Chef Greig Young has found inspiration during lockdown and is excited about the re-opening of The Northgate, in Bury St Edmunds
As we draw closer to the big opening of all the restaurants, pubs and hotels it’s starting to become quite exciting, the gardens looking great, my opening menu is coming together and I’m starting to hear guests getting excited to come in and see the team.
I’m starting to wonder the inspiration chefs are tapping into over this extended time out of our kitchens and how the food scene will be on re-opening. There is one thing that I am certain. . . there will be a considerable rise in the amount of sourdough being served! But how will the high street look? Will we turn back to local restaurants over massive chains? Will we take comfort in placing orders on our phones? Will we appreciate the locality and sustainability of the food we eat? I don’t have the answer, but I have always been an advocate of the produce East Anglia has to offer, now more than ever. I just hope my favourite producers, growers and suppliers have made it through and are able to re-open as, sadly, many places won’t.
I have spent a lot more time with family; eating together, cooking together, growing plants, picking vegetables and gardening but I have also spent lots of time writing menus, sketching dish ideas, trying bits and reworking classics from previous Northgate menus. I’ve seen my dish ideas change over the past 100+ days – my ethos is the same, but I have definitely been influenced by all the other things I have been lucky enough to do.
There are some dishes and things I won’t change and I am so excited just to be able to serve again like my beef tartare with freshly-popped broad beans and dressed with a homemade broad bean balsamic, flavoured only with broad bean shells once seen as a by product now bringing the whole dish together. Or the simplicity of grating Tosier (quite possibly the best chocolate I’ve had) over a chocolate wafer covering the most silky mousse.
On the other hand, I’m introducing a few new dishes into my repertoire, I’m working on a version of a Panzanella salad, a classic bread salad from Tuscany soaked through with the juice of ripe, lightly-salted tomatoes. I will keep it quite traditional as we are always looking for ways to use our lovely bread, but I think I will finish it with a light dressing made from our lockdown elderflower vinegar.
I don’t think I would have ever considered such a simple salad before lockdown, but having grown tomatoes from seed, learning to remove the little shoots from under the branches, piling the soil high up the stalk, waiting and hoping for even one nice juicy red tomato, I have come to realise the most important thing is serving that tomato simply with a little touch of personality is more than enough.
So it’s fair to say I am happy to be opening on Saturday the 18th and I am very proud to be part of a team and a group that have put in so much energy to keeping our team, guests and suppliers safe on our return and I cannot wait to greet you and show you what we have been up to at the Northgate when we re-open. But until then I will leave you with a recipe that’s in the works at the moment and, hopefully, you can have a go fine tuning it before you come and try the final product at the Northgate. Here is my recipe for minestrone soup, inspired by too long in the garden.
I love it because it’s adaptable and if we have learned one thing it’s how to adapt. If you’re gluten free, don’t use pasta and use more beans, if you have a glut of runner beans from your garden, use them up. If your nasturtiums are flowering, use them to top at the end. If you have fresh vegetables, it’s variants are endless!
1 green courgette
1 yellow courgette
1 white onion
2 cloves of garlic peeled
6 very ripe tomatoes
3 tablespoons rapeseed oil
½ cup of cooked pasta (I will be making wild garlic orecchiette, but any small shape is fine)
2 sprigs of parsley (picked)
300ml of good chicken or vegetable stock
100g of cooked butter beans
2 tablespoons of tomato paste
100g of any fresh green bean
Chop your tomatoes into inch-sized chunks and lightly season with salt, let sit for 20 minutes while you prepare the rest.
Roughly chop your courgettes, onions and garlic and soften in a hot pan with the oil. This should take 5 minutes on a medium heat.
Add the tomatoes and cook out for another 10 minutes to soften.
Add the stock, tomato paste and the beans and cook slowly for 20-30 minutes until thickened.
Fold through the cooked pasta.
Cook the green vegetables separately in boiling salted water and dress with a tablespoon of
olive oil and place on top of the soup with the picked parsley.
Greig Young is head chef at The Northgate, Northgate Street, Bury St Edmunds
Call 01284 339604