December 2013 food news and pot-roast chicken recipe

PUBLISHED: 14:29 20 December 2013 | UPDATED: 14:35 20 December 2013

Looking like the work of any top class establishment: canapés prepared at The Brasserie

Looking like the work of any top class establishment: canapés prepared at The Brasserie

Archant

Food news from across the region this month

The stunning dining room at The ElephantThe stunning dining room at The Elephant

The Elephant at Pangborune continues to impress

It’s not always easy to marry a quirky and fun ambience to dining delights and rooms that make you desperate to stay longer, but the team at The Elephant in Pangbourne have managed just that.

Hillbrooke Hotels took over the 19th century premises in 2007 and, after a major refurbishment, transformed The Elephant into somewhere you have to visit, explore and marvel at.

The first trick is that from the outside it looks very much a place of its times: sturdy, traditional, the sort of country town hotel you find across the more rural parts of England. But once through the doors you find surprises at every turn. Guests rooms with individual styling and huge, luxury beds; a dining room oozing history while serving up dishes with a modern twist; little quirks and corners that lure you to sit, drink and chat with friends.

Most recently, the hotel has seen the arrival of new head chef Mihaela Bratu, while the spacious function rooms have been redecorated and are likely to catch the eye of those planning weddings and similar events, with doors opening on to the beautiful gardens.

We joined Pangbourne folk at a sneak preview of both the new look and tasty treats to sample from Mihaela’s menus, and recommend a visit.

The Elephant at Pangbourne, Church Road, Pangbourne, Berkshire, RG8 7AR. Tel 0118 984 2244, www.elephanthotel.co.uk.

Test the restaurant stars of the future

If you are in the Bletchley area of Bucks and seeking somewhere a little different to eat, then why not try The Brasserie – you can do yourself a favour as well as perhaps surprise your lunch guests when you arrive outside.

The fully licensed Brasserie offers everything from paninis and chips to à la carte dining. The big difference is that this restaurant is staffed almost entirely by students as it’s on the Bletchley campus of Milton Keynes College.

The young people are learning everything from becoming professional chefs to front of house work, all under the watchful eye of manager Sarah King, who has spent the last five years in a very different dining spot – Brasserie Blanc in the Milton Keynes hub.

Sarah says: “We’re going to be serving the paying public and while they will no doubt be understanding when it comes to dealing with people who are learning their trade I expect our staff to be completely committed and to live up to the standards of a professional establishment. During their time here if they’re waiting at table they will need to be able to deal with customers properly, advise them about the wine – everything anyone serving at a restaurant in the city centre would be able to do.”

Head chef Darren Klein is also new to education but no stranger to the world of professional catering: “I will be strict with them, of course, but it’s important to understand that some of the students have never so much as peeled a carrot before they came here. I’ll make sure they have the time and the encouragement to learn everything they need to know to make a success of life after college. When they leave here they should have all the skills to be able to work with confidence in a four star restaurant.”

The students in the Brasserie will also benefit from the College’s ground-breaking partnership with the Spirit Pub Company, owners of brands including Chef & Brewer and Taylor Walker.

Former MKC catering student, Rebecca Gibson, now working at Michelin-starred restaurant The Yorke Arms under celebrated chef, Frances Atkins, was one of the first to experience The Brasserie. She said: “The flavours are good. I’m surprised at just how well each dish has been presented. The staff have been fantastic in telling me exactly what has gone into each dish. The place has been transformed.”

Meanwhile, Stevyn Kemp, Sales & Marketing Manager at The Living Room in the city added: “I’ve just had the white chocolate dessert, it was so big I thought it might break my jaw! One word - incredible.”

To make a reservation call 01908 637373

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Recipe: Pot-roast chicken with cider and Pink Lady apples

This is a great choice for entertaining or a filling family meal.

Serves: 4-6

Prep time: 35 minutes

Cooking time: 1 hour & 20 minutes to cook

You will need

A medium chicken, about 1.5kg

1 lemon, quartered

3 tbsp olive oil

Salt and Pepper

2 onions, finely chopped

2 large carrots, finely chopped

2 sticks celery, finely chopped

2 bay leaves, fresh or dried

2 sprigs rosemary

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1 tbsp plain flour

250ml dry cider

250ml chicken stock

2 large or 3 small Pink Lady apples, cored & cut into wedges

3 tbsp crème fraiche

A small bunch of flat leaf parsley, chopped

To serve

Mashed potato or rice to serve

Lightly steamed green vegetables, such as Tenderstem® broccoli, or spring greens

What to do

Preheat oven to 200°C. Lay chicken in a roasting tin and stuff inside with the lemon quarters, squeezing them a little to release juice as you do so. Drizzle over about a tablespoon of olive oil and season well with salt and pepper. Roast for 30 minutes, which should be enough time to lightly crisp up the skin.

Whilst chicken is roasting, add the rest of the olive oil to a large flameproof casserole dish. Gently sweat the onion, carrot and celery with the bayleaves and rosemary over a low heat until soft and light caramelised. Cooking slowly for around 30 minutes will give you a really sweet base, so take your time.

Once the onion and carrot are soft, add garlic and fry for a further minute or so before stirring through the flour.

Pour in the cider and stock and season with a little salt and pepper.

Remove the chicken from the oven and lower the heat to 180°C. Carefully lift the chicken from the roasting tin and lay in the casserole on top of the vegetables. Pour on any roasting juices from the pan, cover with a tight fitting lid or snugly tucked piece of foil and put back in oven for an hour.

Remove from oven and tuck in the apple pieces, pressing under the liquid. Return to oven, uncovered, and cook for 20 minutes or so until the apples are soft. Stir through creme fraiche and scatter over the parsley.

See www.pinkladyapples.co.uk for more recipes.

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