“Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are” – Anthelme Brillat-Savarin
I think the easiest way to really find out about a person is to find out their food opinions, be it their worst experience in a restaurant or their ultimate chef’s kiss moment. Food, in my opinion, shapes a person’s life. Even if it was the small gesture of your Mum packing you a small treat in your packed lunch, or the failed attempts at your first bake or that moment where you were beaming with pride as you brought a feast to a table of friends.
Today, I have interviewed Neale and Sarah Hollingsworth, Directors of Dukeshill and Nick Trott our brilliant Production Manager. I couldn’t trust three people more in terms of what to eat and how to eat it. Here are their answers to our version of Desert Island Disc AKA Desert Island Dish.
Earliest food memory?
Neale: My mum coming home with the first “Avocado Pear” we had ever seen – circa 1967. Being told I “wouldn’t like it” …as she had only bought one and there were three of us.
Earliest “real food experience”: Eating a proper Bouillabaisse in the south of France aged 7.
Nick: Soft Boiled Eggs and Soldiers. It is my first memory of eating solid food and I still love them today and have them at least 2 or 3 times a month.
Sarah: My Grandad’s home-made Steak & Kidney Pie made with flaky pastry which used to literally melt in my mouth. I can remember the taste so vividly. Incredibly tender, slow cooked beef, piquant kidney and delicious, flavoursome thin gravy. Whenever I’m in a pub it’s always the first thing I gravitate towards if it’s on offer. It has to be home-made of course. Our best-selling Steak & Ale Pie is hand made for us and is the best I’ve come across since my Grandad’s.
Neale: Fish and Chips from The Fish Plaice in Swanage, or a Burger from Bleecker
Nick: Really good quality fish and chips. They must be ultra-fresh and be eaten out of the paper.
Sarah: Fish ‘N Chips every time! It’s got to be really good, freshly made beer battered white cod fillet with proper chunky, slightly mushy greasy chips laden with salt and vinegar. Oh and of course a tub of fluorescent mushy peas on the side. I would add a deep-fried Mars Bar as long as nobody shouts at me! I’ve only ever had this once at a chippy up in Gairloch in Scotland, but my goodness it was unbelievably good and almost worth the 5000 calories to finish off my takeaway meal.
Favourite Cheese & wine combo?
Neale: Kirkham’s Lancashire with a really nice Pinot Noir.
Nick: Roquefort and Pomerol.
Sarah: Without any hesitation our Stilton (Colston Bassett or Cropwell Bishop) and either a beautiful 10-year-old Tawny Port or a Late Bottled Vintage Ruby Port made by our good friends the Bergqvists on their estate in Portugal. All their ports are slightly drier without any cloying sweetness that can be associated with some other ports.
Favourite BBQ staple?
Neale: Pulled pork shoulder, cooked low n slow for 16 hours on my Monolith!
Sarah: I never used to like BBQ ribs as there are so many out there that aren’t done well. They are so often made by coating raw ribs with some BBQ sauce chucked on resulting in an unpleasant, tough eating experience. However, since our wonderful Nick Trott (Production Manager and Master Curer) came up with our slow cooked BBQ Pork Rib Racks they are now my absolute BBQ favourites. Marinated in a delicious mesquite BBQ marinade they are then slow cooked for 10 hours. The ribs are meltingly tender and packed full of flavour. Whenever we serve these up at our BBQ’s (you simply re-heat on the BBQ) they are devoured within minutes.
Comfort food or haute cuisine?
Neale: Comfort food.
Nick: Comfort food.
Sarah: Comfort food every time. As exciting as some haute cuisine can be, I quite often feel as if it’s more about the chef showcasing their talents rather than the punter actually having an amazing meal. I think there needs to be a perfect balance of both for haute cuisine to be truly memorable. A fabulous bowl of Cassoulet with crusty bread takes some beating for me. Or try my Ham & Cauliflower Gratin recipe, simple but classic comfort food.
If you were trying to impress somebody what would you cook?
Neale: My extra special Murgh Makhani (Butter Chicken) – hotter than most, but a labour of love!
Nick: Dover sole with Champagne sauce, English Asparagus, and new potatoes.
Sarah: For something fun and different and really tasty probably my Ham Hock Biryani Pie recipe. It’s a real showstopper and most people I know like a bit of curry or spice in their food. Or for something more refined probably my Smoked Eel, Beetroot & Apple with Tarragon Horseradish Cream followed by Beef Fillet & Gorgonzola sauce.
Most memorable food experience?
Neale: Taking pot luck with the set lunch at a roadside farm workers’ restaurant in rural France – no choice, just several courses each delivered to our table in the original cooking pot for us to help ourselves, surrounded by dungareed agricultural workers in convivial conversation. Wine (again, no choice, or label!) delivered unbidden. All in at €11 a head (2018)! Delicious, and VERY French!
Nick: Most memorable food experience was eating a fantastic plate of calamari with my wife Margaret on the Greek Island of Skiathos. Fantastically fresh and a stunning setting.
Sarah: I remember in the early days of our courtship Neale took me to France to learn to ski. The best bit however was driving down through France to get there. We were following the Arthur Eperon guide, which was 15 years out of date, so we had to add a zero to everything cost wise. We arrived in Nuit St Georges in Burgundy around 2pm after a long leg of our journey. There was a little quintessential French café with red checked paper tablecloths on the main square, where it was still buzzing with locals propping up the bar wearing an assortment of head gear such as berets and caps. The Madame was a little intimidating but agreed to serve us as it was after their lunch service. We sat down and without any ceremony she slammed down two plates of the best food I have ever eaten. Superb roast chicken with a dressed green salad. Simple but divine. For the wine we obviously did the classic tourist thing and ordered a stunning 1979 Nuit St Georges red burgundy. Madame duly bought the bottle, poured a little wine into one of the glasses and before either of us could pick it up she snatched it to her nose and declared “Oui, c’est bon” before slamming it down on the table and stalking off. The whole experience was hilarious and truly memorable in every sense of the word.
What would be your last meal and why?
Neale: I think I’m meant to say “anything, as long as I’m with my loved ones”, but taking that as read, my own homemade cassoulet – a perfect last meal as it takes a lot of time to prepare, which would take my mind of my imminent demise, and is fantastically comforting, especially with a bottle of red Burgundy, or two, to wash it down.
Nick: A large dish of Scottish Langoustine, lime mayonnaise and Champagne. This meal will all ways remind me of the fantastic times spent in Scotland
Sarah: One of my go to meals throughout my life has been Lamb Chops, Sautéed Potatoes and Garden Peas. My Mother used to cook this for us as a family occasionally, and I can remember as if it was yesterday the sheer joy of picking up each chop and gnawing away at the delicious crispy fat, heaven on a plate for me.