Cream of the crop

Cream of the crop

As Daniel Lee settles in to his role as head chef at Galvin Green Man, he talks to Pub & Bar about incorporating cheese onto the menu in time for summery dishes, and his love of burrata

The Galvin Green Man pub in Great Waltham, near Chelmsford in Essex, has become synonymous with everything a foodie pub should embody – and won the best pub in Essex at the recent National Pub & Bar Awards.

The number of menus on offer to guests is testament to just how comprehensive the food choices available are to people visiting. There are specific menus for the pub, the restaurant, a BIB Gourmand set menu, a children’s menu, Sunday lunch provision, a private dining set menu, vegetarian and vegan options, a gluten-free menu, and bespoke menus to accompany events throughout the year.

A barbecue shed is also due to open for the summer months any time now. That’s a lot of dishes to create and evolve throughout the year. This task has fallen to newly appointed head chef Daniel Lee, who is working closely alongside chef patron Chris Galvin, to engineer a menu that smashes through the preconceptions of what a gastropub should be. He spoke to Pub & Bar magazine about his new role and, of course, how he showcases the very best dairy products on the dishes.

P&B: How are you finding your new role, and have you made any changes to your menus and suppliers yet?

DL: “I’m really enjoying it – it’s a lot different to anything I’ve done before. We’ve got the pub, we have the restaurant and now we will also have the outside dining in the garden. I’m more used to fine dining restaurants. There are plenty of opportunities to create, here. Since I’ve started, the menu has evolved quite a lot, and I’ve been given free rein to begin evolving some of the dishes – to make them a bit more British and local. We will still have a few French ingredients that you just can’t beat, but the plan is to get the menu as predominantly British as possible. We have plenty of local farms and suppliers, which are pretty much on our doorstep. We’d be stupid not to use them, they are fantastic.”

P&B: Can you give an example of how you’re using dairy seasonally on the menu at the moment?

DL: “On our starters menu we have a lovely local chargrilled asparagus, burrata and ruby grapefruit dish. It’s a gorgeous Italian burrata, which we split open on top of the asparagus, and that is quite sweet and smoky as it’s been chargrilled. The burrata adds a welcome rich, creamy element to the dish. We also add some grapefruit and pomegranate to then cut through the creaminess of the burrata as well. It’s outsourced by our vegetable supplier who generally provides us with fantastic buffalo mozzarellas and burrata.

“We serve a wonderful goat’s cheese mousse with a tomato salad at the moment as well. We use French goat’s cheese for this and that’s coming from our main dairy supplier. They provide a lot of our artisan, French and English cheeses. We use a lot of dairy throughout our menu. It adds richness to the food and gives a smooth, silky texture when you add it to purées.

“We also have pecorino cheese in our wild garlic risotto, which has a really nice salty – almost crunchy – texture to it. It’s quite a hard cheese, especially with all the little salt crystals which harden up and you get that satisfying gritty texture. That dish will probably evolve into something else as the summer goes on. It might be good to have a tomato risotto, for example, with some buffalo mozzarella.”

P&B: What’s the best dairy product you’ve used on a menu that you can remember?

DL: “This came from Australia, actually, when I was working at Culter & Co in Melbourne for a few months. There were a lot of artisan products coming from the surrounding area. And one of them, I never really knew much about until then was the stracciatella – a stretched curd with cream – and then this becomes the burrata when you put the skin around it. This particular dairy product was something I’d never heard of before and wasn’t familiar with. There was an Italian sous chef there who introduced it onto our Sunday brunch menu and we ended up making our own version in-house using our own stretched curd. It’s a really fantastic product – it’s got texture, it’s creamy. So, we use burrata with our asparagus dish, because stracciatella itself has quite a short shelf-life. Stracciatella would go amazingly well with tomatoes or any kind of summery dish. You could finish it on top of pizzas, pasta, risotto and gnocchi. It’s quite a versatile ingredient.”

P&B: How important is local sourcing to your menu?

DL: “These days, people want to know where their food is reared, where it’s from, they want to know that it’s local, that it was treated well. There’s a big call now for free-range and humane practices when it comes to rearing animals. Dairy farming is a big part of that, and there are a lot of smaller, local dairy farmers who are humane to their animals. I’m already on the lookout for new local suppliers – we’ve taken on a couple of new suppliers that are literally on our doorstep who have proven to be fantastic people to work with. With regards to dairy and cheese, there are a few dotted around so I just need to make that contact and start a relationship. The crucial part is making the time to have that initial contact! We’re a seven-day operation and it never stops for us, so finding time is important. We’ve even had local growers approach the kitchen back door with a bag of goods, who wanted to barter!”

P&B: You mentioned using stretched curd in-house in Australia. Would you ever try to create your own products at Galvin Green Man?

DL: “Things like this can sometimes grow on a large scale quite quickly and become a massive operation. Fortunately, in Australia we had a development chef who took everything off site and then would bring it in. There are little things I’d like to eventually bring in moving forward like homemade bread – I can’t say when – and then I’d like to venture into making a homemade butter using crème fraiche or double cream, depending on what style we’d like to go for, and start churning our own butter in-house and maybe flavour it or just create a natural culture. Served as an accompaniment, homemade bread with homemade butter is a winner. I’m not quite there just yet, but when we’ve got more structure we can start rocking that. It’s one of many things on the horizon. As for the cheese-making, it’s a tricky one. It can be difficult to achieve consistency unless you have the perfect environment. It can vary so much. We have so many fantastic suppliers who are already recognised and have been doing it for a long time – they have it down to a fine art.”

Chef sides

Sean Franks, head chef at The Three Crowns, Wisborough Green, has seen greater demand for coeliac-friendly and lactose-free dishes – especially in the uptake of vegetarian diets (be that full- or part-time).

He believes that cheese is a good alternative for diners avoiding certain ingredients. For this reason, he tried out the Soignon goat cheese and Paysan Breton Natural Spreadable Cheese from Eurilait. He created a potato and burnt shallot risotto, using the goat cheese, and with the Natural Spreadable Cheese designed a smoked mackerel mousse that was served with pickled tomatoes as well as a lemon cheesecake, lemon macaron, and a gin and tonic granita dessert.

“The cheeses were both very easy to work with,” he explains. “The goat cheese held its form when cut, had an even colour when grilled, took on other flavours well and wasn’t too overpowering – some customers find that goat’s cheese can be a little too ‘goaty’ sometimes.”

Franks is keen to offer pub operators advice if looking for new ideas for vegetarians. “Constantly ask your suppliers for what’s new,” he urges. “They may not always think to promote all of their new items to you; and experiment and use your ingredients differently.”

Cheese, please

Glance over any menu, and it’s highly likely you’ll see cheese – in whatever form – adding texture, density and richness to dishes on all courses. Even many vegan pubs are experimenting with dairy-free alternatives, adding weight to the argument that cheese adds quality to dishes that sells meals.

“Health has been one of the most influential food trends in recent years, which encompasses more than just the traditional low-fat options, to include high protein and dairy-free NPD,” agrees James Millward, managing director at Eurilait. “These products have a place, although niche, but we also anticipate seeing more innovation with cheese as a hot eat meal choice.”

Dairy cheeses are also getting their fill of flavour, with many producers experimenting with infusions and inclusions.

“We are seeing a trend at the moment for cheeses with a robust flavour using ingredients such as chipotle, jalapeño and habanero peppers and garlic, cumin and various smoked varieties,” notes Sandro Bevilacqua, vice chairman, Continental Quattro Stagioni. “Some cheese makers have also developed their own ageing rooms, providing a temperature and humidity-controlled environment.”

But if your pub menu seeks out more traditional servings, then a cheese board can always be relied upon to please a multitude of palates.

“While there are no hard and fast rules to putting together a cheeseboard,” advises James Robinson, product trainer at Brindisa. “ We recommend four: a hard cheese, a soft cheese, a blue cheese and a goat’s cheese or a washed rind cheese. Fruity and sweet products make perfect food pairings for cheese.” Dried, pressed fruit wheels are a common accompaniment to cheeses in much of Spain.”

In Spain, for example, it’s common for people to accompany their cheeses with dried, pressed fruit wheels. If your pub menu takes inspiration from certain countries, then seek out how cheese is traditionally consumed there and introduce it to your diners.