Paul Blackmore has been Head Chef at Dainton Park for the last 11 years, we asked what’s keeping him busy right now….

“I am ordering stock today. I try to source everything from local farms so our daily hot lunch buffet is very much based around what’s in season – we have some delicious sweetheart cabbages and fresh leeks on the menu right now…and lots of local strawberries.

My favourite summer dish at the moment is a Mackerel Salad – you take some really fresh mackerel, pan-fry it quickly and leave it to cook through, off the heat, with a knob of butter. Then you sautee runner beans, peppers, tomatoes and ideally some pink fir apple potatoes (I love their nutty, earthy flavour). Add in some wild salad leaves at the last minute and finish with vinaigrette. Pop the mackerel on top, with a squeeze of lemon and you’ve got a wonderful warm salad for a summer evening. Perfectly accompanied by a glass of Chardonnay!

But despite being in the middle of summer, my head is spinning with thoughts of Christmas. I’m being asked every week what the December menu is going to be this year. The challenge is always to get the right balance of traditional and modern – what can we make that appeals to different ages, something people might not have tried before, a menu that caters for today’s allergens, food that’s practical to make in large quantities, dishes that are different colours and look pretty on the plate, sufficient choice but not too much….it’s not easy, but I think we’re nearly there.

The whole team is involved in devising new menus – we did a Gourmet Burger Night this month for the first time and the kitchen was full of different burger combinations for days beforehand (it was a great success, so look out for another one of those in the coming months!) It’s our regular Steak Night in July and then we’re trying something new again on 3rd August with a Pizza and Pimms evening. I’m wondering whether I can do a pizza evening without having a Hawaiian on the menu? It’s just so wrong to put pineapple on a pizza!

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