Along with longer, sunnier days, spring and summer bring a whole new crop of flavours and local produce to Kent – the Garden of England.
To whet your appetite for your next visit to this bountiful county, we asked our good friend Jamie Thompson at Vine + Country Tours to share some of the local foodie gems coming into their seasonal best and featuring on the menus* of our Discovery Tours and Estate Tours. While Master Sommelier and Gusbourne Global Ambassador Laura Rhys suggests some wine pairings from our cellar.
There’s so much I want to eat during spring and summer. I feel quite connected to the land around me, and in many subconscious ways the land dictates what I crave. Driving along the Pett Level Road towards Winchelsea Beach, you can’t help but glance across the marshes to your left and the sea to your right. In early spring, the wildflowers start to appear again among the flocks of sheep. You do come away with a desire for some slow-roasted leg of Marsh lamb. But instead of rosemary or mint, I’d use plenty of marsh or sea herbs to evoke the scent of the sea air.
On the Estate Tour menu: Roast Romney Marsh lamb rump. Asparagus and potato salad.
Laura suggests: Pair with our Pinot Noir. The soft red fruits, earthy, smoky notes and elegant tannin structure are a perfect match for succulent Romney Marsh lamb.
I have a real palate for bitter greens and alliums, leeks and garlics, kales and chards. Nothing says summer to me like a plate of blanched green leaves – cavalo nero, chard just like the crop my mum grows or even dandelion leaves. Just blanch for 60 seconds and drizzle with far too much olive oil, a bit of salt and a great big squeeze of lemon juice. You feel enriched after a dish like that.
On the Estate Tour menu: Radicchio. Spring English garden peas. Poached egg.
If I hike over the Firehills into Hastings Old Town, I just want to pick up a dressed crab, some smoked sprats and a hunk of bread and have a picnic on the beach. I love that kind of simplicity – so uncomplicated and tastes all the better for it.
On the Discovery Tour menu: Dungeness crab salad with house soda bread and local flavoured butter.
Laura suggests: English crab is such a great match with English sparkling wine, and our Blanc de Blancs would suit any crab dish. An equally good match is the still Chardonnay Guinevere, with its citrus and butter notes.
I’m always torn between English summer strawberries or a crisp and juicy sharp English apple for an afternoon snack. We’re blessed with hundreds of apple varieties I love tossing shards of apple into a salad of bitter leaves and fennel, all dressed with local honey and mustard vinaigrette. Strawberries from around here don’t need much dressing up – they’re amazing just as they are and there are plenty of farms in Kent where you can pick your own.
On the Discovery Tour menu: Lemon custard pastry served with macerated English strawberries.
Laura suggests: For fruits and berries it has to be our Rosé – its highlights of red fruits and delicate floral notes work so well with fruit-based desserts, like a tart and light apple fool. For an apple and fennel salad, slightly older vintages will really pick up the aniseed notes.
In late summer I’m often out exploring ancient woodlands. I’ve been an avid mushroom forager since my nan taught me when I was 10. Now I just go crazy for the quiet hunt – it’s like finding nuggets of gold! After days like those, there’s nothing else I’d rather have for lunch than wild mushrooms simply sautéed with thyme and piled on top of toasted sourdough with plenty of hot butter.
On the Estate Tour Menu: Foraged mushroom cannelloni. Wild garlic purée.
Laura suggests: Our Brut Reserve, with its toasty, biscuity notes – thanks to lees ageing – is an ideal match for earthy, herby, buttery mushrooms.
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