Food And Drink: Spring - enjoying the countryside on a plate

Cockles and Mussels at the William Cecil, Stamford.
Cockles and Mussels at the William Cecil, Stamford.
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The “countryside on a plate” is how one chef described dishes on his new Spring menu.

The first couple of weeks in March is prime time for chefs to show off their new season creations, and Dameon Clarke, chef patron at The Wicked Witch in Ryhall, is no different.

His Spring favourite - Salt Marsh lamb with lamb sweetbreads, baby turnips, wild fennel and anchovy beignets.

“For me it is the best time of the year,” he said, “great colours and great flavours. It’s the countryside on a plate

“You have wild fennel and garlic coming into season, beautiful baby turnips just now, Salt Marsh lamb, fed on the salt marshes in Wales is just so good and you can’t beat lamb sweetbreads.”

Will Frankgate, at The Blue Bell in Glinton, was certainly in agreement when it comes to sweetbreads.

Chicken dish from the Blue Bell at Glinton

Chicken dish from the Blue Bell at Glinton

His favourite Spring offering is roast chicken ballotine with lamb sweetbreads, cauliflower puree and wild mushrooms.

“Sweetbreads are perfect this time of year with a wonderful creamy tender texture and fantastic nutty flavour.

“They’re something a little different too.”

Andrew Corrick, chef patron at The Cherry House in Werrington, is looking forward to putting on the menu the canon of English lamb dressed with crushed new potatoes flavoured with grain mustard with a garlic spinach timbale, cordoned with a rich rosemary jus.

It represents all the flavour and optimism of Springtime

Andrew Corrick

“It represents all the flavour and optimism of Springtime,” he said.

Marcus Lamb, chef- owner at The Crown Inn at Elton, had this to say: “So Spring is upon us, which means new ingredients, new menus and lots of exciting new flavours. The thing is watching the sleet blustering past the window, it doesn’t feel particularly Spring like.

“So here’s what I call a half Spring dish. It’s wholesome and hearty enough to keep the cold out, but with a lovely freshness hinting at the coming flavours of Spring.”

He has shared his Sichuan pepper coated tuna steak dish recipe below.

Lamb dish from the Cherry House, Werrington.

Lamb dish from the Cherry House, Werrington.

It’s Spring menu time at the William Cecil in Stamford, too.

Head of operations Paul Brown suggested potted Norfolk cockles & mussels, roasted salsify, fresh dill & watercress salad, crisp rye bread (from Hambleton Bakery, Oakham) as a favourite starter, and from the main courses Rioja braised new season lamb, chorizo and roasted garlic cassoulet, with sautéed Jersey Royals.

He said: “The reason behind our regular changing menu is simply linked to the seasons and the local produce which is readily available at this time of year. We try and source our food as close to home as we possibly can, ‘following seasons not fashion’ is the key to all of our menus.”

Gino Gioia, chef and landlord at the Red Lion in West Deeping, has a couple of mouthwatering dishes waiting for his customers including roasted corn fed chicken breast on a tomato, pepper, mushroom & red onion cassoulet with herb roasted new potatoes – which Gino is also looking at serving as a special in the evening with duck– and 8oz lamb rump (served pink) with olive oil and rosemary mash served with a port and redcurrant jus and fresh vegetables.

“Then there is our great Spring sharing dish of baked camembert studded with garlic and rosemary served with our own red onion chutney, toast and crusty bread, said Gino.

“ We think these dishes are a great choice for our Spring menu as they offer a light and colourful choice to enjoy while hoping for a beautiful summer!”

The tuna dish from Marcus at The Crown, Elton.

The tuna dish from Marcus at The Crown, Elton.

Well, we are all hoping for one of those!


Sichuan pepper coated tuna steak with spring onion, chilli, ginger stir fried noodles and oyster sauce


A 300g pack of medium egg noodles

4 red chillies finely chopped with seeds removed (if you prefer less spice use 3)

4 spring onions finely shredded

25g of finely shredded ginger

3 garlic cloves crushed and finely chopped

3 tablespoons of oyster sauce

Salt and pepper to taste

4 tablespoons of vegetable oil

4 tuna steaks - you want them cut to around 3 quarters of an inch thick

4 tablespoons of sichuan peppercorns, finely crushed - a spice grinder or pestle and mortar is perfect for this.

And so to the cooking!

Pre heat your oven to 180 degrees C

In a large pan of boiling water pre cook the noodles following the instructions on the packet and then drain, rinse in cold water until cooled, then place to one side

Next take your lovely tuna steaks and coat them on all sides in your finely crushed sichuan peppercorns

Heat 2 tablespoons of your oil in a non stick frying pan then place in the tuna steaks and sear them on each side for approximately 45 seconds, before popping them onto a pre heated oven tray

In a large wok, heat the remainder of the oil until very hot, then fry the spring onions, chilli and ginger until soft, before adding your pre cooked noodles. Stir continuously until all your ingredients are combined and good and hot before adding the oyster sauce. Stir for a further minute, (if you think the noodles are too dry you can add a splash of water at this stage) and finally add the the garlic, stir for another 20 seconds or so and your noodles are finished.

Pop your tuna steaks in the preheated oven for a couple of minutes to finish them off. They should be crispy on the outside and lovely and pink in the middle - you can leave them in slightly longer if you prefer a more “well done” tuna steak. Last bit- pop a portion of your noodles on each plate, halve each tuna steak through the middle and rest the halves up against the noodles.

Enjoy with good friends and a nice crisp white!

Top Tip: I usually pop a little soy sauce on the side to dip my tuna into.

Baked camenbert from the Red Lion, West Deeping.

Baked camenbert from the Red Lion, West Deeping.