When M&S invite you for a sleepover, you pack your bags and get on the next train. We were treated to an overnight stay at the beautiful Thyme hotel in the heart of the Cotswolds to mark the start of Game season.
Thyme really was the perfect location, as not only is it a collection of stunning bedrooms and cottages, it also boasts its very own cookery school with the dreamiest demo kitchens you can imagine.
A short tuk tuk ride (yes, really – there was a LOT of giggling) delivered me to my cottage for the night, where M&S had left me a goody bag of treats for the perfect stay. We had satin PJ’s to slip into, the ultimate overnight face cream to leave us looking fresh faced after all the wine (there’s always a lot of wine with M&S) as well as chocolates, tea and coffee.
A quick soak in the tub and we were back in the bar (or the Baa, as it’s known at Thyme) for a selection of Autumnal cocktails made with M&S spirits. Our favourite was the Oak Aged Gin with tonic and juniper berries in goblets as big as our heads. There was a distinctly art deco vibe, with cocktails served from this gorgeous cocktail cabinet and made with gold bar accessories – I felt like I should have been wearing a flapper dress.
If all that sounds too jammy, it was – but this is where we had to sing for our supper. A quick demo from the awesome development chefs at M&S showed us how to cook our own starter – Warm Mallard salad with pickled blackberries and goats curd (recipe below!). If we hadn’t made it ourselves, we’d have said it sounded way too tricky – but trust me, it was a doddle, even after a couple of G&T’s.
If you’re not familiar with mallard, it’s simply wild duck, which gives a much more tender, less fatty and far more delicious flavour than that of farmed duck. And better still – M&S will actually be stocking it from October, so this recipe is 100% feasible to recreate at home! We literally can’t wait to show off at our next dinner party. As well as the beautiful cuts of meat and ingredients, we also used M&S kitchen equipment. They’ve really invested in the range, making sure it’s both durable and stylish so you don’t need to replace it so often.
Lee Harper, Technologist for M&S Chef comments:
“We have spent hundreds of hours developing the range, and have gone above the normal British testing standards to ensure that the quality of the range is at its optimum. For example, the professionally-developed CHEF knives are made using high-quality steel for edge retention and corrosion resistance, and are ice-hardened for the sharpest possible blade meaning they stay sharper for longer.”
We really were blown away by the 6in Chef’s knife, it was a joy to use, needing no pressure to glide through meat. It’s also a total steal at £22.50, because it’s not ‘branded’ it can’t command the over inflated prices of some out there, so you’re getting way more bang for your buck. Basically if you buy one piece of kit this Autumn – make it this knife!
Luckily our main course was left to the professionals and we feasted on Rabbit, Pheasant and Partridge pie with Osso Bucco Milanese, and Pot Roast Vension Rump in the impressive dining room at Thyme.
Decadent sides included truffled cauliflower cheese, rainbow root vegetables with a maple and orange butter and seasonal greens with porcini and thyme butter.
The wine experts paired this with a full-bodied unoaked Spanish red – Frares Priorat – with wild blackberries, herbs and juicy mulberry flavours on the nose and a twist of fig and liquorice.
We finished with four puddings no less, all available in store, so you can relax with your guests. Salted Caramel Custard Tart, Apple and Almond Tart with crème fraiche, Chocolate Tart with seasonal berries and Pear & Elderflower Centrepiece Jelly. We’ll be serving them all pre-sliced on a big board in the centre of the table this Christmas. Just add a glass of Hermits Hill dessert wine and you’re good to go!
If you feel like recreating our stay at home, here’s the easy, peasy Mallard recipe to get you started…
Warm Mallard salad with pickled blackberries and goats curd
Prep Time 20 mins + 4 hours pickling
Cook time 15 minutes
100ml White wine vinegar
1 punnet blackberries
2 Mallard breasts
10ml Olive oil
100g Soft goats cheese
15ml Whipping cream
1 head Endive leaves
1 bag Watercress
1 bag Hazelnuts, toasted and crushed
handful Pickled blackberries
100g Chicken stock
- To make the pickle heat the vinegar, water and sugar together until the sugar dissolves. Allow to cool then pour over the blackberries. The blackberries will be ready to use after 4 hours or can be kept for up to 2 weeks.
- To make the salad, gently warm the oil in a small frying pan. Season the mallard breasts then lay into the pan skin side down, allow the skin to slowly crisp for 6 minutes then turn the breast over and cook for a further 2 minutes. Remove from the pan and allow to rest.
- While the pan is still hot, use half of the blackberry pickling juice and all the chicken stock to deglaze the pan while stirring well to combine the delicious juices from the mallard. The liquid should boil and thicken to create a rich syrupy dressing.
- Mix the goat cheese with the whipping cream and season with salt and pepper.
- Spoon the seasoned goats cheese onto a large plate then arrange the endive and watercress leaves on top. Carve the mallard and add to the plate, cut the pickled blackberries in half and scatter amongst the leaves then sprinkle with crushed hazelnuts and the dressing from the pan.