Luxury Family Hotels People: Tony Smith, Head Chef at Moonfleet Manor, Shares a Festive Recipe
Tony Smith is among several longstanding staff at Moonfleet Manor in Dorset – he started there in 1998 and has consistently held two AA rosettes. After graduating from North Devon college in the mid 1980s, Tony sought fame and fortune in London then spent several years training in luxury country houses all around the country. In 1993 he moved to Hanbury Manor under Rory Kennedy, with Albert Roux as consultant chef, and learnt about achieving consistent food quality in a four-rosette environment.
Tony talked to us about his work and shared one of his favourite warming recipes from the hotel’s menu.
Tony, how would you describe the cuisine at Moonfleet?
We base our style on quality ingredients, handled with respect and served simply, the emphasis being on flavour. Our aim in the near future is to increase our partnerships with local suppliers. As well as an abundance of quality seafood, Dorset also has some great farmland and produces an array of quality dairy, vegetables, fruits and livestock.
What ingredients do you most like to work with?
I’m a meat-lover and especially love cooking venison loin because of its intense flavour – it’s fillet steak with much more taste! I also really appreciate the comforting flavours of belly of pork, and another favourite dish is confit duck leg – a dish I honed while at Tylney Hall.
Local seafood is a constant source of inspiration as well – the quality of Portland crab and Lyme Bay scallops means I’ll always find a place for them on my menus.
What are your favourite dishes/guilty pleasures?
Maryland-style crab cake has featured on my Moonfleet Menus for almost all my 15 years at the hotel. When I decided to take it off one springtime, customers deluged me with ‘put it back on’ comments!
I absolutely love the marriage of Lyme Bay scallops with poached pear, black pudding and puy lentils – in my eyes, the flavour combinations are a dream!
And when away from the kitchen, I love nothing more than a big bowl of beef goulash with crusty bread, or a bacon and egg sandwich! Oh, and my mum’s cherry pie with loads of custard…
Tony’s Recipe for Caramelised Apple & Pear Crumble with Lightly Spiced Vanilla Ice Cream
For the ice cream:
284ml carton double cream
300ml full-fat milk
115g golden caster sugar
1 vanilla pod
3 large free-range egg yolks (have lots of ice cubes at the ready)
3 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
1 tsp pink peppercorns
5 cardamom pods
Pour the cream and milk into a medium heavy-based pan, then tip in half the sugar. Slit the vanilla pod down its length with a small sharp knife and scoop out as many of the tiny black seeds as you can into the cream mixture. Cut the pod into three and drop it into the pan.
Heat the cream and milk over a low heat, stirring occasionally, until it almost boils – you’ll see a few bubbles at the edge. Take off the heat and set aside for 30 minutes so the vanilla can infuse.
Put the egg yolks into a bowl with the rest of the sugar and beat with an electric hand-beater for about two minutes until the mixture has thickened, is paler in colour and falls in thick ribbons when you lift the beaters. Using a measuring jug, scoop out about 125ml/4fl.oz of the cream mixture and beat into the egg yolks to slacken them. Reheat the cream until it just comes to the boil, take off the heat and stir in the egg yolk mixture.
Return the pan to a low heat and cook, stirring all the time with a wooden spoon, for 8-10 minutes, until the custard is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon. Watch that it doesn’t boil – as soon as you see any bubbles about to burst to the surface, it should be thick enough, so take the pan off the heat so the mixture doesn’t curdle.
Add all of the spices and leave to infuse.
Pour the custard into a heatproof bowl, then sit it in a bigger bowl one third full of iced water to cool (this takes about 20 minutes). Stir occasionally to stop a skin forming. Put the bowl of custard in the fridge for 3-4 hours, preferably overnight, so it gets really cold.
Get the ice-cream machine running, scoop out the vanilla pod pieces, then slowly pour in the cold custard. Leave it to churn for 10-30 minutes (depending on your machine). When it stops, it is probably too soft to eat, so spoon into a plastic container, cover with clingfilm, then a lid, and freeze for a minimum of 3 hours. (It will keep in the freezer for 3 months but don’t take it out then refreeze.) Remove from the freezer 15 minutes before serving.
For the crumble:
1kg plain all-purpose flour
500g unsalted butter
300g caster sugar
150g porridge oats, toasted lightly
100g flaked almonds
Rub butter, flour, sugar and vanilla together until they form a breadcrumb-like texture. Mix in toasted oats and flaked almonds.
For the mix:
8 Granny Smith apples
8 ripe pears
50g sultanas, soaked in boiling water
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
500ml apple juice, reduced to 100ml
Peel and dice apples and pears. Heat a large pan and add butter. Colour the apple and pear in the foaming butter then add sugar and cook until caramelised.
Add spices and cook out. Add apple juice and sultanas and cook until of a firm consistency.
Put a small amount of the mixture into individual dishes/pots and put crumble mix on top. Bake in oven at 180° for 30 minutes.