Head Chef, Lee and Sous Chef, Stuart

Spring into season

6th March 2017

Velvet Magazine spoke to our Sous Chef, Stuart Drake, about seasonal produce and our upcoming spring menus.  

Head Chef, Lee Bye and his Sous Chef, Stuart Drake, really know their stuff when it comes to sourcing the very best ingredients throughout the year and it is their main starting point when they’re conjuring up new dishes for the menu.

“We spend a lot of our time in the kitchen testing and trialling different flavours to see what works well together. Our main point of inspiration is to see what is in season and how we can create something delicious using it,” Stuart explains. “Picking one seasonal ingredient is a fantastic starting point and it usually snowballs from there!” he continues. “We start with something as little as garlic or asparagus and then add different flavours and textures. It doesn’t have to be the main ingredient like meat or fish as this is something we can add later.”

Tuddenham Mill’s menu changes every 2-3 weeks to reflect the changing seasons as well as accommodating to the change in weather. “We don’t completely change the whole menu. Some weeks it is a matter of tweaking certain dishes to bring a new dimension. We also consult our suppliers and see if they have anything new to offer. Lee and I spend a lot of time in the kitchen tasting and trying different things and working out ways we can add a new spin to certain ingredients,” Stuart says. So what is in season for March and April and what can we expect from your spring menus?

March and April have lots to offer when it comes to seasonal produce. “I really like this time of year as we can start to experiment with some really fantastic flavours. March and April are great for wild garlic, East Anglian oysters, rhubarb, lamb and asparagus just to name a few,” he adds. “We source our lamb from Nedging farm here in Suffolk as it is grass-fed. This makes a huge difference to the flavour. We tend to roast in the pan and then finish it off over the fire. This will be on our Sunday roast menu throughout March and April and we’re looking forward to using it on our Easter Sunday menu too. We actually pick wild garlic ourselves from Brandon forest as it offers a delicate but strong flavour. It works really well in our wild garlic and English pea soup.”

Asparagus is another favourite flavour in the Mill’s kitchen. “Asparagus season only lasts around 3 weeks so we really try to make the most of it. Tilbrook’s asparagus is by far the best and it’s right on our doorstep. We phone in the morning and let them know how much we need and they cut it fresh for us!” he tells us. Tilbrook’s have been growing asparagus in Tuddenham since before the war and they have a rather prestigious patch. So much so that they are in demand across the country. “When asparagus comes, spring really is here!” Stuart adds. Be sure to look out for this across their menus throughout April!

Rhubarb is another favourite for Lee and Stuart. They use Yorkshire forced rhubarb which is actually grown by candlelight. (Yes, we were a little confused too!) “It’s grown in complete darkness and harvested by candlelight which stops them turning green and being too tough,” Stuart explains. “They’re famed for their striking red colouring and flavour. They add a pop of colour to any dish and we usually make a compote with it. It’s great for a dessert but we also use it with duck which works perfectly together,” he adds.

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