Country Tails

April 9, 2015

Spring – the season of rebirth, rejuvenation, renewal and re-growth… and the perfect excuse to create a few seasonal dishes to enjoy in the comfort of your own home with only a handful of fresh ingredients.

Staying true to our local Herefordshire roots, we headed down the road to pay a visit to our friends at Verzon House to see what Head Chef, Callum McDonald had been up to.

What we love most about Verzon House is how they’re all about championing local produce. From their pedigree Herefordshire beef, straight through to their locally brewed ales and ciders, everything you eat and drink whilst you’re there will have come from within a 30-mile radius.

Which leads us to the best part, Chef Callum’s seasonally delicious spring dishes…

Foragers Soup


1 onion

3 cloves garlic

2 medium sized potatoes

100g wild garlic

100g wild nettles

50g spinach

1-1.25litres chicken stock

50 mls double cream


Placed a heavy based pan on a medium heat, and a glug of vegetable oil and a generous knob of butter (50g) .

Whilst the butter is melting peel and slice the onion, garlic and potato but keep the potato separate from the other two.

When the butter begins to bubble add the onion and garlic, place a lid on top of the pan and stir at 2 minute intervals, after the. 8th minute you should notice that the onion begins to look translucent and has soften now is the time to add the potato, again storing in 2 minute intervals, this time only for six minutes now add the chicken stock and cream place the lid on and wait for the liquid to come to the boil. Once boiling place the remainder of the ingredients into the pan, stir to combine and then blitz .

If making the soup in advance it’s a good idea to chill the soup on something with a large surface area like a baking trey with tall sides, this will ensure that you retain the vibrant green colour.  

Shropshire Blue Puffs


76ml chicken stock

40g butter

75g butter

1 egg 1 yolk

1  dessert spoon dry mash potato

75g grated Shropshire blue

Salt and pepper to taste


Pour the chicken stock and butter in a pan ,when the liquid boils add the flour and bring together with a whisk, the mixture should now have a thick paste like appearance , continue to mix and cook for a minute , after a minute take the pan from the stove and whilst mixing very quickly add the eggs, contour to stir for 2minites then add the mash and grated cheese a pinch of salt and a couple of grinds of fresh pepper , remove form the pan and reserve .

In a 180 degree fryer using a dessert spoon shape the mixture to fill the spoon then gently push it off if the spoon and into the hot oil, these puffs should take between 2- 2.5 minutes to cook allow two per portion.

Loin of Lamb


2 cannons of lamb each weighing 250/300g

8 spears of asparagus

8 young carrots

Mash potato (recipe below)

Olive caramel (recipe below)

Lamb sauce

1 large white onion

1 clove of garlic

2sprigs of rosemary

100ml white wine

200g lamb bones (chopped and roasted)

200ml chicken stock

200ml beef /veal bones


1 dessert spoon sugar

Salt to taste


To start with turn you oven to 180 take a bulb of garlic, cut off the very too and wrap tightly in tinfoil, put into the oven and roast, this should take between 35-45 minutes, when it’s ready the cloves should have a brown colour and the bulb should be soft to the touch, allow to cool for 5 minutes , squeeze out the filling and with the back of a spoon pass through a small sieve and reserve for the mash potato.

Peel the potatoes and cut into golf ball sized pieces, put into a sauce pan and put enough water only just to cover the top of the potatoes, add a couple of punches if salt and put on a high heat, bring to a simmer and turn the heat down , the potatoes will be ready when a knows will go through with no resistance, Pour the potatoes into a colander and allow to dry slightly then put them back into the pan and mash, once smooth add the remaining ingredients including the roasted garlic and mix until incorporated, put mash into a piping bag and leave somewhere warm wrapped in a tea towel.

For the olive caramel place the sugar and the water into a heavy based sauce pan and put on to a medium heat,in a food processed blitz the olives into a rough paste, when the sugar mixture starts to change colour ( a nice blond caramel) watch it because it will darken vey quickly , once a nice light brown colour remove from the heat, add to the olives and blitz continuously for 4-5 minutes . The caramel may harden to begin with bit as the blitzing process goes on it will become smooth and liquid agai, when finishes pass through a fine sieve and reserve in a container

For the sauce…

When you buy your lamb from the butcher ask them for any lamb bones they may have, usually they will give them to you with out a problem, you will need about 200g of bones, place them on a trey into the oven for 10-15 minutes, they will be dark roasted couloir and will smell fantastic, take them out and leave them to cool.

In a heavy based pan add a glug of oil, chop the onion into a rough dice and peel the garlic but leave whole add to the oil along with the rosemary sprigs , stir the onions every minute or so until they begin to soften, when they start to look translucent add the white wine and reduce by half , then add both stocks , take the roasted lamb bones and chop them to the best of your abilities- this will release all of the wonderful flavour from inside, add these to the stock. After 15-39 montes the stock should have reduced by about 30% and now should have a mor viscose look, add the sugar , butter and a good pinch of salt , pass the sauce through a sieve and reserve in a small pan.

For the lamb…

Take the two cannons of lamb and season generously, take a heavy based oven proof frying pan and place on the stove.

You want it to be hot, add a couple off dessert spoons of oil to the pan and place to lamb in keeping them apart, you want to treat the lamb as if where triangular in shape, so seal it on 3 sides two minutes a side, once the final side is sealed put the lamb into a 180 degree oven, for a nice pink lamb it should cook for 6 minutes turning half way, if you prefer a like less pink then cook for 8 minutes turning half way .

Take the meat out of the pan and place into a wire rack and allow to rest for at least 4 minutes

For the vegetables…

Peel theatrics very gently and scrape any dirt imbedded in the top, cut the green part of the carrot about 2cm up, put the carrots into the pan and only just cover them In water , add a pinch of salt, sugar, ground white pepper and half of a star anise , put onto a high heat, bring to the boil before turning the heat down and gently simmering for 2 mins .

For the asparagus chop the hard woody bit off and take the tough ears off with a small knife , Then Blanche in salted water for 59 seconds- a minute , then take them out and toss them in a little butter .

To serve…

Put a couple of small spoonfuls of the olive caramel at opposite sides of the plate , pipe a couple of mounds of the potato, cut the vegetables on half and arrange around the plate , top and tail the cannons of lamb , cut them in half to give you 4 smaller cannons then cut them from top to bottom to give you 8 long semi cylinder shapes, gently spindle with sea salt and place 2 pieces on each plate , heat the sauce add a dessert spoons of capers and spoon over the meat.

Rhubarb Fool 


800g rhubarb

400ml of Juice

150g caster sugar

2 gelatine leaves


Chop rhubarb into small pieces put in a tray and sprinkle with sugar, cover with cling film and put under the grill. When cooked sieve into a bowl, measure the juice and add geline, some rhubarb for compote.

For crème pate…


4 egg yolks

100g sugar

25g plain flour

350ml milk


Boil milk, whisk yolks and sugar together. Flour and whisk again. Gradually add milk onto the mixture, return back to pan, stir until thickened. Let cool

For mascarpone cream…


300ml Double Cream

100g Mascarpone

Icing sugar to taste


Whisk cream, fold in mascarpone and add icing sugar to taste

For biscotti…


115g plain flour

50g caster sugar

Half teaspoon baking powder

75g roasted nuts

25g butter

1 egg


Mix dry ingredients together, add butter and mix with fingers. Add egg and mix again. Shape into rectangle, bake at 170c for 15 minutes, leave to cool. Slice on baking tray, return to oven to dry out for 5-10 minutes