The Guest Chef Evenings are a new series at Three Pools, where we collaborate with chefs that share the same passion for food and sustainable eating as we do.
We will be showcasing a different guest chef or chefs every month for the winter season. The evenings aim to bring together like-minded, food conscious people to experience different cooking styles, cuisines and atmospheres as we move through winter.
Originally lined up for April was guest chef Jack Richardson. However Jack had taken on a new restaurant in Coleshill only one week before the evening which, unfortunately, meant he had too much on his plate (excuse the pun) and could not go ahead. This, however, was not going to stop the show - we took the opportunity to take our kitchen back with the aim of serving permaculture food straight from the farm.
As you guys will already know farming and food is the focus of Three Pools. This Three Pools Guest Chef Takeover was a great chance to showcase some of the produce from the farm. It also happened to be one of the best times of year for wild food and we wanted to highlight what is growing on and around the farm naturally.
The tables were decorated with entirely edible plants; Lady’s smock, wild garlic flowers, Jack-by-the-hedge and Rosemary. Offering any excited guests a cheeky nibble with their wild nettle bellini.
The first course really encapsulated everything that wild food represents. We initially wanted to serve a local Usk Brown trout with creamed cheese and sour dough. We tried, quite literally, for hours on multiple days on the Usk trying to entice a wild brownie to feed at this notoriously difficult time of year. It was on the third day of trying, in the pouring rain, up to my chest in water that I decided enough is enough - we're going to have to come up with a new idea for the Amuse.
We loved the idea of homemade creamed cheese made with milk from our neighbour’s cows, so we thought long and hard about what we could incorporate into this initial cheese based dish. The sun was setting and it all began to fall into place. Rusty and I got out the .22 rifle and headed out into the night to bag a couple of Three Pools rabbits. It was a long evening with not much action until about 23:30 when Rusty (our new Three Pools team member), managed to take a big buck at around 55 yards. His first shot with a .22 and his first rabbit - congratulations!
We now had a new, deeper flavour and texture to work with. We floated some ideas around and in the end we realised the answer was staring us right in the face. We were going to put a twist on a classic dish and create a cold rarebit creamed cheese with the braised rabbit on top. We added mustard, Worcester sauce and Guinness to the homemade cream cheese and the result was perfection.
Wild Nettle Velouté
Nettles. The literal ‘Sting of Spring’ inspired our first starter. We chose to show these normally widely avoided plants in a new light and early spring is the time to do so. When picking nettles, you want to pick the smaller, newer and fresher heads. When nettles mature and turn to seed they become slightly toxic, so get out there and pick some now - while you can.
Another interesting fact about nettles is that the Romans brought them over and grew them to use as medicine and for food. So next time you ask yourselves 'what did the Romans ever do for us' you can add nettles to the list.
James had spent the morning walking the land with several big bin bags filling them with our finest and youngest nettles. We then begun the process of turning them into what would be a wild nettle velouté. Essentially a posh nettle soup, with origins from Germany. The difference between a soup and a velouté is that a velouté is strained, leaving you with a thinner and more refined version of soup. It's also important not to cook the velouté for too long, keeping all of the flavour and freshness in the bowl.
Orchard Yolk & Asparagus
Inspired by our recent purchase of 15 Warren hens, we wanted to showcase just how tasty our chicken eggs really are. Our chickens are completely free range in our orchard. Their diet at the moment consists of mostly worms, wild flowers, boarder herbs and the odd bit of grain we throw in. We can't, and I'm sure they can't, wait either for our apples, pears, damsons and green gauges to come good and in turn their diet taking another step on the flavour path.
Having just collected enough eggs on the morning of the Guest Chef evening, we decided to cook the yolks whole in the oven on a low temperature for just over a minute. We were debating raw yolk for a while but the effect you get from cooking the egg ever so slightly is fantastic. It creates a thin layer on the outside which, when stoked with a wood-fired spear of asparagus, oozes out on the plate with a rich colour.
The asparagus and yolk were topped off with a wild garlic butter sauce and a flake of fried Parmesan cheese was placed on top to help bring it all together. For a lot of people, this course was a visual benchmark and the flavour combination certainly won't be forgotten in a hurry.
When people think of Three Pools, I would also hope they now think mutton. This is something that has been close to our hearts and our ethos from the very beginning. To use mutton is to use an unsung hero of the hills. We can't hold that against people, as all we seem to have marketed and available to us is lamb. There are a few reasons behind this, one is that years ago, as a marketing campaign farmers and food distributors got together and decided that they would all promote lamb. For what reason you might ask? Well, lambs by their nature do not require as much maintenance as they have relatively short lives. As a farmer you can turn over a lot more lamb than you can by caring for sheep to the age of two and then selling them as mutton. Our theory is to utilise the sheep as land managers for as long as we can whilst still having a high-end product at the end of their life. When a sheep gets older, their fat turns into muscle and in turn, you have this fantastic lean meat which, if cooked properly, is hands down one of the most mouth-watering products of the British countryside.
We accompanied the mutton with a farm mint, pea and wild garlic sauce - classic mutton flavours with a seasonal and local twist. We also got some of the last seasons Jerusalem artichokes and roasted these in the oven with farm rosemary. A scattering of fresh peas brought this course together and certainly changed many people’s views on mutton.
We love Spring here at the farm. It’s a time where we get to see some of our old perennial friends from last year, Rhubarb being one of them. We loved the idea of finishing the meal with a tang, not too tart of course but something to bring it all together.
With wisdom passed down from my Mum we created a rhubarb and pear base, topped with a rustic farmhouse crumble. Things took a turn to the unusual when we got to the custard. I'm not sure if it's been done before but we created goats milk custard, sourced only from Gary Yeoman’s goat farm next door - collected straight from the goats that morning.
The tartness of rhubarb and the richness of the goat's milk combined to make a flavour combination one would only dream of. All served in our own Three Pools enamel mugs. It was the perfect way to end what was a very special evening for the guests and for Three Pools.
We would like to say a massive thank you to Mark and Daisy (Fire and Wild) for coming to assist us in the lead up to and the evening itself. They are forever been etched into Three Pools history as legends.
The night was an utter success and we are so pleased the hard work all of us have been doing on the farm to create the high quality ingredients, paid off. We look forward to putting on more food focused events here at Three Pools - helping us to bring people closer to the food and the methods that are used in producing and sourcing the ingredients.
See you in September for the start of our next guest Chef Season