Fes­tive cheer

Look­ing for some new ideas to en­ter­tain guests with this Christ­mas, Re­becca sought some tips from the chefs at Beaver­brook’s School of Cook­ery

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In 1911, Rud­yard Ki­pling and his fam­ily spent Christ­mas with Lord Beaver­brook at his stately Leather­head home, then called Cherke­ley Court. Beaver­brook pre­sented Ki­pling with a pris­tine guest­book, ask­ing the poet to write the very first en­try. While that po­etic en­try may not have been Ki­pling’s most es­teemed work, it en­cap­su­lated the joy that clearly filled Lord Beaver­brook’s home dur­ing the fes­tive pe­riod.

Now that Beaver­brook has re-opened as a lux­ury county house ho­tel, vis­i­tors can not only ex­pe­ri­ence the fes­tive cheer of which Ki­pling wrote, but also meet the chefs be­hind the es­tate’s tan­ta­lis­ing menus and learn how to recre­ate el­e­ments of them.

Beaver­brook’s School of Cook­ery is host­ing a num­ber of Christ­mas-themed work­shops through­out De­cem­ber and Kaz Suzuki, head chef at Beaver­brook’s The Gar­den House Restau­rant, agreed to give me a taster ses­sion so that I could spread some of the ho­tel’s cheer among my guests this Christ­mas. Kaz, who hails from New Zea­land and has worked at The Gar­den House since it first opened its doors in 2016, had put to­gether a menu of three fes­tive veg­e­tar­ian-friendly dishes us­ing in­gre­di­ents reg­u­larly fea­tured on the restau­rant’s menu at this time of year: chicory, her­itage car­rots, mush­rooms and chest­nuts.

First up were Chicory Cups, which al­ways go down well with the mem­bers of Beaver­brook’s ex­clu­sive golf club when Kaz serves them up at the club­house. These ap­pe­tiz­ers, fea­tur­ing a sim­ple toasted seed and parme­san mix and Kaz’s sig­na­ture sherry caramel glaze, make a tasty healthy al­ter­na­tive to canapes.

Next Kaz showed me how to make chest­nut and mush­room soup. While chest­nuts are pre­v­e­lant at this time of year, they tend to be used in a stuff­ing or ac­com­pa­ni­ment to the main meal, rather than be­ing the star of the show so this is a great way to let them shine. “Mush­rooms and chest­nuts work re­ally well to­gether and Sur­rey is a great place for for­ag­ing,” says Kaz. “Once the soup is ready, serve it in espresso or small tea cups and gar­nish with cep pow­der.

Last but by no means least, we put to­gether a her­itage car­rot, smoked feta and pis­ta­chio salad. Sal­ads don’t tend to make an ap­pear­ance on menus at this time of year but this cooked salad is per­fect if you want to eat a bit lighter. What’s more, it’s re­ally easy to make. While smok­ing the cheese isn’t es­sen­tial, it adds to the sea­sonal feel of the dish. Kaz showed me how to cre­ate a sim­ple home smoker us­ing smok­ing chips from the gar­den cen­tre, a deep roast­ing dish and foil.

Kaz’s big­gest tip for the cook in the house this Christ­mas? “Don’t try and do ev­ery­thing on the day. There’s enough to think about when your en­ter­tain­ing at Christ­mas so why would you want to give your­self even more to do? As­pects of all these dishes can be made in ad­vance so you can fo­cus more on en­joy­ing the fes­tive cheer.”

sherry vine­gar and ex­tra vir­gin olive oil and sea­son to taste

In­gre­di­ents:

1 bunch her­itage car­rots Tbsp mixed herbs (thyme, rose­mary, oregano) Sherry caramel, maple syrup and olive oil to driz­zle 1 block of Greek feta cheese 1/2tsp soft brown sugar 4tbsp smok­ing chips Toasted pis­ta­chio

Method:

Pre­heat oven to 180 de­grees

Cut car­rots into wedges and place them in a mix­ing bowl. Add herbs and driz­zle over sherry caramel, syrup and oil and mix

Place on bak­ing tray in oven and cook un­til soft

While car­rots are cook­ing, rub the sugar onto the block of cheese and leave for 2-3 min­utes. Place at one end of a tray

Add smok­ing chips and a driz­zle of wa­ter in a pan and heat on high un­til the chips start smok­ing

Pour smok­ing chips in the other side of the tray and cover with foil. Leave for 15-30 min­utes

Ar­range the car­rots on a plate, crum­ble the feta over and sprin­kle with toasted pis­ta­chio

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