This is the time of year when cucurbits are at their peak (it is also when the Michelin guide comes out, and fantastic news that the team at Gravetye has retained our star!). Courgettes have just finished and are now being allowed to grow into marrows, the butternuts, spaghetti squash, crown prince and iron bars are being cropped, and the preserved gherkins and cucumbers are ready for eating.
The hardest part for the kitchen is to try not to use them all at once, and prioritising the order in which they appear on the menu is so important to allow progression through the winter months. This is the case with all the vegetable groups, not just the cucurbits, and this order of progression is dictated not by when they are picked, but by the storage potential. This is a very different view point from the summer months when the majority of produce needs to be used as soon as it is harvested. Marrows need to be eaten fairly quickly, whereas a crown prince with a thicker skin will be happy for 8 weeks in a dry, dark and cool room and the pickles, of course, will last even longer.
Growing different varieties for the sole purpose of storage and preservation is a must if we are to increase the percentage of fruit and vegetables served to guests, and myself and the gardeners are continually putting more emphasis on this growing style. By focusing on specific cropping and storage windows, we are in a position where the main menu and tasting menu change at the beginning of every month, and the lunch menu at the beginning of every week, offering an extremely seasonal menu throughout the year.
Due to their high moisture content, especially in the marrows and spaghetti squash, it can be difficult to cook these vegetables to contain a decent level of taste. One of my mum’s favourites is stuffed marrow, normally with a lamb mince/rice mix and topped with parsley sauce. It is delicious, but you can’t really taste the marrow, so this is how we try to maximise the flavour in the kitchen at Gravetye.
Halve the marrows lengthways and scoop out and discard the seeds. Then, without puncturing the skin, score the flesh to produce inch sized squares that will help moisture to escape. Drizzle a little olive oil, sprinkle some sea salt, add a couple of sprigs of rosemary and some crushed cloves of garlic to each half. Make some stands by scruntching up a piece of tin foil and sit them like boats on a tray and bake in the oven. We bake them for 2 hours at 150 degrees C. When they come out of the oven, discard the rosemary and garlic and leave to cool. When cool, scrape the insides of the marrow out and hopefully you will be left with a flesh that is well cooked, seasoned, and has a relatively low water content. Crush this flesh a little more, heat and serve as a delicious accompaniment to fish or white meats.
George and his team look forward to welcoming you to the restaurant very soon, to book please call 01342 810567.
In the Garden News
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At the Manor News
This month Gravetye Manor has not only retained its Michelin Star but also been voted Country House Hotel of the Year 2017 by The Good Hotel Guide, there is no better time to join us and celebrate…