Thursday, 28 July 2011

Hand Dived & Delicious...

While on our assignment at Knock House on The Isle of Mull, we were very lucky to benefit from the ethics and expertise of Guy Grieve of The Ethical Shellfish Company. We highlighted the company's excellent work as part of our feature We're Hooked over at our sister blog Postcards From The Coast a couple of months ago. Guy's adventures in 'wild gourmet' are well-documented and it's little wonder that he's built up a loyal client base at michelin-starred restaurants throughout the UK. However, thanks to mutual associates, we were able to secure an order and he was kind enough to personally deliver some of the best scallops we've ever encountered! Keep up the amazing work!

Magical Mull....

We've just enjoyed a fabulous few days on assignment with The Elemental Kitchen at one of our favourite country houses, on the magical Isle of Mull. Here's a snapshot of our week....

Statuesque Knock House

Knock House is nestled in the foothills of
the island's munro on Benmore Estate

The house is surrounded by lawns
and includes a children's
play area within the trees

Elegant dining room

From the oven -
just baked soda bread

The Elemental Kitchen's Chef - James -
in the beautifully equipped kitchen

Summer Starter - Hot Smoked Salmon

Our retro VW transporter in the back courtyard

The water is just a few minutes walks from the
house - where the estate's boat awaits guests for
sea-fishing and island excursions

Front-of-House - host Vicky takes time out...

Hello Bambi - a confident deer stops to look
as we point & shoot...with the camera!

Find out what our clients had to say about us at our page of Testimonials.

You can discover more about a holiday at Knock House via our friends at exclusive property & sporting agents George Goldsmith.

For more on our bespoke hospitality, go to The Elemental Kitchen.

For our guide to a mini-break in the island's capital Tobermory, go to our 'Island Getaway' feature over at Postcards From The Coast.

Friday, 15 July 2011

Bon Apetit - Why We Adore Dining A La Francaise...

The Elemental Kitchen has just returned from our beautiful assignment in Corsica - an island floating in the mediterranean, south of France. Lush green mountains, sparkling clear waters, perfect sandy beaches and of course, delicious fresh produce - it's a place that ignites the culinary imagination! When we return from France - especially Corsica - we are always so inspired by their approach to dining. Here are our Top 5 secret ingredients for celebrating the simple pleasure of dining, Corsican-style...

Chef James in our client's kitchen

A few steps away - the private beach

Host Vicky serves lunch...

Secret Ingredient 1 - Simplicity

Tomato & Ricotta Tart

Our French clients love unpretentious, simple & delicious dishes for breakfast, lunch and dinner. They shun elaborate sauces and ostentatious presentation in favour of beautiful colours and flavours that need no embellishment.

Secret Ingredient 2 - Local & Seasonal

The family team at Chez Eva

Corsica's answer to Sainsburys

The fig tree in our client's garden

Local markets provide the very best of ingredients - and they're proud to showcase their truly local produce! What can't be picked from our client's own kitchen garden (see Figs above - which make an awesome ice-cream ) can be sourced from genuine and helpful family markets like Chez Eva - lemons and olive oil, fruit and vegetables, casks of Corsican wines, bread, charcuterie and oh, the fromage....

Secret Ingredient 3 - Sense of Occasion

Aperitif taken on the ocean-front veranda

Table design by EK featuring flowers
from the client's own garden

Every dining experience is embraced with a sense of occasion. Of course, you might expect clients on holiday to make a little extra effort, but it seems eating on the run is just not the done thing, regardless of how rushed you might be. In the airport's fast-food cafe, I observed a couple sit down with napkins and wine, approaching their instant lasagne meal with the same respect one might give fine cuisine. Each morning, even the villa's busy housekeeper took time to sit down at a table to enjoy the fresh fruit served for breakfast. Breakfast and lunch were always taken as a family, at the table. Meanwhile, the evening meal provides an excuse for a little extra attention to detail. Everyone takes time out - just a few minutes - to dress for dinner. Aperitif and canapes allow guests to relax into the occasion. Napkins, flowers and candles create the perfect ambiance for alfresco dining.

Secret Ingredient 4 - Balanced & Light

Salad of Corsican goats cheese, beetroot and grapefruit with basil

I carried a watermelon? Fresh from the local market

Our French clients love the best of ingredients - cheese & olive oil, coffee & wine, breads, pastry & chocolate. They also love to immerse themselves in the ritual of aperitif & canapes, followed by entree, main course and dessert. How do they do it and remain so svelte? The secret is simple - I was once told by a French lady, "I pick my pleasures". It's rare to see crisps and chocolate bars in a French pantry. Instead, at meal times, no delicious ingredient is omitted and it's rare to see anyone pass on dessert - each mouthful is slowly savoured and each course is enjoyed in moderation.

Secret Ingredient 5 - Relaxed

Lighting candles & opening wine

Comfy seats & alfresco fire for this informal banquet

Relaxed vibe - even chef had time out to enjoy the island...

The rituals of dressing for dinner, good napkins, candles and flowers are contrasted and complimented by an informal approach to the actual dining experience. The French really know how to embrace a light-hearted dinner party - young children play in the garden as adults linger over their meal, laughing and enjoying the simple pleasures of delicious food & wine, good company and natural beauty, as the sun lingers in its descent over the mediterranean ocean...

"Thank you a lot for spoiling us so much...
it's always a pleasure when you're with us...

and I don't speak only about the incredible food,
the beautiful decorated tables and the great service!!!!"
- International Client, Corsica

Find out more about bespoke hospitality from The Elemental Kitchen at

PS. It wasn't all slaving over a hot stove, check out our mini-guide to the south of Corsica over at our sister blog, Postcards From The Coast.