaxed evening and to have fun.
Jason was indomitable centre stage in the kitchen - he could almost do a stand-up routine or start juggling knives whilst directing operations, but it could hardly improve on the entertainment that we had that evening, which everyone felt was first class. And, do you know, excellent though the food and wine was, it was only a very small part of the overall value that we all got out of the evening? Jason was quite right. You take away with you what you enjoyed most about Chef's Table. In our case, it was everything.
But that is only one small part of the uses to which The Purple Carrot will be put. Cookery demonstrations are on the menu, wine-tasting evenings are in the offing, top-name guest chef evenings are planned, and cookery workshops are being worked up, where participants can actually get hands-on in Jason's new kitchen. I can hardly wait!
SLOWLY COOKED LOIN OF PORK
1 loin of pork
200g fennel seeds
Zest of 3 limes
50g rock salt
1 red chilli
1 clove garlic
1 bay leaf
1 Blend the rock salt, lime zest, chilli, garlic, bay leaf and fennel seeds together until the mixture resembles a paste-like consistency. Generously cover the pork with the marinade, wrap in cling film and leave overnight.
2 Slowly steam for 11/2 hours and then leave to rest for 20 minutes. Thinly slice and serve.
Jason served this with Lewtrenchard asparagus, glazed carrots and star anise jus.
CHAR-GRILLED AUBERGINE WITH PICKLED TOMATOES
1 bunch mint
1 bunch coriander
1 clove garlic
Good glug of olive oil
10 plum tomatoes
1 bunch basil
2 sprigs thyme
1 clove garlic
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
100ml olive oil
1 Thinly slice the aubergine and chargrill on both sides with no oil - this will enhance the flavour. Remove from the grill, add the chopped mint, coriander and garlic and pour over the olive oil. Mix lightly and leave at room temperature.
2 Slice the tomatoes and add rock salt. Chop all other ingredients, mix together and spread over the tomatoes. Cover with foil and gently heat in the oven for just 5 minutes - remove and leave to cool.
3 Top the aubergines with the tomatoes and serve with rocket salad dressed with just olive oil and some shavings of Montgomery cheddar. Smoked Montgomery gives a particularly good flavour.
VANILLA PANNACOTTA WITH ENGLISH STRAWBERRIES
1 litre cream
4 leaves gelatine
2 vanilla pods
1 Heat the milk, cream and sugar until the sugar is dissolved. Infuse the vanilla by splitting the pods and scraping out the seeds into the milk. Leave to cool.
2 Soak the gelatine in a little cold water, then add to the vanilla mixture and set in the fridge for at least 4 hours.
3 Serve with strawberries. This tastes especially good with marinaded strawberries and green peppercorn ice cream.