OFM Awards 2016: Runner Up for Best Sunday Lunch in the UK

Delighted to report that once again – for the fifth year running, in fact – we've had a nod in our direction from the Observer Food Monthly Awards and all the wonderful people who took time out to vote for us. 

These awards have always mattered hugely to us because they're voted for by readers and real-life diners. They also have a special place in our hearts because we've been lifelong readers of the OFM, and seeing the Hole in the Wall's name appear in the magazine's pages – alongside some truly great restaurants, bars and eateries – is a hugely proud moment.

 Click the feast below to see our win in all its glory...

How to make award-winning roast potatoes

They say a picture speaks a thousand words. So without further ado:

Mmm.

MMM.

Can’t you just taste them?

We’re very proud of our roast potatoes, and we put a lot of time, effort and thought into perfecting our approach – so we’re delighted by the continual rave reviews and lovely feedback we get for our Sunday lunch service. 

We’re also very proud of the multiple Observer Food Monthly accolades we’ve received for our roasts: mainly because these are voted for by readers and diners. They’ve just opened nominations again for this year – so if our photos made you nod your head in recognition and you’ve enjoyed feasting with us, we’d love it if you could find the time to drop our name into the hat.

Anyway. Enough talk: more ‘taters…

You might have seen our cheeky experiment with Facebook Live, where Alex walked you through the process of perfecting a potato: if not, you can stop reading now, click the photo below, and hop over to Facebook to watch our chef explain everything. Don't worry: we'll still be here when you get back.

To make award winning roast potatoes you first need to get the right spud. You’re looking for a floury potato – King Edwards, Maris Pipers – and you’ll need a potato about the size of your fist to be able to break it down into two-bite-size chunks.

Interestingly, though potatoes are omnipresent in our shops and supermarkets, there is actually a season for them which ends as summer begins: out of season potatoes are a lot smaller than their compatriots, which just means you’ll be doing a lot of peeling.

Suffice to say we do a lot of peeling at the Hole in the Wall. We also reckon you know how to peel a potato. So we’re not going there.

Cut your potato up into two or three pieces. 

You then want to par boil the potatoes, in a big pan, in cold salty water that’s “almost as salty as sea water, but not quite as salty as pasta water”. 

Start them out in cold water, as this means they cook evenly from the outside in. Clever!

Now, watch them like a hawk. You can probably leave them unattended for about ten or so minutes, but all this depends on the size of your pot, the number of potatoes you’re cooking – and the last thing you want is to end up with mash, or worse: potato soup.

When they offer a knife a little resistance but are mainly done, whip them out of the water, spread them out evenly on a baking tray and leave them to cool. This is a good point to pop them into the fridge if you’re doing them in advance.

At this stage, you also want to rough them up a little bit. Knock them around in the tray, give them a bit of a shake: if you’ve cooked them enough, their edges should start flufferising and flaking before your eyes. This is also the point at which you’ll find out if you’ve made mash, rather than roasties. A dangerous crossroads.

When you’re ready to start roasting – normally at the point where the meat comes out of the oven to rest (a whole other blog post) – get a roasting tray, spread out your spuds and drizzle them in cold rapeseed oil.

Yep, not duck fat, not goose fat, not dripping: although these are all delicious routes to roast potatoes, we serve ours dressed in Cotswold Gold rapeseed oil. It’s British-made, it’s sustainable and what’s more, it’s vegetarian-friendly – so our veggie chums can enjoy a bowl of our roasties with their Sunday feast.

Your oven should be at about 180°C for the roasting session, and you’re looking at around 40 minutes – but again, this’ll vary on the amount of potatoes you’re cooking, so be mindful.

You want them to cook evenly, so turn them regularly while cooking: a one-sided roast potato is a sad beast.

Sprinkle with a little salt and serve them immediately: best dipped into gravy and consumed while ever so slightly too hot to handle.

Delicious.

If you try them for yourself, please show us by tagging us in on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram – and if you have any questions, just shout! Of course there is an easier way to get your hands on these prize potatoes: simply book yourself in for a Sunday lunch feast...

PS: If you've enjoyed this post and our roast potatoes in the past, the OFM voting page is this way. Much, much appreciated!

"Eating and reading are two pleasures that combine admirably" – Eat Cambridge 2016

Every year we get ourselves involved in a glorious local food festival called Eat Cambridge. Run by the truly marvellous Moving Foodie – AKA Heidi White – this is a chance to try, test and experience the very finest culinary treats that Cambridgeshire has to offer.

In past years we've created menus inspired by the local produce available, or by legendary icons who call the region home – but for this year, we've come up with a menu that draws inspiration from our (rather overladen) bookshelves. From these books, to be precise.

HITW-cambridge-eat-2016

It's always enjoyable coming up with new menus designed around a single concept: while some dishes spring to mind almost easily, others require thought, discussion and a lot of research to bring together. This menu's been several weeks in the making and we can't wait for its debut on Saturday 7 May.

We won't reveal too much of the menu just yet – suffice to say it promises to be a lot of fun indeed. And utterly delicious too, of course...

Don't miss out: join us for dinner during the festival and give our literary tasting menu a try. After all, as C. S. Lewis once said:

eating-and-reading

Happy Feaster: Alex's Recipe for Roasted & Stuffed Saddle of Spring Lamb

Although I’m not much of a traditionalist, for me the long Easter weekend wouldn’t be complete without roast lamb and judging from a quick straw poll, I’m far from being alone in this respect.

I’ve been working closely with Camilla, our lamb supplier, for nearly three years now – and her organic farm on the Cambridgeshire-Bedfordshire border, Croxton Park, is the sort of place I always hoped I would get to work closely with when I originally toyed with the idea of becoming a chef.

It’s wonderfully inspirational and it makes me happy to the tips of my toes to take delivery of a whole lamb a couple of times a month, safe in the knowledge that it has benefited from the best possible farming and levels of animal husbandry.

Their produce is so good that it features on our menu throughout the year. During the cooler months it is paired with robust root vegetables and offset with a rich dark sauce made from the slow cooking of the bones. The height of summer sees it matched with courgettes, new potatoes and zingy sauces made from freshly picked herbs.

But early spring remains my favourite time to eat lamb, when the meat is at its best and most flavoursome. These are animals who are nearing a year old – technically closer to hogget than lamb – but with age comes maturity, and a depth of flavour that just isn’t present in younger animals.

The fat is richer, the meat slightly denser, the bones stronger: all three make it easy to tell that this is meat from an animal that spent time getting to know the acres of pasture and farmland available to it.

With my family descending en masse this weekend, I’ve been devising a suitable menu with which to feast handsomely on Easter Sunday. For a while I thought about slow-cooking a couple of lamb shoulders, perhaps a pommes dauphinoise on the side with heaps of new season vegetables – but as it is rare for us to all be sat around the table together I’ve plumped for something slightly more celebratory.

A saddle of lamb, stuffed and tied and roasted rosy pink is quite simply the best way to showcase this amazing meat and always causes gasps of excitement when it arrives at the table.

 

Fresh green herbs, garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, lemon zest and even a couple of anchovies make for an excellent and easy no-cook stuffing, and a regular sized saddle will only take 30 minutes or so to roast, meaning you won’t be waiting for hours for your Easter Sunday lunch to be ready.

Sit back, relax and revel in the warm glow of gratitude!

Stuffed lamb saddle

NB – To make this properly you’ll need to know how to tie a butcher’s knot: a tricky task but a skill well worth learning, I promise. 

You will need

One saddle of lamb – ask your butcher to remove the bones, but retain the two tiny fillets.

For the stuffing

  • Two cloves of garlic, finely chopped or grated
  • 10 sun-dried tomatoes
  • Four anchovies
  • One lemon, zested
  • Two handfuls mixed and picked soft herbs: I tend to use a combination of flat leaf parsley, mint, tarragon, chervil and dill

To make the stuffing, use a food processor to blitz the garlic, tomatoes, anchovies and lemon zest. Add a little olive oil if it is too tight. Add the herbs and blitz again, but take care not to bruise them or they will turn bitter. 

To prepare the lamb, lay the boneless saddle on a board in front of you, skin side down. Trim away the exterior skin to leave about 6cm either side of the loins.

Season the meat with salt, then stuff the herb mix into the small cavity between the two loins. Place the two fillets on top of the stuffing so that they taper towards the middle of the loin.

Fold one of the sides over both loins and tightly roll the saddle so that the fold ends up underneath. Tie at least eight butcher’s knots down the loin to keep it together during roasting.

When you're ready to start cooking, preheat the oven to 220 degrees C and roast the saddle for 15 minutes to get plenty of colour.

Then turn the oven down to 140 degrees, open the door to make sure the heat dissipates, and cook the lamb for a further 15 minutes. If you have an instant read digital probe thermometer, you're looking for the saddle to reach a core temperature of about 50 degrees.

Rest the saddle for a further 15 minutes before carving. Serve with plenty of potatoes – roasted new potatoes would work perfectly here – and the very best new season spring vegetables.

Observer Food Monthly Awards 2015

We're utterly thrilled by the news that once again, we've placed as a runner up in the annual Observer Food Monthly Awards – in both the Best Sunday Lunch and Best Restaurant categories.

 

These commendations mean so much to us because they're voted for by readers – so we can't thank you all enough for taking the time to put the restaurant forwards.

It's heart-stoppingly brilliant (and humbling) to see the other restaurants and eateries listed alongside us in the shortlist – especially so many Cambridge-based businesses, and Dr Tim's fantastic Macarons & More over in Norwich. Marvellous, encouraging stuff. Thank you!