A, B, Sea…

 
I sometimes need a bit of convincing.  
It’s been a busy period here at A.S.H. HQ, what with the impending completion of my course at Leiths and the looming prospect of life thereafter.  So over the last bank holiday I would have been perfectly content with an afternoon on the sofa with just my slippers and the latest episode of Mad Men for company.  
But Toby had designs on making the most of the weather with a trip to the seaside.  So, off we drove for a jolly day out on the coast, with me muttering and moaning all the way but camera dutifully in tow.  At least I might get a blog post out of it, I thought.  
First up, Faversham, where Toby had booked us on a tour around the Shepherd Neame Brewery.  They proudly proclaim to be Britain’s oldest brewer, dating back to at least 1698, but there’s evidence that so called ‘ale wives’  were brewing in Faversham as far back as the 1300s. We were taken behind the scenes, the pumps and pipes quietly out of action as it was a Saturday.  The tour included a walk through the ‘beer cathedral’ (scroll down for a pic) which houses enormous vats of beer, up to 1 million pints at any one time- mind boggling. 
Naturally there was some sampling afterwards which we supplemented with a couple of our favourites to take home- a bottle each of their famous Master Brew (a particularly hoppy ale for adding to my beer bread-see recipe below), Brilliant Ale and Cantebury Jack.  
From there it was but a short hop and a skip to Whitstable, spontaneously stopping at a farm shop on the way to pick up some freshly picked asparagus, soil still clinging to their roots, along with half a dozen free range eggs.  These were then turned into the following day’s breakfast (poached eggs, asparagus and hollandaise, see below). 
Once we got to the seaside, we stopped at the famous Wheeler’s Oyster Bar, tummies rumbling. Sadly, they were booked up well into the following week, so after a short walk we were sitting at the Whistable Oyster Fishery Company instead, scoffing Fish and Chips (me) and Beef and Oyster Pie (Toby). 
By this time, the sun was well and truly out and after a walk along the seafront and a snooze on its pebbled beach, catching the last of the rays, before heading back to the East End.  Whitstable, we decided, was a bit like a smaller, quieter Brighton.  All in all, I have to admit, a pretty lovely day out.  Toby, you win.
Produce at Faversham’s Saturday market

 

Hops and Barley
More Kentish hops

A selection of malted barley


The Beer Cathedral
A 1940s ale wife
Beer tasting after the tour- a tough job
Farm shop we stumbled upon on the road to Whitstable
Asparagus freshly picked
Seafront shack in Whitstable
Lunch at the Whitstable Oyster Fishery Company
Toby’s steak and oyster pie


Oyster shell recycling centre
Eggs, Asparagus, Hollandaise

Beer Bread
Adapted from Shipton Mill’s recipe, here.

You will need:
 450ml ale
20g fresh yeast
1 heaped tbsp runny honey
450g strong white flour
230g rye flour, plus extra
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp oil

Method:

1.  Bring the ale ( I used Shepherd Neame’s Master Brew Ale) to boil and leave to cool to blood temperature.  Cream the yeast with the honey. 

2. Sift the flours, salt and yeast in a large mixing bowl  and make a well.

3.  Pour the ale, yeast mixture and oil into the well and combine to make a dough.Knead the dough for around 10 minutes until it is smooth.

4. Leave to prove for around 30 minutes and in the meantime lightly grease a baking sheet.

5. Knock the dough back, cut into two and shape into round loaves. Place into bannetons (proving baskets) or onto the baking tray. Cover and prove for about 40 minutes until about double in size.

6. preheating the oven to 200 degrees C, 400 degrees 4, Gas Mark 6.  Dust with a little flour

7. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes.  Cool on a rack.


Springtime Asparagus Tart

It’s time for some Springtime tarts and Asparagus is in season.  This one is great as a starter or light lunch, perhaps even for a picnic if the weather (ever) picks up. 

Lemony Asparagus, Potato and Ricotta Tart
You will need

300g puff pastry
200g ricotta
a bunch of asparagus

3 medium sized potatoes
2 eggs
zest of 1/2 lemon
grated Parmesan
 salt, pepper

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 180˚C.

2. Slice the potatoes and bring to boil in salted water.  Simmer until cooked through.  

 
3.  Remove any tougher ends of the asparagus and steam them for about 5 minutes, until just tender but still with a little bit of bite. 
 
4. Roll out the puff pastry on a lightly floured surface until about 3mm thick into a large rectangular shape.  You don’t have to be too precious about it, it’s a rustic tart, this one.   Place on a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper. With a sharp knife, score a line about 3-4 cm in from the edge of the rectangle, creating a ‘frame.’  This will ensure your pastry puffs up around the filling. 
 
5. In a bowl, mix the ricotta with a good handful of grated Parmesan, lemon zest, one egg and some salt and pepper.  You should have a smooth, custard-like filling.  Spread this all over the ‘framed’ part of the pastry. Arrange the asparagus and potatoes over the filling. 
 
6. Beat the remaining egg lightly and brush over the outer border of the pastry.   Bake the tart for about half an hour, until puffed, golden and crispy around the outside, and the pastry has cooked through even in the middle. Cool to warm on a wire rack, so it doesn’t go soggy.
 
7.  Serve with watercress strewn liberally all over the tart.