Tag Archives: Local Produce

The Small Holding… a review

I was recently treated to a meal at this restaurant by a friend which was very generous of them, especially as they also had to be my taxi service as well.

The Small Holding had been on my radar for some time as its chef patron Will Devlin had for a period before hand been running a series of pop ups in the area as “No Fixed Abode” and I had heard good things and been impressed by their Instagram feed with some imaginative and stylish modern British food.

Well as the rain tipped down on our way to the place located out in the countryside just south of  Tunbridge Wells in the village of Kilndown with lovely views (on a less inclement day) across the Weald this former pub (the Globe & Rainbow) offers some serious cooking with a great deal of produce grown on site or foraged locally and the rest resourced from local farms nearby.

The menus are divided between what they term ½ Acre or Full Acre the former is five courses and the latter nine courses of tasting plates. Both menus can be paired with wines or craft beers at an extra cost.

The menus offered are a no choice affair that highlights what is in season and at their best from the poly tunnels and working small holding in their back yard and what the hedgerows have to offer. It is imaginative and in places quirky where they use a range of techniques or flavour combinations to test and excite your palate.

We settled at our table in a cosy dining area with wood burning stove for those chilly winter days, wooden tables and chairs and a kitchen that is open to view all adding to the charm of the place. We opted for the ½ Acre Menu as it was lunch time. Some nibbles delivered to us highlighted courgettes, a bhaji style fritter, a batter encrusted flower, and a little filo tartlette filled with a creamy pungent puree certainly whetted the appetite.

Our first course was home cured Bresola that was served with assorted textures of beetroot and some creamy soft burrata cheese, great simple presentation with a balance of flavours and textures.

Next came some bread along with the next course, the bread – sour dough with some local rapeseed oil and basalmic vinegar and a big dollop of local butter. The course it accompanied was a home grown courgette stuffed with some Kentish Blue cheese topped with some puffed bulgar wheat – a really unctuous and full flavoured dish.

We then had a fish course that was a little morsel of freshly salt cured mackerel served on top of shredded mackerel mixed with a horseradish cream sandwiched between two discs of home-grown pickled kohlrabi dusted with some Lovage salt. It looked and tasted very good – just wish it had been twice the size as it was exceedingly moreish.

For the main course we then had some roasted old spot pork literally from the neighbour (the other side of the hedge from them) a couple of slices of a perfectly roasted loin and a crispy morsel of soft pork belly it was garnished with a tasty home- grown carrot topped with a nutty sesame crumb – very accomplished and balanced with their flavour combinations.

For the dessert course we had locally foraged wild blackberries that were with a lovely tart coulis of said same fruit topped with a “rocher” of fennel ice cream topped with foraged wood sorrel – some biscuit crumb added a textural compliment. It certainly hardly touched the sides!

We completed the meal with the cheese a Burwash Rose an unpasteurized cows milk cheese from nearby Stonegate in East Sussex – served with some oat biscuits and thin homemade crackers and a courgette pickle the cheese is washed in rose water so it has a distinctive flavoured rind a perfect finish to the meal.

I was impressed and so glad I had finally made it to try Will’s food – I am now looking forward to quizzing him on the September 4th Scoff Quaff show on Channel Radio and digging deeper into how the venture came about and what the plan is for the future. I will be back and I hope you will tune in at 11-12 on the 4th to hear more about it all. If nothing else try the place out as it is certainly one to watch for the future…

The Small Holding – Kilndown Tel: 01892 890105

https://thesmallholding.restaurant/

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Happy Friday the 13th…

UPDATE: Due to an unlucky accident on June 12th and ending up hospitalised for ten days and a broken femur this event is now cancelled. Will update in due course on future events


Paraskevidekatriaphobia sufferers need not attend…

Well for our July event it will take place on Friday 13th July – we are not superstitious and hope you aren’t either!  We are planning weather permitting to make it an alfresco meal down the bottom of our garden – please note if weather is too unsettled it will be done indoors.

We felt for this dinner we would make it a memorable four course meal that showcased some interesting techniques and flavour combinations. (Not that all are dinners are not so intended!)

We will kick the meal off with a welcome dink and nibbles of a seasonal nature and then serve as a first course a homemade coarse terrine that will incorporate pork and chicken… I love making a terrine as there is a skill to keeping it moist and full of flavour and it always excites me when I cut into it for the first time. I will serve it with a homemade butternut squash & cranberry chutney that has been maturing now for a good while!

Next a challenging dish for some will be a Ceviche of sea bass and salmon. This is raw marinated fish served with a thinly sliced salad of fennel. The addition of mint in the Ceviche also adds a zing to the citric marinade that cooks the fish. Perfect for a summer evening.

The main course will be roasted beef fillet served with a “Pepper Club” sauce – this is a piquant green peppercorn and port soaked raisin cream sauce – we will serve some fresh green beans (as always) and pommes dauphine little deep fried mashed potato and choux pastry pillows… perfect to mop up the sauce.

Finally we will basically serve a jelly & ice cream dessert that will showcase Marden based cider makers Phil & May Turner and specifically their elderflower cider – we will also stud it with fresh local raspberries and when we serve it some homemade strawberry parfait and warm butter shortbread biscuits.

Dates: Friday 13th July

Time : 7:30pm Welcome Drink & Nibbles

Dinner: 8:00pm prompt

Price: £40 Per Person (service not included)

Menu

Welcome Drink & Seasonal Nibbles

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Homemade Pork & Chicken Terrine served with a homemade Butternut Squash & Cranberry Chutney

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Sea Bass & Salmon Ceviche with a fennel salad

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Roasted Fillet of Beef served with a Pepper Club Sauce

Pommes Dauphine,  Haricot Vert

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Turners Elderflower Cider Jelly with Local Raspberries,

Strawberry Parfait and Warm Butter Shortbread

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Coffee or Tea, Petit Fours

Menu Subject to Market Purchases & Ingredient Availability 

 

Paella comes to the “pequeño toro”

For our June events we are excited to announce we will be returning to the village of Brenchley and in particular we are preparing two nights of Paella at the “Little Bull” Cafe & Bar in this picturesque village.

We will be cooking alfresco a large pan of classic mixed Paella at 6pm and 8pm on the two nights and this can be reserved directly with The Little Bull by calling them on 01892 724985 or you can complete the booking form below and someone will call you back to confirm your reservation.

We are also subject to availability offering the Paella for takeaway for those wishing to experience a freshly cooked Spanish classic in the comfort of their own home.

We will be serving at 6pm and again at 8pm so why not reserve your places now to ensure you get your Spanish fix and come on down to the “pequeño toro” and say hola!!!

Dates: 8th & 9th June

Times:19:00

Price:  £15 per Adult £9.50 for Children (under 10)

Takeaway £10 per Adult £6.00 per child (subject to availability)

Menu: 

Table Snack: Pipas al Punto de Sal

Freshly Cooked Paella – Chicken, Chorizo, Prawn, Squid with Peppers, Green Beans and Peas 

Vegetarian Option available (please request when booking)  

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Fresh Local Strawberries & Cream 

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May you join us…

“To invite people to dine with us is to make ourselves responsible for their well-being for as long as they are under our roofs.”

– Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

This quote sums up our supper club perfectly – I have long been a fan of french gastronome and food philosopher – his aphorisms  have often rung true on so many occasions. This is no more so than the one above…

For our May event we will feature those in season foods such as Asparagus, Lamb and Strawberries with some novel combinations and some well tried marriages.

We will kick the evenings off with welcome drink and seasonal nibbles and then start the meal with a risotto made with fresh local Asparagus, Gorgonzola cheese and toasted  hazelnuts – creamy and unctuous.

The main course will be roasted lamb served with a foraged wild garlic crumb, the new seasons jersey royal potatoes, peas and charred lettuce all bought together with a redcurrant jus.

Our cheese selection will reflect what is best and in season and finally what could be better than a soft chewy meringue topped with cream and fresh local strawberries that will be well and truly coming into season.

We hope you will come and join us and we welcome old and new customers to come and sample what “Covert” dining will all be about…

Please complete the booking form below, we will then email you an invoice to confirm your reservation with a small deposit that can be paid securely online.

Dates: Saturday 19th May

Time : 7:30pm Welcome Drink & Nibbles

Dinner: 8:00pm prompt

Price: £30 Per Person (service not included)

Menu:

Asparagus, Gorgonzola and Toasted Hazelnut Risotto

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Roasted Lamb Rump, Wild Garlic Crumb, Jersey Royals, Charred Lettuce, Peas & Green Beans, Redcurrant Jus

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Hari’s Selection of Cheeses. Porridge Oat Biscuits

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Fresh Local Strawberry Pavlova

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Coffee, Tea & Petit Fours

Menu subject to market purchases and ingredient availability

Covert Secrets Revealed…

We thought it is about time we offered a structured cookery demo so instead of a dinner event in February we are offering a very special lunch preceded by a live cookery demo.

We will have just four spaces and Hari will demonstrate a full three course menu that you will all sit down to eat. It is a great way to learn some new techniques and tips and Hari will be more than happy to answer any questions along the way.

We will ask all attendees to arrive at 9:45am for a welcome coffee and biscuits. The demo will kick off at 10:00 am prompt and then lunch will be served to all around 1:00pm (or basically when ready)

The dishes that will be demonstrated will be as follows

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Date: Saturday 24th February 2018

Arrival: 9:45 am

Finish: Circa 2:00 pm

Price: £55 per person includes Recipe Sheets and  3 course Lunch


Starter: Ceviche of Smoked Haddock, Celeriac Remoulade & Apple

Main Course: Supreme of Chicken with a Prune & Bacon Stuffing, Red Wine & Prune Sauce

Gratin Dauphinoise & Vegetable Medley

Dessert: “Damian Allsops” Water Chocolate Mousse served with Blood Orange Segments

N.B. Menu subject to market purchases and ingredient availability

If time allows Hari will also demonstrate his Beer Bread and the demo will also show how to bone a whole chicken and the process of making a red wine stock. He will endeavour do everything from scratch (where possible) and will also demonstrate the presentation of the finished dishes. Attendees will also be provided with recipe sheets to take away so they can replicate at home.

This event will only go ahead if all four places are filled so why not get a group together and come and enjoy a live demo followed by a lunch.

To book  your places please complete the form below and we will then confirm your booking with an online invoice for credit card payment to secure your places.

 

Do we really love food?

A recent BBC News headline caught my eye as I laid in bed supping my morning cuppa “Chef Angela Hartnett says Britons are not really foodies”

It is quite a bold statement and  I have to say an opinion I would totally concur with as there are many Britons that like to think they are but we really do lack the same food culture as our European neighbours Spain, France or Italy. (they are not without their faults as well)

The Germans are more like us whilst Asian cultures have far more developed understanding of food than we do. I have to say we have become better in the last 40 years but one of the points Angela Hartnett raises is the fact that our food culture is money driven from the “haves and have nots”

We are also so wasteful with food and totally unimaginative in using up those items past their best. The lack of skills in a kitchen both at home and now often in professional environment also means there is a need to develop the skills lost over time on how to manage our resources better. A good business practice as well.

Those BBC programmes “Back in Time” that looked at how families cooked and ate far more left overs and had a connection with food was a fascinating insight into how times have changed over the decades.

Having lived in cultures that appreciate their food, the seasons and their history it seems a real shame we do not teach from a very young age here in this country some basic principals. I fondly remember a few years ago seeing a class of primary school children (All under 5) in France being led into a Michelin starred restaurant where I was dining to come and sample some classic French ingredients like foie gras, snails and chocolate to have their palates educated.

I have for the past six years annually coached a group of young girls at a local school how to gut a fish and bone a chicken and it never ceases to amaze me how squeamish the majority are about the whole process and how unconnected they are from the food they enjoy.

I myself was a fussy child not eating many foods and it was not until I left home and started my studies and travelled more widely that I woke up to food and what it has to offer. It provides conversation, enjoyment and nourishment and is also useful in so many other ways.

If there is one thing we should teach in schools it is how to appreciate the food we eat and how we can cook it properly. I will keep doing my bit but unless we change and become a nation of foodies then alas nothing will change!

I also recently managed to watch a film on Netflix called “The Last Magnificent” about one of the first celebrity chefs in America Jeremiah Tower. It was an eyeopening and thought provoking look at how what we now take for granted is a relatively modern phenomenon. What struck me most was how as a child his parents left him to his own devices (he had a very privileged upbringing and it was this experience that helped develop his passion for food)

So my challenge for 2018 is to keep plugging away at trying to develop young palates and create a different culture towards food. I would challenge anyone who wants to join me on this mission will be most welcome to do so.

Ding Dong Merrily on High…

Ho Ho Ho… our Christmas 2017 Menu is now all decided and we are open for your bookings.

We felt we should be pretty traditional but at the same time in line with our “Quirky” status adopt some slightly more edgy festive ideas.

This year we will have decked our dining area with assorted festive bling. We will then kick the evenings off with a welcome drink and assorted nibbles.

The first course we will serve will be a classic smoked salmon rillettes – a homemade coarse pate that will be served with a horseradish cream and some classic melba toasts.

Main course will be turkey but this we will be done as a thin breast escalope studded with a fresh sage leaf and then a slice of cured ham served with a delicate sweet sherry sauce and then accompanied by a classic potato gratin and the veritable green beans.(Haricot Vert)

Next we will serve a selection of cheeses with our now infamous porridge oat biscuits and then to round the whole meal off we will make a Christmas Pudding Parfait that we will serve with a red berry compote laced with local Anno Sloe Gin – a perfect boozy and indulgent finish to our celebratory meal. 

So why not join us and book your spaces via the booking form below.

Dates: Friday 15th & Saturday 16th December

Arrival: 7:30pm 

Dinner: 8:00pm – Dinner Served

Suggested Donation: £35 per person.

A £5 Reservation Deposit by credit/debit card will be taken on confirmation of  your booking. We normally call you within 24/48 hours

We then request £30 cash per person on the night (N.B. service not included)

Menu

Festive Welcome Drink & Nibbles

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Smoked Salmon Rillettes, Horseradish Cream, Melba Toasts

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Turkey Escalopes “Saltimbocca”

Green Beans, Potato Gratin Dauphinoise

🎅 🎅 🎅 🎅

Hari’s Selection of Festive Cheeses

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Iced Christmas Pudding Parfait,

Red berry & Anno Sloe Gin Compote

🎅 🎅 🎅 🎅

Coffee or Tea served with Mini Stollen

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Pot Luck 2…

We had a highly successful event earlier this year when we ran a sell out series of dinners and a lunch where we decided the menu subject to market purchases. The menu was only revealed when diners sat down to eat.

We also set the minimum donation of just £10 per person and suggested diners pay what they thought it was worth.

With Christmas fast approaching and everyone thinking about the festive season and counting their pennies, we have decided to repeat this offer next month.

We hope we can tempt you all to come and try us out.

We have some exciting food ideas and plan to serve a seasonal three course dinner. This time cost will be £5 per course (making it a minimum of £15) with customers able to decide what they feel the meal is worth! – a great way for you to experience what our supper club is all about!

So if you are feeling brave and want to partake of this event then please do complete the booking form below.

Please note this will be very much a “first come first served” on the booking front so do not delay in booking. You can, at that time, let us know if you have any major allergies or dietary requirements as this will help us in the planning of the whole menu when we come to make our purchases.

pot-luck-2So who is up for a bit of “Pot Luck 2” secret dining? If you have never been now is your chance to be surprised!

To reserve your places just complete the form below and we will contact you within 48 hours to secure your booking by taking a credit/debit card payment deposit.

Dates: Friday 17th & Saturday 18th November

Arrival: 7:30pm 

Dinner: 8:00pm – A three course menu will be served

Suggested Donation: A £5 Reservation Deposit per person secures the first course.

We then request a minimum £10 cash per person on the night will ensure you get the other two courses  – we will happily accept more if you think it has all been worth it. (N.B. service not included)

The Butchers Block, Burham – a review…

Well it has been many a year since I have visited this establishment in its previous incarnation as the Toastmasters Inn.

About three months ago it reopened its doors following a major refurbishment and renamed the Butchers Block… a reference to its provenance of being owned by a butchers family.

I have to declare at this point I have a big affection for this place as I spent some of my earlier culinary years at this place and worked alongside the proprietor who was something of a mentor to me and instilled a real passion for cheese if nothing else.

The place has been beautified and decorated in a pleasing way but it is the menu that for me speaks volumes about their aspirations and aims. It is obviously and rightly very meat centric (considering their connections) and features a meat cabinet in the dining areas entrance that displays some really good looking hunks of ageing beef.

The menu highlights for both lunch and dinner are steaks and prime cuts from a T Bone to a Cote de Bouef or Fillet with the classic accompaniments. These all come with a price tag that whilst not eye watering expensive they are not such good value as perhaps lesser known cuts would be. Why not feature a Jacobs Ladder or a bavette. Especially on a lunch menu where a diner wants to eat more quickly as they are time constrained and also price sensitive.

It is a continual debate even in high end restaurants in the big metropolis that you can eat a highly accoladed meal for far better value for lunch than dinner.

The Butchers Block is really missing a trick here and need to rethink the offer. It should be a shop window for what to expect for the more formal dinner service and in particular special occasion diner.

So what did we eat – well we did not fancy a paddle (wooden board) Ploughmans, charcuterie board or fish platter but craved something a little more substantial and the burger whilst tempting had been our menu choice the day before on a visit to Windsor.

So we opted for Fish & Chips a pub classic and then a Steak and Ale Pie – both priced at £12.90 seemed to be the choice of the majority of all the other diners as the Steaks were all prices at double this amount.

A wait of just on one hour from when we had entered the place was our experience before our food arrived. It was not busy and I felt the kitchen was struggling to cope to produce what was pretty basic fare.

Fish & Chips arrived on a wooden board (a modern trend that needs to be discouraged) and was duly sent straight back to be put onto a plate as Mrs HC wanted to eat it off a hot plate!

My Steak & Ale Pie came served in a bowl shaped plate – better than a board but again not my favourite receptacle shape as the cutlery has a tendency to fall into the centre if ever you rest it on the rim! Much was made of the fact the pastry case was short crust and the top was puff pastry and whilst tasty with a well cooked inside filling the gravy boat with extra sauce was much need as it required some extra lubrication, the accompanying  mash and vegetables with it were not so pleasing.

Gritty baby carrots and then sugar snaps were nestled alongside a mash potato that had a stale flavour that was close  to turning.  The pie was I suspect not made in house which for £12.90 was not really good value. I was hungry so ate it and did not fancy an hours wait for a replacement.

Overall I had and expectation that this place would deliver something far better than it did. It could be described as very average and the fact they have access to high quality produce they could execute it all with more flair and imagination.

Service was also lacklustre and in need of polish. There seemed no urgency and classic example of lack of communication between the husband and wife team resulted in us being overcharged for our two small glasses of wine. Quickly rectified when pointed out however the landlord did not seem to posses the social skills to back it all up.  Not a natural front of house so left us feeling it was all a bit amateurish.

It had been many years since I had been in the place and I guess it will now be many more years before I will want to make a return visit… says it all really.

October Fe(a)st…

Well, we thought for our October event we would highlight a few of our favourite dishes and try something a bit different as well.

It will take place in our home venue only on Saturday 14th October so spaces are limited.

We will kick the evening off with a welcome drink and some seasonal nibbles… We love the challenges of providing something tasty and topical to our diners and seeing them explore some new flavours or experiences!

Bang Bang Chicken Salad

We will, for our first course,  do a classic Chinese inspired starter… Bang Bang Chicken Salad. This is cold poached shredded chicken that is dressed with a peanut butter and sesame dressing. My friend Chef Kam Po But has taught me well (Please watch this space – for a return visit from him… we are working on it)

Next course is a bit different…instead of our normal cheese course we thought we would serve a fish course so will be serving a pan fried salmon fillet garnished with roasted beetroots and a beurre blanc (butter sauce) flavoured  with horseradish – a simple combination that should provide some great complimentary flavours!

Beef Olives

The main course will then be a dish we have done before – a classic beef olive… a slowly braised, rolled & stuffed top rump steak served in a rich stout sauce. We will serve this with some creamed potatoes and a classic braised red cabbage – a truly comforting flavour combination with the beef olive!

Finally, an Orange Polenta Cake served with Greek Yoghurt and runny local honey will be the way to round off what will be a great autumnal feast.

We do hope you will join us for what we are calling our “Fe(a)st” and we will also have soon our plans for November and December to complete yet another year of “Covert” dining.

We are now taking bookings and request a £5 deposit per person to secure your places with a balance of £30 per person required on the night.

We just ask you to complete the form below and we will call you within a 48 hour period to take your booking deposit over the phone and confirm your places.

Time : 7:30pm Prompt for welcome drink and nibbles

Dinner: 8:00pm

Suggested Donation: £35 per person service not included

Menu

Welcome Drink &  Seasonal Nibbles

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Bang Bang Chicken Salad

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Salmon Fillet with roasted beetroots and a horseradish beurre blanc

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Slow Cooked Beef Olive with Stout Sauce

Creamed Potatoes

Braised Red Cabbage

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Orange & Polenta Cake with Greek Yoghurt & Local Honey

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Coffee or Tea with Petit Fours

Menu Subject to Market Purchases and Ingredient Availability