Daniel Hatton knows a thing or two about great recipes. Here, the patron of Hattons Private Dining and Event Catering and owner of his eponymously named Deli and Lifestyle store on The Pantiles in Tunbridge Wells, gives some of his top culinary tips and hints to ensure your festive season is deliciously stress-free . . .
When writing menus and recipes, it’s all about the food seasons and flow. The first you obviously know all about it, but why am I talking about ‘flow’? Well, cooking is about just that – getting things on at the correct time and being organised, so that when the finished product comes together everything will be ready at the same time, with no last-minute stress.
I often find myself sitting in local parks, fields or wandering around food markets. Why, you may ask? Well they’re the places where I find my inspiration.
The first two give me the colours and feelings of the seasons: the leaves falling and the mushrooms sprouting up from the ground let me know that autumn has arrived. When I see the warm sun streaming through the trees and hear the birds singing, I know it’s spring and therefore time to lighten my food. I guess you could say that nature helps different types of dishes pop into my mind, making menu writing a little easier.
The famous food markets of Borough, Billingsgate and Smithfield also give a wealth of smells and sights, while the hustle and bustle of people makes them really come alive. Watching people grabbing the latest foods from the stallholders before rushing off is incredible; and as the food scene moves so fast, you really have to be in the mix to keep up. The inspiration is immense and makes my mind flow with new and exciting creations.
Everyone can come up with ideas and recipes so be confident and try a few out on your family and friends – and as long as you let the seasons guide you, you’ll be just fine. The salmon dish I’ve exclusively created for you takes its cue from the festive season, which, like it or not, is right around the corner.
We all tend to overindulge in December but this salmon dish, along with the panna cotta dessert also featured, is deliciously light and would make a great dinner party offering. Both are super fresh and have bags of flavour. They also have that all-important wow factor and are easy to prepare with no cooking, and can be done the day before, leaving you to be with your friends and family, rather than stuck in the kitchen.
Tartare of organic salmon, avocado, beetroot and sea vegetables
200g fresh organic salmon, skinned and pin-boned
1 ripe avocado
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
1 large beetroot (cooked)
1 dill to garnish
Edible flowers to garnish
Juice and zest of 1 lime
Splash of extra virgin olive oil
Handful of small breakfast radishes
First, you need the best-quality salmon you can buy, so head to your local fishmonger, as you want it to be as fresh as possible. Dice it as small as you can – you don’t want large pieces, as the smaller you get it, the softer and more delicate it will be. Once diced, place in the fridge until you need to serve.
Remove the stone and peel, place in a blender and add the juice of the lemon and some sea salt. Blitz until smooth, then place in the fridge until serving.
Square off the beetroot and dice into neat squares which will help to enhance the overall appearance of the dish.
To garnish salmon I always use a few fennel tops, from which you get the most amazing aniseed flavour. If you can’t get them, dill will be fine. If you can get some edible flowers such as pansies or borage, you get an extra vibrant colour from the plate, but of course, make sure you eat them too, as you get a lovely peppery flavour.
Place your pre-diced salmon in a bowl, adding the lemon and lime juice and zest, and the olive oil. Season with sea salt and black pepper; the citrus juice will start to cook the fish, so don’t add too early. In a ring in the middle of the plate, add your salmon and flatten down. Add a spoonful of the avocado mousse and scatter with the diced beetroot. Slice the radishes and add the samphire and edible flowers. Grate some lime zest over the finished plate.
Rum panna cotta with glazed strawberries, fennel tops, chocolate, aged balsamic and vanilla ice cream
This is an easy dish to prepare but will excite your taste buds with the creamy panna cotta and zingy strawberries. With the addition of the chocolate crumb it really is a balanced and extremely tasty dessert
For the panna cotta:
550ml double cream
75g caster sugar
2 gelatine leaves
In a pan heat your milk, cream, sugar and rum until it comes to the boil, but ensure you use a large enough pan so it doesn’t boil over.
In some cold water place the gelatine leaves so they go soft. Once soft, squeeze out the water and add the gelatine to the hot milk mixture. Whisk until gelatine is dissolved.
Pour your milk mix into moulds of your choice. Place in the fridge until set, overnight if possible.
For the strawberries:
2 x 200g punnets of strawberries
4 tablespoons icing sugar
Half the strawberries and place them in a bowl. Sprinkle the icing sugar over and gently stir, this will start extracting the juice from the strawberries giving you a plump juicy strawberry.
For the chocolate crumb:
250g unsalted butter
250g caster sugar
250g plain flour
30g coco powder
Cream the butter and sugar together, then add the flour and coco powder.
Spread on a baking tray and bake at 180 degrees till 90% cooked, allow to cool and then blitz in a food processor to a crumb, place in an air tight container.
To assemble this very simple but extremely tasty dessert, turn out your panna cotta from the mould and place on a plate or bowl.
Carefully place your strawberries around the panna cotta, add a ball of vanilla bean ice cream on top.
Garnish with fennel tops (you will find them in the top of a bulb of fennel from any farm shop) drizzle with aged balsamic and sprinkle with the chocolate crumb. Enjoy!
Daniel Hatton will be hosting two pop-up restaurants at The Bakehouse at 124 in Tonbridge on December 16 and 17. If you want to taste Daniel’s food first-hand, head to www.hattonsrtw.co.uk/hattons-events and book your place at these exciting events.