Contemporary country house hotel Cowley Manor has more than a few aces up its heather-hued tweed sleeves. Aside from a gorgeous location (near Cheltenham, in the Cotswolds), green and lovely grounds (all 55 acres of them), a pampering spa (C-Side, which uses its own Green & Spring product line) and cool colourful interiors, it also has a new head chef. And he’s rather good.
Chef Matthew Cuthbert (who has shared bains-maries and blowtorches with Marco Pierre White and Heston Blumenthal) heads up the brigade at Cowley Manor and brings with him a fresh approach to traditional English cooking – making use of the best local and seasonal produce, and taking many of his kitchen cues from Cowley’s grounds.
Here he shares one of his new (and mouthwatering) recipes for shortbread and lavender burnt cream (that’s crème brûlée, to you and me)…
SMITH TIP: You’ll need to prep this the day before, to allow the pastry to rest overnight in the fridge and the cream to set. Oh, and you’ll need a blowtorch.
Lavender Burnt Cream with Shortbread
225g unsalted butter
110g caster sugar
225g plain flour
110g corn flour
1 pinch of salt
1 Remove butter from fridge, dice into 1cm cubes and allow to soften slightly.
2 Put butter and sugar in a mixer and beat until light and fluffy (this is known as creaming the butter).
3 Sift the corn flour, plain flour and salt together. Fold this dry mixture into the creamed butter.
4 Drop the mixture onto a sheet of greaseproof paper, and ‘roll’ to make an even tube shape. Leave your pastry to rest in the fridge overnight.
5 Remove pastry from the fridge and slice into approx 5mm thick rounds to make biscuits. Preheat the oven to 150ºc.
6 Line an oven tray with greaseproof paper and place biscuits onto tray; leave a gap between each one to allow for growth.
7 Bake for 10–12 minutes.
LAVENDER BURNT CREAM METHOD
1 Place the cream and milk into a pan. Scrape the seeds out of the vanilla pod and add to the cream and milk.
2 As soon as the cream is boiling, take off the heat, add the lavender and leave to infuse for 10 minutes.
3 Mix the egg yolks and sugar in a separate bowl, then slowly whisk in the cream.
4 Preheat the oven to 110ºc.
5 Pass the mixture through a fine sieve, then pour into ramekins.
6 Cook the creams for 30–40 minutes in a bain-marie (put the ramekins in deep oven tray and add hot water until it reaches two-thirds of the way up the ramekins, then place the tray into the preheated oven; to check if they are cooked, very gently shake the tray: the cream should only move a little).
7 Once cooled, chill in fridge for a minimum of four hours.
8 To finish, sieve a little caster sugar on top and glaze with a blow torch until dark brown.
*(100g is about five large egg yolks)