Greenmarket tasting menu

IMG_9364UPDATE: View the full menu with photos here

Announcing a new upcoming event from Smoke and Thyme: The Greenmarket Tasting Menu. A seven course tasting menu based around local & seasonal fruit and vegetables. Over 90% of the produce for this night is grown within a day’s walk of where it’s being served, selected at its peak and cooked in the way that shows it off at its absolute best.

In a world where supermarkets can ship your asparagus from Peru and your strawberries from Spain, there’s no need to follow the seasons anymore. But constant availability comes at the cost of losing touch with what grows close to us and when it’s at its best. A sad result of the loss of quality that comes from picking produce for its ability to travel instead of for its taste, is that too often, vegetables get treated just as a supporting player on a plate where meat or fish is the star.

IMG_9352This tasting menu is completely suitable for vegetarians, and includes vegan alternatives for any dish that isn’t vegan already. You may have read my blog post about why I love cooking for vegetarians, and this night has definitely been inspired by the fantastic experiences I’ve had developing meat-free dishes for my supper clubs. It’s not just for vegetarians though – it’s for anyone who wants to celebrate the fact that during the summer and autumn, we have loads of amazing produce grown in allotments, gardens and farms all within a handful of miles of Oxford. 

I’m planning to run several dates with this menu throughout June and July. Click here to view available dates, or sign up for the mailing list to be the first to know about all new events. 

Strawberry Custard Tart

Served as part of my June Supper Club menu, on the 5th and 13th of June.IMG_0652IMG_0831

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This last photo is from Medley Manor Farm, on the inside of a rustic little shack where you weigh and pay for your pick-your-own strawberries. It’s a quote on the topic of strawberries from Reverend John Fuller, circa the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, and it reads “Doubtless God could have made a better berry. But doubtless God never did.”

What more can you say?

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Picking your own strawberries is one of the more agreeable ways to spend a sunny afternoon in June. However if you spend as much as a whole afternoon picking, you’re liable to end up with an infeasibly vast amount of strawberries – these are quite literally easy pickings and 15 or 20 minutes is long enough to snag a kilo or so (about 2 large punnets).

There’s not much of a saving in picking strawberries yourself compared to buying at the supermarket. The real benefit is in quality. Strawberries are at their sweetest and most flavoursome when they’re perfectly ripe – but they don’t pack or travel so well at this point because they’re so soft. As such, to look good on a supermarket shelf, strawberries are bred and picked for firmness over flavour. Fresh from the field you can handpick and lovingly transport home only the reddest, ripest, juiciest, most yielding and tender berries, and the few that get bruised on the way home are acceptable jammy casualties for the privilege of what you’re about to eat.

My strawberry custard tart is my attempt to celebrate the berry that God did not trouble Himself to improve upon. I blind bake an almond shortcrust pastry shell – first with beans until it will hold its shape and then open and empty until golden brown, at about 190 C. With the tart shell still in the oven, I pour in hot custard from a jug right up to the brim, and turn the oven right down to 100 C and let the custard slowly cook, without browning the pastry any further, until it sets with only the barest wobble to indicate the creamy unctuousness below its surface. The strawberries, hulled and quartered, are sprinkled with caster sugar and just a few drops of balsamic vinegar to macerate in their own juices for a hour or two until the tart has cooked and cooled down, and then arranged across a slice like a bright red slash with a few leaves of basil or mint from the garden to garnish. I also use this combination of strawberries, basil and balsamic vinegar in one of my favourite ice cream flavours. I make a basil ice cream by infusing the cream with fresh-cut basil for three days. I cut strawberries quite small and drizzle with balsamic and sugar before roasting them gently in the oven to dry out and concentrate the flavour. After churning the basil ice cream until almost completely set, I swirl in way, way too many of the diced strawberries, and reserve in the freezer for a few hours. Sometimes there’s even some left by dinnertime.

June Supper club: Fri 5th, Sat 13th. Strawberries and Fried Chicken

Update: June 13th now full also. No further dates for the June menu available – check back for July date(s) TBA shortly.

UPDATE: Extra date added due to popular demand. Friday 5th sold out. Book now for Saturday 13th June

IMG_1572Here we are again already. After the sell-out supper club on the 9th May, I really felt like I owed it to everyone to push the boat out for the June instalment. Without further ado then, here’s the menu:

  • Starter: Crab/apple salad
    (Vegetarian: Avocado salad)
  • Main course: Spicy buttermilk & cornmeal fried chicken with green vegetable medley
    (Vegetarian: Fried risotto primavera and courgette fritter with green vegetable medley)
  • Dessert: Strawberry custard tart with almond shortcrust pastry

Oxford strawberries are running a little late this season, but I still feel confident that I’m going to have some in time for the supper club, one way or another. I continue to be delighted by this season’s asparagus from Medley Manor farm, so that’s going to be making a reappearance alongside the fried chicken (pictured above) that I’ve been patiently tweaking for weeks now. I’ve also got a secret or two up my sleeve this month but you’ll have to attend to find out, or else read and weep about them on the blog here the next week.

As ever please let me know when booking if you have any dietary requirements. I’m already planning for vegetarian and gluten-free alternatives but it’s still very important that I know numbers for these, and if you have anything else you can’t eat please, let me know in plenty of time and I’ll find some way to accommodate you.

BOOK HERE, BOOK EARLY, BOOK OFTEN

Supper Club Info

Friday 5th June (SOLD OUT)
The Church Farmhouse, Holton, OX33 1PR. 7.30pm
Price: Pay what you want, BYOB

Saturday 13th June
205 Divinity Road, Oxford OX4 1LS 7.30pm
Price: Pay what you want, BYOB