A cut above: best Christmas roasts

Round & About

Food

Turkey is a traditional favourite but there are so many choices of meat when it comes to the festive table, and many excellent local producers

What scene depicts Christmas more traditionally than a large cooked bird being brought out to the table and carved by the head of the household?

Turkey is, of course, still the popular festive choice. Tom Copas Jnr says: “Turkey is what you’re meant to have! We’ve been rearing the best turkeys in Britain for over 60 years and nothing tastes better on Christmas Day, especially knowing all the care and attention that’s gone into their welfare.” Visit www.copasturkeys.co.uk

For minimal stress, it’s important to plan your Christmas catering about now in the manner of a military operation. Ideally, place your order by 1st December and remember your butcher can help decide how big your roast needs be. As a rule of thumb, a 10lb turkey will feed between eight and 10 people and still give you leftovers. Tell your butcher not only how many guests you have, but how big an appetite they have to judge wisely.

“Talking to our customers, it’s become clear that many are looking for something a little different from the traditional turkey this year and we’re very pleased to oblige,” says Calumn Connelly of The Hungry Guest Butchers in Petworth. “The Goodwood rib of beef roast, or venison from the Merryworth Estate are delicious alternatives, looking wonderful as they’re served, and offering a glimpse back to older English traditions. There are, of course, many for whom turkey remains the centrepiece of the Christmas table; and alongside an offering of the finest whole birds, there’s the option of rolled turkey which is easier to prepare and serve, or a memorable three-bird roast. The Creedy Carver chickens and ducks used for these also make perfect alternatives for smaller households; and our homemade pigs in blankets will complement your meal, whichever roast you prefer!” Visit www.thehungryguest.com

Recipe queen Lyn Deveson says: “I’ve always cooked turkey and a gammon; cold turkey, ham, turkey curried, stir fried, in sandwiches is a big part of the appeal. But I cooked a cockerel last Christmas and won’t go back to turkey – it has more flavour. I remember my mother cooking the turkey all night on a low heat but the French way is best; higher heat and less time. People complain it can be dry but if cooked properly, it isn’t. Good gravy makes all the difference, too!

“I also remember my mother cooking the turkey all night on a low heat, but the French way is best – higher heat and less time. People complain it can be dry but if cooked properly, it isn’t. Traditionally we cook turkey, stuffing, bread sauce, sausages wrapped in bacon etc. with the head male at the top of the table, carving! That’s the  picture we all have in our heads and everyone wearing paper hats and pulling crackers! Because turkey meat can be quite bland, you can go to town with the other flavours. A good gravy makes the difference and thanks to chefs such as Jamie Oliver, we are learning that Bisto is not the essential ingredient but I am shocked by the number of English who still use it! The trouble is we are so spoilt nowadays and can eat anything any time of the year, so Christmas lunch or dinner isn’t such a treat as it used to be.”

Hungerford master butcher Christian Alba says: “In all the places I’ve worked, most of the Christmas meat customers buy is turkey. But I grew up on a turkey farm, so I have beef fore rib!”

Enter our competition for a Christmas In A Box foodie hamper – including a 6kg turkey!

GINspiration

Round & About

Food

Gin is enjoying a resurgence in popularity, with a wealth of interesting spirits produced right here on our doorstep. We chat to some of the enthusiastic local producers and offer up our favourite tipples!

History of gin

Gin may be one of the most popular liquors in the country, yet the colourless spirit has had to contend with a chequered history since it first landed on these shores more than 300 years ago.

Originally gin was sold as a medicine, distilled and supposedly capable of aiding kidney ailments, gallstones and gout after Dutch physician Franciscus Sylvius created genever. Brits were first introduced to it when the English soldiers assisted the Dutch against the Spanish in Antwerp during the late 16th century during the Eighty Years’ War.

The armies were known to drink genever before heading into battle, and it’s thought to be the origin of the phrase “Dutch courage”. William of Orange then arrived here to rule in 1688 and promptly relaxed laws on making spirits. Gin, which starts with a base of juniper berries, gained in popularity – among all classes – with the upper classes drinking genever and the working classes making do with a new, cheaper “imitation” gin, substituting the costly ingredients with such things as turpentine and sulphuric acid.

Subsequently, gin’s reputation took a turn for the worse. In London alone, more than 7,000 “dram shops” sprang up with an estimated 10 million gallons being distilled annually by barbers, grocers and market stall holders. Gin became increasingly cheap to produce, easily accessible, little duty was paid on it and some workers were even given it as part of their wages. The 1736 Gin Act forced anyone wishing to sell distilled spirits to take out a licence costing £50.

Only three such licences were taken, but gin’s popularity did not wane as “mother’s ruin” remained hugely popular, before a second act was passed in 1751, which raised duty, and prohibited distillers, grocers, chandlers, jails and workhouses from selling the liquor.

     

Thankfully this was the low point for gin and the spirit has rebuilt its once-tarnished reputation to become the UK’s most popular alcoholic drink. “We’re spoilt for choice with local gins here in the in Thames Valley” says Catriona Galbraith of The Greyhound in Letcombe Regis. “Our favourite is the TOAD Oxford Dry Gin, a delicious citrus and aromatic combination or the kaffir lime and lemongrass gin from Twisting Spirits, as exotic as it sounds with a hint of Asian spice notes. “We like to serve our gins simply, with either a favourite tonic from the Fevertree range and garnish such as lemon, lime, orange, cucumber, mint or basil or even neat over ice, to allow the real complex botanical flavours to come through.”

Hobbs of Henley

“There’s nothing more marvellous than a gin at 11 o’clock on the river to wake the spirits…” Indeed, back in 1870, Mr Harry Hobbs, founder of Hobbs and Sons (now Hobbs of Henley) and publican of The Ship Hotel was renowned for his flamboyant beard and nature, often seen in his punt sipping his home-distilled gin of a morning. Mr Hobbs threw parties along the riverbanks, hiring out his boats for shindigs. Now, 150 years later the family’s gin is made with local botanicals.

 

Cotswold Distillery

Cotswold Distillery uses local raw materials, traditional kit and techniques to create its handmade gin. There’s a 500-litre pot still, (only filled ¾ full to make sure the vapours get contact with the copper during distillation). Distilled with nine carefully considered botanicals, the Cotswolds Dry Gin has an aromatic twist of juniper, coriander seed, angelica root, local lavender, bay leaf, hand-peeled fresh lime and pink grapefruit zest, cardamom and black peppercorn. The distillery building itself is a miniature version of what is usually an enormous plant and the shop and tasting rooms are more like a cosy Cotswolds cottage – you can sit by the wood burner to sip their outstanding natural spirits.

Foxdenton Estate

The use of British fruit combined with traditional recipes is what makes our fruit gin so quaffable,” says Nick Radclyffe of Foxdenton Estate. “There is nothing better as the nights draw in than the warming tipple of a fruit gin cocktail such as the Ping Pong.” Foxdenton Estate creates gin liqueurs with plums, sloes and damsons using recipes that date back several generations with father and son gin producers, Nick and Piers, choosing the traditional tipples they know and love. Sloe Gin, 70cl £24.50.

GINspiration

Round & About

Food

Gin is enjoying a resurgence in popularity, with a wealth of interesting spirits produced right here on our doorstep. We chat to some of the enthusiastic local producers and offer up our favourite tipples!

History of gin

Gin may be one of the most popular liquors in the country, yet the colourless spirit has had to contend with a chequered history since it first landed on these shores more than 300 years ago.

Originally gin was sold as a medicine, distilled and supposedly capable of aiding kidney ailments, gallstones and gout after Dutch physician Franciscus Sylvius created genever. Brits were first introduced to it when the English soldiers assisted the Dutch against the Spanish in Antwerp during the late 16th century during the Eighty Years’ War.

The armies were known to drink genever before heading into battle, and it’s thought to be the origin of the phrase “Dutch courage”. William of Orange then arrived here to rule in 1688 and promptly relaxed laws on making spirits. Gin, which starts with a base of juniper berries, gained in popularity – among all classes – with the upper classes drinking genever and the working classes making do with a new, cheaper “imitation” gin, substituting the costly ingredients with such things as turpentine and sulphuric acid.

Subsequently, gin’s reputation took a turn for the worse. In London alone, more than 7,000 “dram shops” sprang up with an estimated 10 million gallons being distilled annually by barbers, grocers and market stall holders. Gin became increasingly cheap to produce, easily accessible, little duty was paid on it and some workers were even given it as part of their wages. The 1736 Gin Act forced anyone wishing to sell distilled spirits to take out a licence costing £50.

Only three such licences were taken, but gin’s popularity did not wane as “mother’s ruin” remained hugely popular, before a second act was passed in 1751, which raised duty, and prohibited distillers, grocers, chandlers, jails and workhouses from selling the liquor.

Thankfully this was the low point for gin and the spirit has rebuilt its once-tarnished reputation to become the UK’s most popular alcoholic drinks. Gin’s popularity has been helped by upmarket gin bars, ever-growing gin festivals and distilleries offering delicious varied botanical flavours.

Distillers of Surrey

One such distillery is Ripley-based Distillers of Surrey, producers of bespoke spirits. Head distiller Simon Sherlock says: “I was inspired by the gin renaissance and really loved the creativity of distilling spirits. I’ve always dreamt of opening my own distillery and releasing truly small batch, hand-crafted spirits. Distillers Of Surrey is focused on providing distinctively different spirits of unparalleled quality. We are unhindered by the trappings of large-scale production, focusing entirely on quality and ethics.”

The Gin Kitchen

After hearing a radio show about the gin revival in 2016, friends Helen and Kate decided to set up a distillery, buying a beautiful Portuguese copper alembic still “using the money we would usually have spent on gin”. , set in a gorgeous 170-year-old barn in Dorking’s Punchbowl Lane, creates batches of superb gin, including the winter-spiced Gutsy Monkey infused with ginger, thyme, Jamaican allspice, coriander seed, black pepper and cumin. Visitors are welcome and there are experience packages on offer.

Elstead Village Distillers

Elstead Village Distillers, based at the 500-year old Thundry Farm in the Surrey Hills, was formed by Paul Shubrook and Neil Redit who decided to embark on their current journey at a gin-making event in London. What they produced was enjoyed by their friends and formed the basis of their first products – Original Gin and Sanctuary Gin – and eventually led to their flagship Thundry Hills Gin – The Spirit of the Hills.

Bombay Sapphire

Bombay Sapphire is one of the most popular gins on the market and its fascinating history can be seen first-hand at its heritage workshop and working distillery at Laverstoke Mill in Whitchurch. Charting more than 1,000 years of the mill, the heritage host tour showcases the history of this prestigious site with a range of artefacts, photos and historic documents. Bombay Sapphire has restored the beautiful Georgian and Victorian buildings to their former glory, and the Self-Discovery Experience allows visitors to take their time to explore the distillery and, of course, enjoy a free cocktail in the Mill Bar alongside the beautiful River Test.

Ale & Hearty

Round & About

Food

Here at Round & About Magazine, we are passionate supporters of local pubs, restaurants and producers. After all, anyone working in the food and drinks industry will know it takes a lot of hard graft to help punters relax!

We have so many to mention that are especially beautiful in summer. For starters, top picks for a romantic meal include Kinghams in Shere (GU5 9HE, once known as Hangman’s Cottage) and Jodie Kidd’s wondrous Half Moon in Kirdford, RH14 0LT, (check out the events and sun terrace!). The March Hare in Guildford, (GU1 3SY), hits all the right gastro notes and The Dog & Pheasant in Brook, GU8 5UJ, is famed for its amazing roasts and garden – for free-range children. The roof terrace at Guildford’s Thai Terrace (GU1 3RW) is perfect for tom yum and cocktails while The Windmill in Ewhurst (GU6 7NN), offers great views. Oliver Reed’s old boozer, The Plough Inn at Leigh Hill (RH5 5RZ) might just be the quintessential village pub, especially when a summer cricket match is on, with its own brewery.

Speaking of breweries, hoppy bunnies are spoilt for choice. For tours, tastings and hearty ales, check out Hogs Back Brewery in Tongham (GU10 1DE), hand-batched brews at Windsor & Eton Brewery (SL4 1SE ) and Alton’s Pride and other award-winners from Triple fff in Four Marks (GU34 5HN). Cheers also to the teams at Ascot Brewing Company in Camberley (GU15 3DX), the Crafty Brewery Company in Dunsfold, Tillingbourne Brewery near Guildford and Surrey Hills Brewery (creator of the Shere Drop and Albury Ruby) based at Denbies Wine Estate near Dorking (RH5 6AA). We’re also smitten with the Sussex Dry Gin by artisan creators Blackdown Cellar in Lurgashall (GU28 9HA). High spirits indeed!

So, we’d like to know; what’s your favourite pub, and your favourite brewery, and leave a comment below!

[totalpoll id=”2914″]

[totalpoll id=”2926″]

Wine quench marks

Cherry Butler

Food

We uncork some of our favourites food and drink places to enjoy this summer, starting with Cherry Butler’s visit to one of Bentley’s sparkling wine-producing beauty…

Once home to hops, the fields at Jenkyn Place are now filled with vines – although at one point, it could have been Christmas trees. After buying the Hampshire estate in 1997, property entrepreneur Simon Bladon considered farming festive firs. Then he tasted some “Champagne” that turned out to be from West Sussex which he enjoyed so much he set about growing grapes.

Simon Jenkyn
Simon Jenkyn

Judging by the delicate, fruity rosé I tried (and found especially moreish), this was a wise decision. Jenkyn Place has won numerous awards, its brut cuvée scoring gold several times. Since 2016, the vineyard has produced vintage sparkling wines every year, as long as the grapes pass muster. The North Hampshire Downs climate and chalky “greensand” soil is ideal for growing the classic Champagne varieties: chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier.

Cherry Butler Vine Planting
Cherry Butler Vine Planting

Camilla, Simon’s daughter, manages the business, with dogs Bertie and Oscar and brothers Freddie and Jack lending a hand/paw. Heat killed a fifth of the first vines in 2004, when the fledgling viticulturists planted them before laying down polythene sheeting. Rebecca, Simon’s wife, informed him that of course they should have laid down the poly first (like Nigel Pargetter just had on The Archers). Despite this, they let me – a rookie – plant a new vine; I hope to return one day to taste the fruit of my labour!

Right at the top of the first field, a wooden gazebo provides a sheltered spot to take in the view, and some wine. On the north side of the Wey Valley, the sloping site is carefully landscaped. Oak trees form a windbreak; and each row of vines is bookended by roses, which act as a “canary in the mine”, picking up any pests or diseases before the vines do. An 18th-century red-brick house and walled garden with a fountain complete the English country scene.

Roses at the end of each vine row
Roses at the end of each vine row

Anyone can visit, since Simon and his winemakers offer tours on selected dates. Wine buffs will appreciate the chance to see how the grapes are produced and ask questions, while casual enthusiasts can have fun soaking up the setting and tasters. Bottles to take home are available at a discount. Happily, Jenkyn Place is a five-minute taxi ride or half-hour walk from Bentley station, so there’s no need for a designated driver.

It’s said that if Wimbledon fortnight is sunny, the autumn harvest will be good, so we wine-lovers – and the Jenkyns team – should be able to reap the rewards of a particularly fine 2018 harvest.

Tour & tasting sessions £15. Visit www.jenkynplace.com

Booze & Bites in Surrey

Liz Nicholls

Food

We live in a rich and fertile part of the country with many hard-working food & drink producers to appetise you! Here are some nibbles…

The Hampton Estate produces mouth-watering grass-fed beef from their pedigree cows which graze the southern slopes of the Hog’s Back. The meat is hung for three weeks to mature and is sold directly from the farm at the famous monthly Hampton beef days. Also check out the Hampton Herby sausages, beef bangers and wild estate venison. To order email [email protected] or call 01483 810465.

Cordon Bleu-trained chef/proprietor Suzanne Rose has been delighting fellow foodies with her Lavender Hen Catering Company catering services in the Virginia Water area for 30 years. Suzanne has worked at prestigious establishments in the UK and honed her craft around the world, too. Her Supper Club is well worth checking out for five-course feasts in a beautiful summer house setting and BYOB booze (no corkage). Visit www.thelavenderhen.co.uk

Planning a summer bash? Wrights of Farnham has been operating since the 1950s and is now the area’s longest-standing family-owned off-licence and wholesale outlet, catering for all your liquid needs! The business has a fresh look but the same vintage charm and ample parking. Lion Brewery, GU9 7AB; 01252 715749 www.wrightsoffarnham.co.uk

Some saucy news for health-conscious foodies! Henry Kay and Nick Briggs, local founders of In The Buff, launched their Sweet Paprika Ketchup in May and it’s not only delicious (we’re addicted) but made with all-natural ingredients, high in fibre, amino acids, vitamins A, E and B6 and iron, suitable for vegans and coeliacs and has anti-inflammatory properties. www.in-the-buff.uk