Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

Our talented pastry chef Charlotte Duncan recently spent a day learning new chocolate skills from Will Torrent at Barry Callebaut.

Going on my first chocolate course at the Barry Callebaut headquarters was something  I would recommend to any chef.  It was great fun learning with Will Torrent, an ambassador for Barry Callebaut, 1 of 150 ambassadors worldwide. We made mini desserts and decorations which was great for learning new flavour combinations and chocolate decorating skills.  Learning more about the chocolate that I use everyday, and the developments which the company is making to ensure the best quality chocolate, makes it seem that bit more special when I use it!





Alan Murchison is also an ambassador for Barry Callebaut and his and Charlotte’s latest creation  is a spectacular ‘Chocolate Tasting Plate’ for two which is available on our current A la Carte menu.  As far as we know we are the only restaurant in the UK serving the Cacao Barry Boa Sentença chocolate – its stunning!


Boa Sentença fondant, caramel and puffed rice slice

iced white chocolate parfait,

white chocolate and caramel dome,

Madirofolo sorbet

choc tasting plate


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David Masterchef

L’Ortolan Junior Sous Chef David Balastegui Gonzalez has recently impressed viewers of the BBC2 programme Masterchef: The Professionals with his extraordinary culinary talents. Last week we saw David reach the semi-finals after Michel Roux Jr. complimented him on his classic ‘high end’ style of cooking. But it was David’s rabbit and chocolate dishes, created for three of the UK’s toughest food critics that secured his place in the next stage of the competition.

We asked David about his Masterchef Professionals journey so far…

What encouraged you to enter Masterchef?

I really wanted to push myself to see what I’m capable of doing. I’ve always enjoyed entering competitions and thought this would be a great challenge. I’ve had a lot of support so it’s good to know people are watching and are behind me.

What is your favourite dish of the series and why?

I loved the lobster and chorizo gazpacho I created in the classics test for Michel Roux Jr. The dish was inspired by my Spanish background and I think that really showed in the flavour combinations. With such a delicate dish it’s difficult to find the right balance, but I think I managed to do that and I loved the way it looked too.

What has been your highlight so far?

Cooking for the critics was one of my personal highlights of the series. At one point I thought I would be serving them a plate of green beans, but luckily I managed to get the dish out and I was really happy with what I served them. Watching it back it was great to see the critics enjoying my food, especially after working so hard to impress them.

What are your plans for the future?

Eventually I’d like to own my own restaurant, I love playing with classic flavours and deconstructing food to add a modern twist.

David has shown an incredible amount of skill and technique over the last few weeks but he believes there’s still a lot more for him to show the judges. Tune into BBC2 next Monday at 8:30pm to see David battle it out with the seven other remaining chefs.

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Mark Apsey Demonstration - Wokingham Food Festival

Photo courtesy of Rich Voysey

Sous Chef Mark Apsey wows the crowd at Wokingham Food Fesitval

Mark first worked at L’Ortolan in 2005 as Alan Murchison’s first apprentice at the age of 15. He left in 2007 to broaden his Michelin experience working with Nathan Outlaw in Cornwall then with John Campbell as part of the opening team at Cowarth Park. Mark’s ambition and enthusiasm earned him the position of Sous Chef at L’Ortolan aged just 23. He believes in using the best ingredients available, locally sourced where possible, and is an expert forager making the best use of traceable ingredients from the surrounding countryside. As a natural teacher Mark is keen to share his knowledge and passion with people who enjoy great food and want to learn more.

Last week Mark Apsey took to the demonstration stage at the Wokingham Food Festival, captivating the audience with his classical to contemporary cuisine as part of the three-day event promoting the best in local food and drink. Mark’s Lemon and Chocolate Tart was a clear favourite amongst the foodie festival goers, so we asked Mark to share the secret behind his delicious dessert recipe.


Lemon and Chocolate Tart Recipe

1 Egg Yolk
125g Plain Flour
50g Icing Sugar
75g Butter

Beat the sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolk, and then fold in the flour gently. Rest for 1 hour before rolling out to 3mm thickness and cook on 180°C.

75g Lemon Juice
2.6g MSK Hy-Foamer
150g Sugar
30g Water

Whisk the lemon juice and Hy-Foamer until forming stiff peaks. Boil the sugar and water until 121°C and pour onto the stiff peaks. Whisk mixture until cold.

100g Cacao Barry Altosol Chocolate
90g Cherry Purée
30g Cream

Boil the cherry purée and pour onto the chocolate. Mix together until fully smooth and glossy.

Poached Cherries:
100g Stoneless Cherries
100g Cherry Purée
50g Red Wine
50g Sugar

Bring the purée, wine and sugar to the boil and add the cherries. Return to the boil and then remove from the heat.

Lemon and Chocolate Tarte

Photo courtesy of Rich Voysey


L’Ortolan Cookery Demonstration Programme

Wednesday 4th Sep – Art of Home Smoking
The art of producing your own smoked foods at home and how to make your own small smoker.

Wednesday 18th Sep – Bread at Home
The home baker. Machine vs hand made, yeast vs natural leaven. How to make perfect breads to suit even the least experienced baker.

Wednesday 2nd Oct – Simple Vegetarian Cookery
Michelin starred vegetarian dishes to suit all budgets.

Wednesday 16th Oct – Sunday Lunch
The perfect Sunday roast – with all the trimmings!

Wednesday 30th Oct – Sweet Tooth
A handful of Michelin starred desserts you can create at home to add the perfect finish to your dinner parties.

Wednesday 13th Nov – 3 Course Dinner
Michelin inspired 3 course dinner party to cook at home.

To book your L’Ortolan demonstration please call 01189 888 500 or email info@lortolan.com.

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L'Ortolan Demo Studio

In 2008 Alan Murchison wanted a new demonstration kitchen at L’Ortolan that would both match the quality of the restaurant and be practical to cook in. He turned to bulthaup Winchester who were able to translate Alan’s vision into a reality. Ever since, the L’Ortolan butlhaup demonstration kitchen has played home to a number of cookery demonstrations and masterclasses run by Sous Chef, Mark Apsey. As a natural teacher Mark is keen to share his knowledge and passion with people who enjoy great food and want to learn more, indulging their culinary passion and teaching them to cook food with Michelin flair.

With Mark’s love for locally sourced ingredients and his passion for foraging, last week’s demonstration topic ‘Summer Kitchen Garden’ was the perfect masterclass for any aspiring Chef. Looking at ingredients that grow locally in gardens and footpaths throughout Summer, Mark showed his willing students an exciting selection of dishes from a beautiful summer berry Mille-Feuille to a fresh tomato Gazpacho. After tasting Mark’s Gazpacho we asked him the secret to creating such a delicious Spanish summer soup.


Tomato Gazpacho Recipe


3kg Ripe Plum Vine Tomatoes, roughly chopped
600g Cucumber, peeled deseeded and chopped
1.5kg Red Peppers, diced
130g Onions, finely chopped
2 Cloves Garlic, finely chopped
12 Basil Leaves
50ml White Wine Vinegar
25g Salt
70g Sugar


1. Mix all of the ingredients together and place in a refrigerator overnight
2. Place the ingredietns in a food processor and blend until smooth
3. Pass the mixture through a coarse sieve to remove any skin and seeds
4. Season to taste

Tomato Gazpacho


Mark’s tomato Gazpacho is now available every lunchtime at L’Ortolan on our Menu du Jour.

Two courses £28.00

Three courses £31.50

Call us on 0118  988 8500 to make your reservation or click here to book online.

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L'ortolan Macaroons

Yesterday our demo studio came to life with an afternoon tea inspired Patisserie Demonstration from L’Ortolan Pastry Chef Samantha Rain. Our demonstration guests arrived to a beautifully sunny L’Ortolan and introductions were made over tea and coffee in the bar. Afterwards the guests took their seats in the studio to learn how to produce a stunning selection of pastries both appealing to the eye and delicious – the perfect accompaniment for afternoon tea!

Macaroonier Sam demonstrated her perfect Liquorice Macaroons; a small light biscuit, crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside, made with ground almonds, sugar and egg whites. Macaroons are one of our favourite current sweet crazes so we asked our very own L’Ortolan Pastry Chef for a lesson in baking the popular French confection.

Liquorice Macaroons


300g Icing Sugar
300g Ground Almonds
10g Liquorice Powder
115g Egg Whites
80g Water
300g Sugar


1. Blitz together 300g icing sugar, 300g ground almonds and 10g liquorice powder and pass
2. Whisk 115 egg whites to stiff peaks
3. Boil 300g sugar and 80g water to 118°c and pour onto egg whites
4. Whisk egg whites until fluffy and add to dry mix
5. Once the Italian Meringue is cold, combine all the elements into a smooth paste
6. Pipe the mixture and leave to form a skin
7. Bake at 150°c for 6-8 minutes

Liquorice Pastry Cream Filling


250g Milk
1 Vanilla Pod
60g Sugar
4 Egg Yolks
22g Cornflour


1. Boil 250g milk, 30g sugar and vanilla
2. Pour milk onto egg yolks and whisk, then place mixture back into the pan and cook out
3. Combine 30g sugar and 22g cornflour
4. Add Liquorice compound to taste

Liquorice Macaroons_______________________________________________________________

L’Ortolan Cookery Demonstration Programme

9th April – 3 Course Dinner Party – Bring a little Michelin star flair to your dinner party at home with some ideas and inspiration from the L’Ortolan kitchen.

23rd April – Chocolate Heaven – The perfect indulgent treat for serious chocoholics. During this masterclass you will be introduced to a variety of different chocolates including some of the world’s finest single estate chocolate.

14th May – Shellfish Masterclass – Delicious ways to prepare and cook shellfish – include a selection from lobster, oysters, clams, mussels, crab and razor clams depending on availability.

11th June – 3 Course Fish Supper – How to select and prepare the ‘catch of the day’ and cook your fish to perfection.

18th June – Summer Barbecue with the Big Green Egg – The Big Green Egg can be used to smoke, bake and slow cook as well as a barbecue. Join chef on the terrace and discover some new techniques and recipes.

To book your L’Ortolan demonstration please call 01189 888 500 or email info@lortolan.com

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Brock Hall Farm Goats

Brock Hall Farm in Shropshire is one of L’Ortolan’s most prolific British artisan goats cheese suppliers, so we invited guest blogger Sarah Hampton to delve into the world of Pure Saanen Goats, life on the farm and the art of Artisan Cheese.

Forget the groomed, high-maintenance look. Forget immaculate nails and wearing make-up every day. Getting muddy, wearing boiler suits or hairnets and white wellies are really where it’s at. Why pay for exercise by joining a gym or booking a personal trainer when you could be up and it every morning, in the clean Shropshire air or hefting around trays of cheeses in a sweet-smelling cheese dairy?

I think you’re maybe half-convinced…

Why Goats?
I’ll never forget seeing my first Pure Saanen goats at an agricultural show in Wales 12 years ago. They were so brilliantly white, so clear of eye, so sleek and just so calm and friendly. I knew there and then that these were the animals I wanted and this was the exact breed for me. I loved the fact that they this breed originated in Holland and Switzerland and that some far-sighted, tenacious goatkeepers in the 1920s organised an import from these countries in an effort to improve the qualities of British dairy goats.

So I managed to find a young pair of these special Pure Saanen goats from a lady in Norfolk and took them round the country to shows and country fairs. I gained prizes and rosettes and made a lot of goaty friends – for goatkeepers, like me, are a down-to-earth and quirky lot. There’s nothing they believe they can’t fix with a bit of ingenuity and baler twine. And there’s very little that phases them; when you work on a farm or keep livestock, believe me, we’ve seen it all!

These two beautiful young goats (‘goatlings’ is the correct term) soon became milkers; I found a great male in North Yorkshire and drove our two a few (hundreds of!) miles up there for the romantic liaison and bobs your uncle… the kids ‘slipped out’ about 150 days later.

Being such well-bred pedigree animals, my two original goats didn’t give just a few pints of milk a day but litres and litres of the stuff. I milk-recorded my favourite one, Pallas, and in the summer she gave on average of 7.5 litres a day, from two milkings. In the course of a year, she produced nearly 1700 litres! Well, I never had any great ambition to be a modern-day Cleopatra and bathe in goats milk 24-7 so I started making cheese.

I made a fresh, lactic cheese, very much like the Fresco Angelico I make today, a Greek-type, salty salad cheese whose name we’re not supposed to mention, a kind of Cheddar, a crumbly and even a blue cheese. The experimenting was always fun and always successful. I don’t know what it is about goats milk; I just enjoy working with it. It’s like a form of appreciation of and justification for our beautiful goats.

The problem with goats, though, is that they multiply. With all that milk flowing and goats to look after, kids to feed and so on, the goat-showing had to take a back seat. I had a licence from Environmental Health to make and sell cheese, a real yearning to make the best cheese possible and what’s more, an order book that I couldn’t keep up with. The decision was: sell the goats and become a ‘normal’ wife and mother (what?) or make a go of the business.

I’d been a very successful editor, journalist and PR director so why not choose something so closely connected?



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L'ortolan Cheese TrolleyFrom today the L’Ortolan cheese trolley gets a British makeover – out with the French cheeses and in with the British. The trolley will now contain a variety of 14 different English cheeses and a Scottish blue cheese.

Head Chef Nick Chappell explains that as L’Ortolan moves forward with contemporary tasting menus it is important we support British artisan suppliers. British artisan cheese producers produce great quality cheese, as good if not better than French suppliers.

A couple of cheese suppliers can be found on L’Ortolan’s doorstep in neighbouring Berkshire towns; Village Maid in Riseley produce two of the cheese trolley’s classic soft cheeses, Wigmore and the French farmhouse style Waterloo. The Barkham Blue produced by Two Hoots Cheese is another local favourite with its rich blue taste, smooth buttery texture with a melt in the mouth flavour.

Other suppliers are sourced from all over the country, from North Yorkshire and Linconshire to the southernmost counties  including The Isle of Wight Cheese Co. with their award winning IOW Blue.

L'ortolan Goat's CheeseBrock Hall Farm in Shropshire is one of L’Ortolan’s most prolific British artisan goats cheese suppliers. Sarah and her goats supply three wonderful cheeses; Capra Nouvea, Dutch Mistress and Pablo Cabrito. Capra Nouvea was a winner of 3 Gold Stars at Great Taste Awards 2012 and named as a Top 50 Food in Great Britain 2012. This is one the Chef’s favorites and can often be found on the menu in dishes such as; Scorched Brock Hall goat’s cheese, beetroots, beetroot sorbet, soy nuts & seeds.

Foraging at L'ortolanDiners can enjoy a selection of L’Ortolan’s British cheeses as an additional course with any of the menus. The cheeses are plated with a variety of different condiments such as a truffle honey with the goat’s cheese, quince paste jelly with the blue chesse, a pear and fig chutney with the soft cheese, and a rosehip jelly with the hard cheese.

L’Ortolan Sous Chef Mark Apsey is a keen forager and when the ingredients are in season you’ll often see him around the grounds of the building and in the local area foraging for the fruit to make the chutneys and jellies to accompany the cheese.

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