After taking a long winter break, we have returned to the restaurant full of new ideas and influences.
We are still deep into winter as far as ingredients are concerned and, as a chef, it’s a really difficult time of the year for bringing freshness to any dish.
We have to think ‘outside the box’ while looking up methods from the good old days when summer veg was stored, clamped and pickled. New growths were difficult and so some interesting methods were used.
In season at the moment is forced Yorkshire rhubarb which is grown in the dark using just candlelight to harvest the crop.
It is one of the best ingredient from the local area and we use it as much as we can, for rhubarb vinegar and for granitas, those semi-frozen desserts.
The earliest record of forced Yorkshire rhubarb is 2700 BC. Amazing!
First of all it was used in medicines, including a herbal remedy for gut and liver problems. Nowadays we find pleasure in simply eating it.
It is said to have been Marco Polo, the merchant who travelled extensively in China in the late 13th Century, who introduced Europeans to the ingredient and back in the day it could command high prices – sometimes more than gold!
Today it’s not so expensive but can only be grown in what’s referred to as the Yorkshire triangle whose points are Wakefield, Leeds and Bradford. It’s a bit of a mystery but nowhere else in the world can compete with the true Yorkshire rhubarb.
This month we have a new dessert on the menu – Yorkshire rhubarb with Panna Cotta.
Some of the elements involved take days, even weeks, to produce but the simplified recipe below should help you create a restaurant-standard dish using the freshest and most local of all ingredients.
You can try this at home or come and visit us at the Raby Hunt for a Michelin Starred Lunch at only £35 for five courses – when I will do the cooking.
* James Close is the chef at The Raby Hunt Restaurant, Summerhouse, Darlington, 01325 374237.
YORKSHIRE RHUBARB AND VANILLA PANNA COTTA (serves four)
For the panna cotta:
186g double cream
60g full fat milk
40g caster sugar
½ vanilla pod, split lengthways and seeds scraped out
1 gelatine leaf
For the rhubarb essence:
1kg rhubarb cut into 3cm rectangles
3 tbsp caster sugar
1 tbsp water
First make the panna cotta. Heat the cream, milk, sugar and vanilla pod and seeds in a pan and bring to the boil. Then take off the heat and leave to infuse for 30 minutes.
Soak the gelatine in water and when it softens squeeze out the excess moisture. Add to the panna cotta and melt into the infusion.
Remove the vanilla pod and pass the infusion through a sieve. Cool over an ice bath until the mixture thickens but remains quite loose. You will notice the vanilla seeds are suspended in the cream.
Pour equally into four moulds or ramekins and refrigerate for at least an hour.
Next make the rhubarb essence. Place all the ingredients into a thick- bottomed pan and cook over a low heat with the lid on for about an hour until the rhubarb softens and releases its natural juices.
Drain the liquid into a separate bowl and then squeeze out the remainder of the rhubarb through a thin sieve.
Pour the liquid into a saucepan and reduce over a medium heat until it forms a thick but still runny jus.
Turn out the panna cotta into bowls and pour over the essence.