Our second course was led by award winning jam maker Vivien Lloyd. Fruits and sugar at the ready, a full kitchen embarked on a range of autumnal jams and chilli jam. Initially the assembled guests split into groups and made raspberry, raspberry and vanilla and damson jam. As pots boiled and the air was full of delicious fruit aromas the atmosphere was incredibly jovial and most remarked on how they were surprised how easy it was to make jam. After lunch it was time to spice things up a little and with the kitchen full of chillis from the garden here at VHK and some from Vivs garden as everyone made chilli jam. Some of the finished preserves were very fiery indeed! At the end of the day we had made nearly 60lbs of different jam and our happy guests headed home with a box full of their fruity hard work!
So after 3 months of builders converting our wonderful stone outbuilding into ValeHouseKitchen we opened for business on 12th September. Our opening course was led by Tim Maddams, ex head chef of the Axminster Canteen, for an insight into Seasonal Cookery. Everyone started off by making a bread dough and while that was proving Tim gave a demo on how easy it is to make home made pasta. The guests then prepared a courgette, chilli and garlic sauce to go with the pasta and took a quick break soaking up the sun on our terrace. After the break it was time to make a quick marrow pickle. Tim showing how easy it is to use up the glut of vegetables you get at this time of year and turn them into a long lasting tasty treat. Then it was time for dessert, a blackberry crème Catalan, a Spanish take on our crème brullee. Whilst that was cooking everyone had a hands lesson on how to butcher a partridge and then prepare it 2 ways; slow cooked legs in a tomato and herb sauce and pan fried breast. As all these elements of the meal came together it was time to head to our dining room where everyone enjoyed the fruits of their labour with a glass of wine. A fantastic first day and definitely starting as we mean to go on.
Last Friday a band a foragers led by Chris Westgate, our foraging tutor, left Vale House Kitchen to stroll through the Somerset countryside and see what edible delights the fields and hedgerows had to offer. The 3 hour walk crossed meadows, went through woodland and along babbling brooks and enabled Chris to share her vast knowledge of wild foods that people often overlook. The highlight was a picnic underneath an oak tree with delights made by Chris from her company Heavenly Hedgerows. A fine forage was had by all with everyone remarking how they had started to find their inner forager. Courses start in September.
It is a little over 3 weeks since the builders started here at Vale House Kitchen and it is amazing to watch how the building changes on a daily basis. What was a small stone outbuilding is undergoing a transformation into a bespoke country skills and cookery school. Currently there is no roof and the floors to what will be the upper teaching kitchen have disappeared. Looking up through the floor joists this morning it made us think how good the English summer is being to us this year. Heaven knows how things would be progressing if we were in the middle of the more usual July monsoon! So far the ground floor has been dug out to enable damp proofing and plumbing for the downstairs toilets to be put in. This meant our old oil tank had to be removed and a lovely new one now resides on a concrete slab against our back wall. The walls have all been tanked to get rid of any damp problems and new Bath stone mullions are being carved to take the new windows that are being made. It really is going to look spectacular when it is all done. On the more technical side of things a new 3 phase supply has just been fitted which will give us power to our new induction hobbs and pyrolytic ovens and we have to thank Western Power for being so efficient at getting all of this organised for us. The next few days will see concreting, roof tiles reappearing and hopefully the upstairs floor being put down. Next phase is getting the work stations built and fitted, the game larder fitted and going to see our bespoke butchers block coming to life in a workshop in Bristol. We look forward to sharing all this with you over the coming weeks!