The skill of the chef is taking ingredients that when served not only taste amazing but they also look a picture on a plate.
It is easy to forget that we not only enjoy food using our taste and smell but we also eat with our eyes. One of the intentions of setting up Jekka’s Herboretum was to have a facility where Chefs could visit, taste the herbs, then cook with the herbs that took their fancy. The first time this happened was when three chefs from The Company of Cooks came to visit us.
The herbs that caught the imagination were Savory, Fennel, Bergamot, Chicory and Thyme
Justin Hammett, head chef at the Opera House, created this dish with Savory; he said it reminds him of his childhood, full of mediterranean warmth with its pungent, peppery flavour. He created a simple dish of sliced onion, sliced potato and tomatoes sprinkled with the chopped leaves of Summer and Winter Savory and then all covered in a generous drizzle of good olive oil. This he put into a preheated oven 175C for 40 mins.
It was succulent, flavoured and delicious. This simple dish could be a light supper or served , for example with a rack of lamb.
While Justin was creating his dish, Chris Handley, who develops menus and meals for The Company of Cooks, made a wonderful fresh mackerel dish. The ingredients might be simple however it was inspirational to watch him rehearse the layout of the dish before putting it on the finished plate. This approach was very similar to the way we rehearsed our floral displays before leaving to go to Malvern or Chelsea Flower Show.
This attention to detail makes the finished meal look a picture.
Claire Clark, who is renowned for her pastry and puddings, is a consultant working with The Company of Cooks.
The herbs of her choice were thyme. lavender and heartsease. Her pudding was magical, not only in looks but in flavour; the contrast of the zesty lemon cake infused with thyme , sitting on sharp clean lemon curd with the light moorish lavender shortbread was excellent.
The finish dish not only looked a picture it tasted absolutely fabulous.