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


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.

Oh I do love to be beside the seaside…

I gave Toby a trip to Brighton for his birthday to buy a hat on the seafront (so he doesn’t have to tie a hanky on his head this summer).  But so far we’ve been too busy to go, which is just as well because the weather has been absolutely dismal.  So while we wait for things to brighten up, we’ll have to make do with this token, culinary trip to the beach- scampi and chips with tartare sauce and samphire.   
Why bother to make something you could just go down to your local and have for Sunday lunch?  Well for one, this will taste much better and it’s also very satisfying to make from scratch.  I felt quite pleased with myself, I must say.  As always with deep frying, do be very careful- hot oil and busy kitchens don’t mix.
A note or two on the ingredients-  I used shop-bought breadcrumbs for my scampi, but it would be even better with the homemade variety.  Just use a stale loaf if you have one to hand.  
Samphire is gradually becoming a bit more readily available- I found mine at the fish counter in Waitrose.   Samphire grows on coasts and has a slight seaweed feeling about it, I like to think of it as sea asparagus.  It tastes fantastic and goes really well with fish. 
If you don’t like gherkins or capers, you can omit them and replace them with some crushed garlic for something a bit more aioli- like. 

Scampi and Chips with Tartare Sauce and Samphire 

 Serves 4

You will need: 

For the scampi:
600g medium-sized potatoes (unpeeled), cut into chunky chips
3 tbsp olive oil
25-30 extra large, peeled prawn tails
30g plain flour
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1 large free-range egg
75g breadcrumbs
Sunflower or vegetable oil for deep frying
250g Samphire
Lemon wedges to serve

     For the tartare sauce:
    1 large free-range egg yolk
    ½ tsp  mustard powder
    Juice of 1 lemon
    150ml olive oil
    1 tbsp capers, chopped
    1 tbsp gherkins, chopped
    1 tbsp flat leaf parsley, chopped
    1 large shallot, finely chopped


    1. Preheat the oven to 220 degrees C.  Put the chips in a large pan of salted water and bring to boil. Allow to simmer for 5 minutes.

    2.  Meanwhile, pour the olive oil into a large tray and place in the oven to heat up. Drain the potatoes and return to the heat briefly, until completely dry (be careful not to let them stick to the pan).  Add the chips to the hot oil, turning to coat. Sprinkle with sea salt and pepper.  Leave in the oven for 30-40 minutes until golden, tossing occasionally to  make sure they don’t stick to the tray.

    3. While the chips are cooking, get cracking with the tartare sauce.   Place the egg yolk, mustard powder, a squeeze of lemon juice, salt and pepper into a bowl.  Use an electric mixer to combine all the ingredients.  Keep the mixer running while you slowly add the oil in a continuous, thin stream, as you would when making mayonnaise.  Taste to season and see if it needs another squeeze of lemon juice before adding the  capers, gherkins, parsley and shallot.  

    4. Wash and pat the prawns dry, particularly if using frozen ones that you have defrosted. Put the flour in a bowl or onto a large plate and season with salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper.  Crack the egg into a second bowl and lightly whisk. Put the breadcrumbs in a third bowl.

    5.  Dip each prawn in the flour, then the egg and finally the breadcrumbs.  Make sure each prawn is totally coated at each stage. Place to one side on a large plate.  

    6. Heat the oil in a large pan (a wok would be ideal) until a chunk of bread sizzles and turns golden brown and crisp within a couple of minutes.   Carefully add the scampi (laying them in a motion away from you so as to not inadvertently splash yourself with hot oil), a few at a time and cook for about three minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper.   You can keep them warm in a low temperature oven while you continue with the rest of the prawns. 

    7.  Finally, steam the samphire, which should only take a few minutes. Serve the scampi with the tartare sauce, chunky chips, samphire and lemon wedges.  Ideally wrapped in newspaper.