In the latest DGWGO blog from Nick Morris, owner of the Station House Cookery School in Kirkcudbright, we find out all about how Nick likes to keep it local by supporting local producers. Nick tells us all about his herb supplier and shares a wonderful recipe with us for Thai Green Curry.
‘Above all, keep it simple’ Auguste Escoffier
Nick goes on to say “Escoffier arguably changed the very way we eat in Britain and is undoubtedly one of the finest chefs ever. As a cook, I try to always remember this quote and keep things simple. In trying to use the best possible quality ingredients available and then treating them simply we can create magical food.
One of the ingredients that really can make a difference to your cooking are the finest quality herbs. The aroma and flavour when you crush properly grown and freshly picked herbs between your fingers is an absolute joy. The layers of flavour they bring to your cooking is nothing short of miraculous.
Throughout my cookery demonstrations and classes I always give details of my suppliers and reasons why I think they are worthy of support. I often pass ingredients around the audience so my students get a feel for the texture, taste and aroma of what we are using that day. Herbs always provide a ‘wow factor’. Essential in so many of the recipes we teach at Station House and a great example of how using the best quality ingredients can make such a difference to your cooking.
So where do I source my herbs?
Mutehill Nurseries are just outside of Kirkcudbright. It is here that Graham and Carol work their magic and grow some of the best herbs I have ever had the pleasure of working with. Not only that, but they understand the importance of a real connection with their clients. They are happy to spend time with me and discuss what they do and pass on their knowledge about their product. Now that’s what I look for in a producer. I’m looking to be as associated with where my food comes from as much as possible.
I first met Graham before I had even bought Station House. Passing their nursery, I stopped in for an unscheduled visit and ended up spending a few hours talking everything herbs. I take every opportunity I can to learn from producers who are passionate about they do and have an in-depth knowledge of their product. Herbs, like most ingredients, are available on a surprising spectrum of quality. But what is it that leads to some herbs being grown to possess a deeper, fuller and longer lasting aroma and flavour than others?
As Graham explained to me, it’s a variety of factors. Firstly, the quality of the initial seeds are important to the quality of the final plant. This may seem obvious but of course the better quality seeds are more expensive and therefore many producers opt for a cheaper variety to increase profit margins.
Secondly, the length of time spent growing the herbs will have a direct effect on the
strength, flavour and aroma of the plant. At Mutehill, herbs are grown for six to eight weeks allowing them to develop fully. Many of the herbs that are available in supermarkets have only been grown for ten to twenty days.
Furthermore, Graham grows all of his herbs organically, using no chemicals of any kind at all. Good for the environment and good for the flavour of the herbs. And finally, another factor in strengthening the herbs is keeping them outside to toughen them up. Giving them this hardy edge will mean that if you buy a Mutehill herb it will keep a lot longer and give you a lot more ‘cut and come again’ value.
A lot of the dishes I include in our classes have been created because I want to show-case the great produce in the area. Mutehill herbs are no exception. For example, Tabbouleh is a gorgeous Middle Eastern bulghar wheat salad which is just loaded with freshly chopped parsley and mint. It’s so fresh and zingy and makes a great summer dish. Our fresh pasta classes include making your own filled pasta such as ravioli and tortellini. One of the stuffings we use is our own well-
seasoned in-house soft cheese mixed through with a lot of finely chopped basil. Every Indian class of course has coriander high in priority and our homemade lemongrass and mint sorbet was a huge hit during the hot summer months. And of course, our Gourmet Sunday Pizzas wouldn’t be the same without Graham’s fresh basil. All these dishes really put herbs at the heart of the dish and show how important they really are.
So which Station House dish have I chosen to best show off Graham’s fantastic herbs? One of our most popular classes is our ‘Introduction to Thai Cookery’. Included on this class is a simply delicious Green Chicken Curry which is made using Mutehill herbs to create a paste of amazing freshness and zing which is nothing like the Thai pastes you might buy in the supermarkets. This really is a must try recipe.”
Before starting to cook read through the recipe carefully and make sure you have all your ingredients and utensils to hand. This is called ‘mise en place’ or ‘put in place’.
Thai Green Chicken Curry
250g skinless free-range chicken breasts / thighs
200g tin of coconut milk
½ a bunch fresh Thai basil
6 Kaffir Lime Leaves
For the Paste
4 cloves of garlic 1 medium onion / 3 shallots
5cm piece of galangal or ginger 2 lemongrass stalks / Lemongrass leaves
- chillies 1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ a bunch of fresh coriander 2 tablespoons fish sauce
To make the curry paste, peel, roughly chop and place the garlic, shallots and ginger into a food processor.
Trim the lemongrass, remove the tough outer leaves, then finely chop and add to the processor. Trim and add the chillies and half the coriander (stalks and all). Blitz until finely chopped, add the fish sauce and blitz again.
In a dry frying pan toast your cumin seeds until they colour and then grind in a pestle and mortar. Toasting them first will really get their natural oils kick starting the flavour. Don’t miss this step! Add the cumin into the blender and blend one last time.
Slice the chicken into 2.5cm strips. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large pan on a medium heat, add the chicken and fry until just turning golden, then transfer to a plate.
Slice the mushrooms into even pieces. Return the pan to a medium heat, add the mushrooms and fry until darkened. Transfer to a plate using a slotted spoon.
Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the Thai green paste for 4 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Pour in the coconut milk and 200ml of boiling water and add the lime leaves. Turn the heat up and bring gently to the boil, then simmer for 10 minutes, or until reduced slightly.
Stir in the chicken and mushrooms, reduce the heat to low and cook for a further 5 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through, adding the peas for the final 2 minutes.
Season carefully to taste with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Pick, roughly chop and stir through the basil leaves and remaining coriander leaves. Serve with lime wedges and steamed rice.
A perfect Autumn warmer. Why not book on to our next Thai class and come make it with us?
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