Chef Tom Kerridge in black and white
Chefs feel the change of seasons more than most. 

 

With a focus on fresh British produce, we are acutely aware of nature’s rhythms and respond with the menus we create to make the very best of what's available. As the days get shorter and the nights draw in, the ingredients we use also change with the seasons. In the UK we are very fortunate, we have four distinct seasons, a gift from a chef’s point of view. I particularly love autumn and winter, which roll nicely into each other. From late summer root vegetables, beetroot and turnips – so deliciously earthy and wholesome – to pumpkins, darker spices and richer flavours. Even the way we prepare and cook dishes changes. In colder weather we all slow down, and this is reflected in food preparation.

The British are famed for slow cooking, smoking, stewing, braising and pickling. There is something delicious in the anticipation of waiting for a slow cooked dish; some things just can’t be hurried. Autumn and winter affect our mood, the shorter days and cooler temperatures make us all feel like hibernating a little and we look for food to sit nicely with that, cooking slower and for longer. This dramatic seasonality has led to culinary ingenuity.

Over the ages, chefs have learned to be very good at preserving foods. We Brits make things when the weather is good and produce bountiful, and then preserve them for winter, often adding dynamism to a comforting dish with pickles and preserves made in the late summer.

"We make the most of everything the British Isles produce, with more than 80% of our ingredients coming from the UK."

 

We apply the same thought process to Kerridge’s Bar & Grill. The menu is adapted to the season with smoked pumpkin soup, roasted carrots and root veggies appearing in autumn. In spring and summer we stuff lamb with red pepper, aubergine and courgettes and later in the year this changes to beetroot and horseradish. Even signature dishes like our fish and chips change with the seasons in late summer the fish is jumbo plaice and in winter we change to top feeding, cooler water fish like haddock and cod.

A favourite dish for the season is pie with clotted cream mash: it has always been on the menu and I imagine it always will be! I think when eating out guests are looking for something different and we are conscious of that and like to provide either a demonstration of professional skill, things they might find it difficult to prepare at home, or gorgeous produce they might find it hard to source.

Sourcing great ingredients is key of course. So much has been made of ‘local’ in recent years, but for me it’s a confusing categorisation. If your local produce isn’t great, don’t use local, look for the best. The UK is so small that pretty much everything we source here is local really, so we make the most of everything the British Isles produce, with more than 80% of our ingredients coming from the UK.

A restaurant is not only about the food: it’s got to be a great experience all round. At Kerridge’s the food is hugely important, of course, but so is the atmosphere, good service, and spending time with friends whilst eating. The restaurant space is a theatre for the experience of food and friendship, and Kerridge’s has a real sense of occasion. The guests, too, create the space. We want people to come and enjoy themselves, so we do things properly but we want the experience to be relaxed, for guests to feel comfortable and really enjoy their time with us.

I love cooking and sharing food. There is generosity and care in the process and joy in the experience when it’s done well. I really love cooking for my four-year-old son. He’s quite adventurous. I think if you eat well around your children, they will follow. If you’re enjoying seared tuna, seasonal vegetables or a medium rare rump steak, they will want to eat it too. I don’t dumb down for children. Left to their own devices, most have pretty sophisticated palates. At this time of year at home I love to slow cook a shoulder of lamb for four, five or even six hours at a low temperature. There is nothing better than putting something in the oven, wrapping up warm for a long walk with friends and family and getting back to a house smelling of home cooked food.

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