The Pig hotels have struck on a winning formula. A visit to any of their six properties feels like going to stay at a friend’s country house – only the fantasy version – in which the vegetable garden spills over with produce, the fire roars in the grate and the velvet pillows are permanently plumped. You are made to feel totally at home and free to kick back on the sofa, whilst also enjoying the hotel perks of someone mixing you a perfect cocktail and being able to slouch off for a massage in a shepherd’s hut at the end of the garden.
The original idea back in 2011, was to remove the stuffiness and pomp that had seeped its way into the English country hotel. Loving The Spotted Pig restaurant in New York and wanting something that sounded as dissimilar to a Manor or grand estate the better, founders Robin Hutson (formerly co-founder of Hotel du Vin), his wife Judy (responsible for the interiors) and David Elton settled on the simple and down-to-earth name, The Pig. Others have followed suit – The Fish in the Cotswolds and more recently The Newt in Somerset. A new type of hotel was in the making that offered comfort and sophistication along with a casual, laid-back atmosphere. Instead of white tablecloths in the dining room there are mismatched trestles in the greenhouse; instead of tiny plates of haute cuisine they have made breakfast as important as dinner with a laden table of unlimited buttery toast and Marmite and eggs and coffee and newspapers.
Food has been the starting point for each of the hotels with everything on the menu famously sourced from within a 25-mile radius. So it’s fitting that recipes are also at the heart of The Pig book. There’s a cosy, warm nostalgia as you turn the pages past perfect crackling to fish pie and even a recipe for a pink blancmange bunny – of the kind my Granny made many years ago but here presented in a contemporary and artful way. As the title suggests, Tales and Recipes from the Kitchen Garden – and Beyond it’s less a cookbook and more of a complete guide to The Pig’s way of life. There are interior design ideas from the clever Judy Hutson, gardening and foraging tips and even a playlist for the songs that form the ultimate weekend soundtrack. Then there are the visuals that are a treat in themselves, with glorious photographs not only of the food but also of the animals (pigs really do root around the sty at each of the properties) and of the passionate people who make up the team. A stay at The Pig is always too short – this book pours the experience into its pages and let’s you take it home where it will make a joyful addition to any kitchen.
The Pig: Tales and Recipes From the Kitchen Garden and Beyond by Robin Hutson, Gill Morgan, Paul Croughton and The Pig team is published on 1 August 2019 by Octopus, £30 amazon.co.uk
This recipe is a particular favourite of Lex’s, because it’s so versatile. ‘There are three elements – the stewed fruit, the tart base and the honey clotted cream – and the great thing about each is that you can use them in lots of different recipes,’ she says. ‘The fruit, for example, is deliciously sharp and tangy; stir a few spoonfuls into whipped cream for a quick gooseberry fool, or spoon over yogurt for breakfast. And then you have the ultimate sweet pastry recipe, which is super-useful. Add orange or lemon zest, cocoa or spices to create different flavours, depending on your filling. Also, when you make the individual tartlet cases, roll them as thinly as possible. We’ve given this a lot of thought in the kitchen and have decided the filling-to-pastry ratio needs to be about 92 to 8 per cent. Roughly…’ The tartness of gooseberries varies, as do people’s tastes, so the sugar measurement is just a guide.
For the sweet pastry:
- 190g (6¾oz) soft butter, plus extra
- 170g (6oz) sugar
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten with a fork
- 375g (13oz) plain flour, plus extra for dusting
For the gooseberry compote:
- 500g (1lb 2oz) gooseberries, topped and tailed
- 200g (7oz) caster sugar
- 50ml (2fl oz) elderflower syrup or cordial
For the honey clotted cream:
- 250g (9oz) clotted cream
- 2 teaspoons local honey
- Edible flowers (optional)
For the pastry cases, combine the butter and sugar in the bowl of a food mixer or processor with a paddle attachment. Keeping your mixer on the lowest setting, gradually add the beaten eggs. Then start mixing in the flour. Don’t over-mix, as your pastry will crumble when you try to roll it out. Tip onto a work surface and finish binding together by hand. Wrap in clingfilm and leave it to chill in the refrigerator until firm. Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C fan (400°F), Gas Mark 6, and lightly butter 6–8 tartlet tins (about 10cm/4 inches in diameter). Remove the pastry from the refrigerator. Lightly flour a work surface and roll the pastry out to a thickness of 2mm (¹/₁₆ inch). Use to line the tartlet tins. Line the pastry cases with greaseproof paper and fill with baking beans. Please on a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Remove the paper and beans and return to the oven, uncovered, for a further 3 minutes. Leave to cool, then remove the pastry cases from the tins.
For the filling, put the gooseberries in a wide pan, add the sugar, enough water to cover and the elderflower syrup. Warm to gently dissolve the sugar. Turn the heat down to low. Cook gently for 5 minutes, being careful not to break up the fruit. Take off the heat and leave to cool. Whisk the clotted cream in a bowl and stir in the honey, for a hint of sweetness. Spoon the cream into the pastry cases and add the gooseberries on top. Drizzle the syrup around the edge and garnish with edible flowers, if you have them.
Garden tip: Gooseberries
These tart-tasting beauties are excellent in desserts and preserves, as well as pairing well with many ingredients in the bar to produce a range of cocktails. We often interplant gooseberry bushes with members of the allium family, such as garlic and chives, as this keeps the gooseberry sawfly, a pesky little thing, away from the leaves.