MAY 2015. British Terroir

images

Over the period of May and June we will be celebrating the best of British seasonal food. We will be holding special events, and including some foods, typical of our great landscape on the menu – meat, vegetables, oils, cheese, honey, charcuterie, and fish, complementing them with British wines, beers and spirits.

What is British Terroir?

Terroir: the French word, which in the context of food, means ‘a sense of place’. British Terroir is the concept by which a foods’ character comes directly from the soil, climate and environment where it is grown or made. A strong example of this is Mrs Kirkham’s Lancashire cheese. It uses unpasteurized cows cheese, made on the Lower Beesley Farm near Goosnargh in Lancashire. Lancashire is a wet county facing the Irish sea. The pastures are rich, with a strong mix of grass and wild flower that leads to the cheese’s mineral and complex flavour. The milk is separated slowly over 2 days giving the cheese its buttery yet crumbly texture.

Main types of British Landscapes: The British Isles are one of the most populated and intensely farmed countries in Western Europe. With a lot of our natural landscape under pressure from expanding cities, commercial farming and the switching of farming from growing food to eat, to growing crops for feed or fuel. Spring is an ideal time to celebrate the diversity of our landscapes, and consumption can be an act of preservation.

Woodlands: Kent, Surrey and Sussex ring London, in places, heavily wooded with natural English hardwoods such as oak, ash and occasionally elm. These provide natural habitat for wildlife and wild flowers/greens. Wild garlic is the first of the ground cover to appear. This will often be then followed by bluebells before bracken and blackberry bushes set in. We will be looking for wild foraged bitter greens and shoots. From the water meadows of Wiltshire we are also looking for watercress and nettles, which are prolific.

Pastures: Pasture and arable lands make up the largest % of farmed land in the UK. Part of sustainable farming practices is the set-aside of land and nature corridors. These parcels of land are left to nature, to encourage bio diversity.

Moors: The Yorkshire Moors – bleak, isolated and too difficult to farm – have become a great place for deer and game. Moors need to be managed as they become overgrown with rapidly growing heather and gorse. In places like Dartmoor, it is the wild ponies that crop the new growth and tips of plants and shrubs, and increasingly commonly it is deer that does this work for us. We will be looking to muntjac deer for venison on our menu.

Coastal waters: The coast line of the British Isles offers a wide range of habitat from sandy beaches, to chalk cliffs, to rocky out-crops and coves. Fishing is a really tricky subject – the oceans are complex and relatively poorly understood. Fish appear and disappear without us really know how or why. Fishing is also difficult to police. The simplest way through this for us, is to offer fish that is sustainably caught. Fish from small day trawlers that are based on the south coast are an easy call, and we also choose fish that are not easily caught in industrial quantities. Shellfish like cockles, mussels and clams are also in our sights at this time of year.

High pastures: Hill pastures are defined by their remoteness – a mix of rock, scrub and low quality grass pasture. Hill farming has has long been a tradition of British farming. Historically it has been sheep that have best suited the harsh conditions. They need little care, just being moved from pasture to pasture and often left out over winter only being brought inside in the harshest months. With falls in the price for lamb, sheep farming has been passed over, on a small scale by goat farming. Goat milk and the opportunity to make cheese, has brought about a rise in the production of artisan goats cheeses. It is to this new seasons goats cheese that we will be turning. The milk from the goats, newly turned out to fresh green pasture, makes fantastic bright, fresh and citric flavoured cheese. So over the next couple of weeks, we will be contacting producers and getting out our recipe books to create the May and June menus. Watch this space for more details.

APRIL 2015 : Paris in Spring

49c5d8f1cba08_71847n

Spring has arrived, romance is back and Paris is Paris, so this month we are celebrating Paris.

Paris and food is a triple hit.

Food markets. Not only the street  food markets like on Rue du Bac in the 7th, but in Bastille and my new favourite on Rue des Martyrs in the 9th but also the big out of town market of Rungis where the Vegetable hall is just an abundance of well tendered, beautifully presented freshness. In London i often go to New Covent Market and your heart sinks at the contrast. Actually not totally true because you come across the occasion box of beautifully presented produce but it is more often than not part of the Rungis shipment that is trunked over every day.

2. Paris Brasseries: yes a cliche, yes the food has not changed since you don’t know when but it represents such a strong food culture, one rooted in the best Lyon, Gascony and Alsace, all gutsy fair that makes you smile.

3.Fresh produce : The region of Ile de Paris is flat and dominated by rivers and canals. It’s lush and picturesque and also an incredibly good landscape for growing vegetables. It has become the market garden for Paris providing its markets with fresh produce in abundance.Having Ile de Paris as a market garden on your door step from a cooking point of view means that have your job is done, fresh produce with flavour and character just needs  a light hand to finish it. A mustard dressing, a bowl of aioli, a light dressing with olive lemon juice is all that is needed.

So for our menu we will be dusting down some of those brasserie classics we will be serving

Steak Tartar; hand cut filet and top side with the egg on the side and extra cornichons and mustard.

Sole or Turbot meuniere: whole fish drenched in seasoned flour. We char grill our first then finish off in the oven with butter so we can serve the fish with the cooked butter which is nutty and with lemon juice all you need.

Moules Frites: because you have to. mussels, wine, garlic, parsley and cream has never been topped in shellfish cookery. We have gone little further and serving it with a baguette  garlic bread

Dandelion salad with roasted yellow and rainbow beets:  Mustard dressing, bitter leaves and the sweetness of roasted beets.

Poulet Paillard: we split a poussin, removing enough of the bone to make it easy to eat but keeping enough to keep the chicken from drying out. we marinade it and then grill it on the char coal grill.

We are also celebrating April with a silent screening of the 1930’s classic black and white musical comedy served with a 3 course brasserie feast on monday 27th April.To book go to events@peckhamrefreshment.com

MARCH 2015

DSCF_4766At last the death of winter and the first signs of new growth. I can never quite remember the order of the spring bulbs. I think it goes snow drops, crocuses, wild garlic, first of the daffy and then blue bells. Well the first of the snowdrops is out in our  garden in Peckham, so i think it is time to celebrate new seasons English food.

So for March we will be doing that at the bar. For the month of March we will be looking at season British produce that reflects the diversity of the British landscape.

Moorlands From the Yorkshire Moors we will be sourcing  Muntjac deer for venison to be roasted and served with spiced fruit.

Woodlands Sourced from woods in around Sussex, Surrey and Kent, we will be stocking wild garlic. A great base for an English pesto or in salads with fresh goats cheeses.

Hedgerows Looking to use wild nettles and bittercresses to make soups or to go in salads or to go with grilled fish

Coastal Waters We use Southbank Fish mongers based in South London. They deal deal directly with the coastal ports in Devon, Dorset and Cornwall. The fish is caught and landed in the morning, shipped up to London and then on your plate the next day. They also have good access to fish from day trawlers that mean that the fish is caught in sustainable quantities and delivered with optimum freshness. We will be looking to get sardines to be grilled and served simply with lemon and sea salt. Razor clams, to be served with wild garlic, and Alsace bacon. Also cockles, quickly steamed and served with garlic, butter and parsley.

New seasons fruit and Vegetables Both spring greens and purple sprouting broccoli will be on the menu. The later served with wild garlic, roasted garlic and pickled walnuts. The last of the forced rhubarb and the first of the out door crop means that we can make rhubarb and ginger jam and shaved rhubarb served with a buttermilk pudding as a dessert.

New Seasons Goats Cheese  Yes goats do have seasons. They are commonly  kept indoors over winter and often not milked. Then in late February, early March are turned out onto the new pasture. The cheese that can be made from their milk is the brightest and freshest with lots of citric flavours, it is a moment in time that we will be celebrating

FEBRUARY 2015

As a follow on to us looking to the Alps to help warm us up in January, we have swung our attention to the Northern Italian regions of Piedmont and Valle D’aosta, strangely one of the largest and smallest regions of the country.

The countryside is very diversified from the rugged peaks of the massifs of Monte Rose to the lower lying rice paddies of Novara. The river Po runs through the heart of the region, from which life an culture seems to spring. There is also large chunks  of National  Parks which gives good protection for game.

We have taken from all this that hearty is the word. Potatoes, polenta, and rye with truffles, games and cured meat both raw, lightly salted and air dried. Piedmont is know for it’s beef cattle, so cured beef will be on our menu.

Sweet wise. Chocolate and hazelnuts are  famously used  in Turin.

JANUARY 2015

The misery of January, needs and deserves a tonic to limit the damage to the soul inflicted by  short, grey, wet days, post Christmas excess and the prospect of  4 more months till the darling buds of May.

Our tonic lies with indulgences that can be gained by the Alpine regions of central Europe. So for the months of January and February we are concentrating our efforts on the northern regions of Italy of Piedmont and Valle D’aosta and the central eastern regions of France of the Haute Savoie

What comes out of that on our menu?

A set menu Fondue with comte, gruyere and vacherin, with a glass of a dry and fruity sparkling pear wine

Tartiflette, ours with reblouchon baked with potatoes and onions

Grilled quail with roasted polenta and salsa verde

Carne salada, a cured filet of beef, quickly fried in a smoking pan but served pulsatingly raw

and cherries and comice pears steeped in eau de vie

AUGUST

mack crop

Summer is well and truly underway and so is the new Peckham Refreshment Rooms blog!

Each month we will be showcasing out seasonal and regional influences with you along with some peeks into what will be on the menu and a recipe or two.

This month we will be looking to Provencal France for influence in the kitchen and the wealth of fresh and seasonal produce from the UK and some from Europe.

The region of Provence stretches from the left bank of the Rhone river on the west to the Italian border on the right and the Mediterranean sea on the south so makes for a vibrant and varied cuisine.

There are beautiful things in season now such as English runner beans and watercress, cobnuts and cucumbers. Flavours will be fresh but deep, celebrating the heat of summer and it’s heavy long evenings.

We are also enjoying the current flourish of the UK south coast’s oily and full flavoued fish: sardines and mackerel, smoked, grilled or pickled to enhance their pungent bright flavour.

We will be sharing our house recipe for grilled sardines with gremolata with you here later this month. Always a firm favouite on the menu the recipe couldn’t be simpler and the outcome so bright and delicious. We’ll also be sharing our house recipe for cod brandade, the salty creamy fish and potato dish perked up with lemon and olive oil, the perfect way to start a meal.

Things that will pop up on the Refreshment Rooms menu this month will include cod brandade, the classic pissaladiere, zingy fish laden bouillabaisse, fresh nicoise salad and vibrant ratatouille. There will also be our house aioli, tapenade and anchoiade sauces taking pride of place alongside slow roasted meats and fresh vegetables.

So another month is upon us and again we have another set wonderful seasonal fruits to preserve and enthusiastically infuse.

First on the agenda this month was the blackcurrant, star not only of the British summer but French too. We will be going à la française behind the bar and producing our own crème de cassis, a nod towards our region of the month, Provence.

Cassis is commonly known for being the firm foundation of a kir royal and a kir vin blanc or as will be the case at Peckham Refreshment Rooms a kir Breton; the perfect companion on a late summers afternoon or evening. A house made none alcoholic cordial will be made in tandem for those in a state of summer sobriety.

Amongst the fantastic small berries in abundance this month there is also a high supply of British stoned fruits to indulge in. One of our favourites here at the bar is the greengage, these small sweet dessert plums are regarded by many as some of the best plums going. In accordance with this we have decided to make a greengage cordial whilst they are at there best. Expect a sweet greengage vin blanc to follow, a delicious summer aperitif and pudding.

To further our provincial offer each week we be making a different cocktail featuring one of the herbs de provence. Expect lavender and lemon gimlets, rosemary collins’ and honey thyme whiskey sours, keep an eye on the blog for recipes of these as well as updates of the latest menu changes.