Chef’s notes on ingredients used at The Dysart Petersham
The selection of products is paramount to our values, so great care is taken to collaborate with farmers, fishermen and artisans that share our passions.
We source our meat from farmers who follow natural husbandry and provide their herds with a natural, open air and unstressed life – producing content animals.
We have a strong relationship with Richard Vaughan of Huntsham Court Farm in the Wye Valley who specialises in producing the finest meat from pedigree animals, including Longhorn beef, Middle White pork and Ryeland lamb. Their ethos and concern for the welfare of their animals is admirable and, thus, their meat features throughout the seasons on our menu.
I value the superior taste and texture of Huntsham meat. It has a higher fat content than most modern meat which greatly enhances its taste and succulence. It is important meat is cooked in its fat. Huntsham say those who don’t like fat should look on it like the sediment in a good bottle of wine - you don’t drink it, but it needs to be there and would be missed if it were not.
Huntsham beef comes from their herd of Longhorn cattle. This old-fashioned breed was developed 200 years ago and was the breed which made England famous for its fine roast beef. Longhorn beef is now a rare breed and has been largely forgotten, but the quality of its meat remains outstanding. It is hung for nearly five weeks so that the fine-grained, well-marbled meat reaches its ideal maturity and full potential.
Middle White Pork
The Middle White pig was the pork pig of England in the 1930s. However, to compete with the influx of Danish bacon after the war, farmers started to breed larger, leaner pigs for bacon. Young pigs from commercial bacon breeds now provide almost all the pork in our shops and the Middle White is very rare.
Huntsham lamb is produced from Ryeland sheep. This breed was developed in the Ross-on-Wye area and was called "the sweet meat of Herefordshire". This rare breed lamb is exceptionally good, but supplies are limited.
Walter Rose and Son are a fourth generation family butcher in Wiltshire, recently awarded the winning prize in the Environment and Food Production category in the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust’s Corporate Green Awards scheme, celebrating environmental best practice. We source our Hereford/Angus beef from Steve Rose and the farmer in Wiltshire where the herd feeds on the lush grasses of the Cheverell Hills and where the farm has been in the same family, with the same breed of beef, for three generations.
Game and rabbit
Their local gamekeeper provides our game and our rabbits, shot daily on the Wiltshire chalk downlands.
Sika venison, originally introduced from Japan and eastern Asia in the high Victorian period, is currently on our menu. The numbers of this variety of deer have increased greatly over the years, which has led to some habitat damage, especially in the woodlands. Ours comes from the Cotswolds. I like this venison for its fine texture and subtle flavours.
Petersham reared Oxford Sandy and Black pork
Within Petersham we count ourselves lucky to be able to source Oxford Sandy and Black pork, hand reared with impeccable care in the garden of friends. We take a pig whole and butcher it here, nose to tail, using every part.
Tymsboro is one of the cheeses I love to use between March and November, an unpasteurised goats’ cheese, made by Mary Holbrook of Sleight Farm in the Mendips with milk from her own herd. It is a joy to work and create dishes with artisan materials of this quality, born of faith in old ways, passion and commitment.
I am gradually sourcing a wide range of individual, artisan cheesemakers where the cheese is still hand made in limited quantities. A recent addition is bleu de Termignon , made on only a handful of farms from a very small number of cows in the high pastures of the French Alps.
We hold scallop divers in great esteem for their skill, courage and respect for nature and the long term quality of their and our environment. The handpicked scallops from Orkney are extraordinary, which has to do with the strong, clean tidal waters that surround the islands, fresh and sweet. We only buy from them. The shells of the hand dived scallops say it all from the first glance, perfect because they have not been dragged in aggressive and invasive nets; so beautiful in their perfection, our customers, who are shown them when they are ordered, frequently ask to have the shells to take with them at the end of their meal.
Our wild seabass is brought to us by day fishermen from the small Cornish coastal port of Looe, caught by smaller boats in the port. Our mackerel and hake also come from the South Coast.
Foraged and local produce
The use of foraged and locally grown produce is also paramount to our menus which are subtly, but significantly influenced by what is brought in daily.
Richmond remained mostly rural with wild lands, agricultural land and orchards until the 19th century and it still affords a wealth of wild foods, an inheritance of those times and its continuing special, rural character. Cèpes, chicken of the woods, beef steak fungus, rosehips and nettles are to name but a few of the products that we use with the seasons. We are developing growing our own unusual herbs and vegetables, with many heritage varieties of pumpkins, courgettes and tomatoes.
The range of ingredients is inspiring – in early summer asparagus is abundant, then summer courgettes. Moving into the autumn the rare varieties of squash and pumpkin come into season: Blue Hubbard, Pink Banana and marina di Chioggia being beautiful examples.
And the herbs! Countless different varieties and flavours:
Spearmint, grapefruit mint, basil mint, pineapple mint, chocolate mint (to name but a few!), yarrow, hairy bittercress, wild garlic, broad leaf thyme, lemon balm, lemon verbena, blackcurrant sage, chicory flowers, coriander flowers, borage flowers, wrinkled crinkles, sneezewort, heartsease –the list is endless and inspirational!