Chef Of The Month April 2017: Alan Hempton

Alan Hempton,
The Borough Lancaster

Growing up in such a great food producing region as Lancashire I'd always had a passion for food, but cheffing was not my first career. I studied English at university in Manchester and trained as a teacher. Having discovered it wasn't for me, I then spent a bit of time travelling in India, South America and south east Asia (soaking up some of their food traditions on the way), until my sister recommended me for a job in the Italian Dolomites.

It's a stunning part of the world with a really unique cuisine and culture, and before long I found myself working six days a week in the kitchen, getting up at 7am everyday to serve breakfast and prep, spending all day on the mountain climbing or hiking, and then hot-footing it back to the kitchen in time to serve dinner. It was a very intense time and I learnt a lot: from how to make the perfect risotto to how not to make zabaglione! Among the highlights were cookery lessons from a local lady at an agriturismo (a very rustic farmhouse restaurant where the majority of the food has to be produced on the farm and the surrounding region).

Coming back from Italy was a bit of a wrench, but I landed on my feet pretty quickly taking a job at the Horns Inn in Churchtown before eventually moving to The Borough in 2013. I loved the emphasis on locally produced food, and learnt a lot working with some very talented chefs as I expanded my own knowledge. It's a very busy kitchen, but I've just about found time to keep up with my adventures: in 2014 I drove to Mongolia and back to raise money for Marie Curie, and earlier this year played some gigs in the southern USA with my band. 

In 2015, owners Hannah and Martin showed a lot of faith in me by promoting me to head chef, but I like to think I've proved them right so far. We've got a great young team in the kitchen right now and have just launched a new seasonal menu which has got everyone excited and they're rising to the challenge!



Dish

Goosnargh Duck Breast with wild garlic risotto, pea puree and new season asparagus

I love this dish because everything is local and in season: the duck is from just up the road (my mum actually went out with Reg, the original Goosnargh duck farmer when they were in school!), the wild garlic is growing in abundance right now and I can pick it just down the river from my house, and now is the best time of year for english asparagus.

Ingredients:

6 Goosnargh duck breasts

Bunch of english asparagus

Bunch of local wild garlic (finely chopped)

Half a large onion (finely diced)

2 sticks of celery (finely chopped)

400g arborio rice

100g parmesan

1 large glass of white wine

1 ltr good quality vegetable stock

200g garden peas

a little butter

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees

For the pea puree:

Blanch the peas in a pan of lightly salted water for three minutes.

Remove the peas from the pan and reduce the water to around a quarter of its volume.

Place the peas in a food processor with a knob of butter and blend, slowly adding back in the reduced pea-water until smooth and the desired consistency.

Pass through a fine sieve or chinois.

Cool the puree as quickly as possible to maintain the vivid colour.

For the wild garlic risotto:

Sofritto the wild garlic, onion and celery with a little butter on a very low heat for around 10-12 minutes until softened.

Add the rice, increasing the heat. After around a minute add the wine.

Once the wine has been absorbed into the rice begin adding the stock a little at a time, waiting until it is absorbed before adding more. Keep it moving with a wooden spoon.

Remove from the heat, add the parmesan and a knob of cold butter, cover and leave to stand for a few minutes.

For the duck.

Score the skin of the duck breast with a sharp knife.

Place the duck skin side down in a cold pan and place on a medium heat. Do not add any fat or oil.

As the heat slowly increases the fat will tender out of the duck and it will cook in its own fat.

Once the skin is a nice golden colour, turn over and seal on the other side. Turn over again so the skin side is down and place in the oven at 200 degrees (you'll need a metal handled pan).

Cook for 8-12 minutes depending on how pink you like it.

For the asparagus

Bring a pan of lightly salted water to the boil.

Trim away the hard ends of the stalks.