Off Grid Dining by The Yorkshire Gourmet
I have been following Paul of The Yorkshire Gourmet fame on Instagram for a few years now. I was drawn to Paul’s (@yorkshiregourmet) philosophy of cooking which is always to locally source for ingredients. His great love for the outdoors is evident from his feed. Paul cuts a brooding and serious figure on his page with many shots of the English moors and countryside – the landscapes are spectacular. The rest of the feed is full of some of the most amazing food photography I have seen. Every photograph Paul posts makes me immediately excited, missing Yorkshire, wondering how that dish tasted and of course very, very hungry.
Imagine my excitement when I saw a month ago that he had posted that he would be hosting a dinner for 10 guests in an ancient woodland in the middle of Yorkshire. D and I immediately bought tickets and invited our good friends along for the adventure.
We met Paul (@this_green_moon), Paul’s (@yorkshiregourmet) friend and partner for the night, at the entrance of the Swillington Organic Farm (@swillingtonfarm) and his excitement to have us there was contagious. We learnt that the woodland had been there for more than 500 years and that he organises all sorts of special events in the space.
The most interesting thing about our dinner tonight would be that it was completely off grid, meaning nothing electric would be used the whole night, except for a head torch for Paul to plate the dishes once it got too dark. We were told before the event to wear suitable shoes as we would be trekking into the forest. Wellies on our feet and coats on our backs, we trekked into the clearing.
It immediately took my breath away, the cooking area was in the middle of the clearing, Paul busy tending to the braised spiced lamb shanks that were cooking steadily in two cauldrons with tomatoes, chilli and brinjals. The smell was wafting through the whole clearing. I was so excited to finally meet Paul and he jovially hugged me, his fun personality really shone through as he explained everything he was doing enthusiastically, from the kind of wood he used in his cooking to the challenges and joys of cooking outdoors like this. I was very taken with him and felt very lucky that we were all about to enjoy what I was sure would be a memorable meal together.
Our dining table was made with wood from the forest and we sat on chairs made out of bales of hay. We were each given wool blankets from @yorkshireblankets – they only use wool that would have otherwise been brought to the landfill. No two blankets have the same design and they were very effective in keeping us all nice and toasty as the temperatures dropped. The designs on the blankets are gorgeous.
We chatted with each other, taking in our surroundings and sipping on wine that was made at the local brewery, Leventhorpe. We were told that we would have a drink from the local vineyard or local brewery with each course. I quickly realised that the one thing we all had in common was a shared love of food as the conversations from the night seemed to all revolve around our favourite restaurants and recipes. I met a wonderful lady, Ingrid (@piquecooking) and Austen (@absentious_) both from San Francisco. Ingrid was going live she tells us, broadcasting parts of the night to her followers. Her feed is excellent, very detailed with some fantastic recipes to try out too.
Paul brings over a platter of hay-baked jersey royals served with creme fraiche, chives and crispy crushed bacon – a great start to the night. Followed soon after by Yorkshire rainbow trout with a cauliflower puree, yeasted cauliflower, spring onion, chervil and pickled wild garlic flower buds. He described each course to us before we hurriedly tucked in, oohing and aahing as we ate. The pickled garlic flower buds had such a great flavour and tied the whole dish together beautifully.
The star of the night was the woodfire-braised lamb shank, that was served with ember baked onion. Paul tells us he baked them on a steady fire for more than 5 hours, the flavours intensifying and we were left with candy-like onions to go with our slightly spiced lamb. Paul placed the dish on the table and said it was ‘Yorkshire-sized portions’, it was so good that I did not have any trouble finishing it, looking around every plate had just the large bone left. Paul and I chatted about Eurasian food and how spicy it can be. I found out that the secret ingredient used to spice the lamb was a scotch bonnet pepper and as it is not something we use in our cooking, I will be excited to experiment with it now.
We ended the night with a lemon and elderflower granita made from ice from the Ice House. The House was built in the early 1800s, the brick dome shaped building goes underground to provide natural refrigeration. Ice would have been collected from the pond onsite in winter and stored in the Ice House, it was then used throughout the year for keeping food cold, storing ice sculptures and sorbets. The granita was collected from the Ice House and served with a vanilla sponge cake, gooseberry and elderflower curd and ginger ice cream, baked Alaska style with burnt meringue encompassing it. Sensational end to an adventure of a lifetime.
At midnight, we were all given Feuerhand storm lanterns to light the way out of the forest as it was pitch black. I was so happy D and I got to catch up with old friends and meet new ones. I reckon it will be time for a BBQ when I get home to Singapore, feeling very inspired to cook off grid myself. I think a spicy sambal stingray wrapped in banana leaves will be just the dish to do!
Give the Pauls a follow so you can have your own crazy ancient woodland adventure. They have a few adventures coming up, book yours here now: https://uk.bookingbug.com/home/49673-This-Green-Moon