My Best Dishes of 2023
Daniel Clarke, Executive Chef and General Manager at Southend Barns
What a year it has been for Roots at Southend Barns! Our ever-evolving 2023 menus focusing on seasonal and local produce have been a huge hit, so we wanted to take a walk down memory lane and let you know this year’s firm wedding day favourites from all of our lovely couples…
This year we introduced five new canapés and without doubt the most popular one has been our Overnight Crispy Pork Belly with Miso & Toffee Sauce which is topped with toasted sesame seeds and chives. So many of our couples have opted for this delicious dish – a mouth-watering way to start your wedding day food journey!
We introduced four new starters to this year’s menus and they have all been super popular. One of my particular favourites is the Smoked Chicken & Parma Ham Salad which is served with celeriac and apple slaw and mustard dressing. Classic Baked Camembert has also had a return to popularity! We serve our version with pineapple & chilli chutney, Roots toasted focaccia and a drizzle of our Southend Honey!
Another frequently chosen dish this year (and my favourite dish of all time!) is Ham, Egg & Chip. Our more sophisticated version of this pub favourite features an elegant pressed ham hock terrine with gherkins and parsley, served with a crispy quails egg that has a runny centre and finally the homemade chip – triple cooked to perfection!
There are two dishes that stand out from all the rest – both were new additions for 2023 and I am so pleased they have been so well received.
The first, Chicken Kiev. Oh no I hear you cry, not a deep fried tasteless piece of chicken with butter that oozes out! No sirree, our Kiev is made from farm reared chicken, stuffed with garlic and parsley butter. A Kiev bon bon made from garlic, lemon and parsley butter is then chilled, coated in panko crumb, deep fried and placed on top of the perfectly cooked chicken breast. One groom said to me, “I never in a million years would of picked a Chicken Kiev for our wedding but after having it at our tasting it blew my mind! It was brilliant and everyone raved about it!”.
Next up, Hunters Chicken. This was my daughter Holly’s favourite dish as a child. However, the Southend Barns version is of course elevated to the highest level.
The chicken breast is slowly marinated for over 48 hours in our own BBQ rub and then seared and roasted. This decadent dish also features a croquette made with smoked pancetta, Sussex Charmer Cheddar, roasted onion, thyme and potato, bound in crispy breadcrumbs and baked. The dish is served with our own BBQ sauce and delicious green slaw. The feedback for this has been really amazing!
We are also seeing increased interest in our plant based menus. Roots has an extensive choice of creative plant based options for each course. It is a really exciting time for chefs who embrace the plant based method and a brilliant opportunity to really utilise all the delicious produce we have locally here in West Sussex and on our farm.
Inclusivity is really important to us here at Southend Barns, therefore almost all of our dishes can be adapted to be gluten free, dairy free or plant based. We also ensure that the majority of our salad dressings are plant based and we create our own vegan mayonnaise.
Now we’re talking! I absolutely LOVE desserts and have spent a lot of time honing my skills in the pastry section of Michelin star kitchens. Some of my favourite desserts are those old school favourites like Bread and Butter Pudding, Crème Brulee, Bakewell Tart and Sticky Toffee Pudding. These classics are also frequently a hit with our couples too and can be adapted to suit the time of year.
A new addition for this year which has been very well received is our modern take on the classic Profiterole. With a view that, ‘the bigger the better’, we created an oversized version with a crispy croquant on top which gives the choux bun some texture. This is then filled with the couples chosen flavoured cream, and topped with a chocolate gu. The Amarena Cherry and Chocolate version has been particularly popular.
2023 also saw the introduction of our Cheesecake Menu which features a selection of 10 cheesecake flavours coupled with ice cream or sorbet. My particular favourite is the Carrot Cake Cheesecake which is served with carrot jam, carrot meringue, creamy frosting and passionfruit sorbet.
Our famous Sticky Toffee Pudding has also held its own in popularity this year. Served with passionfruit jam and marmalade ice cream, this (in my opinion) is a must try! The accompanying flavours go amazingly well with the rich pudding and the salty toffee sauce – utterly delicious.
2023 has also seen us cook up a storm on the coals with our newly enhanced BBQ menus. The BBQ menu has been a popular choice this year with Peppered Rib Eye Steaks, Satay Skewers, Minted Lamb Rumps and Katsu Chicken being the most popular options. Guests love to see the chefs in action cooking in our new outside kitchen over hot coals and local wood.
To accompany these stunning meats we offer a beautiful and creative salad bar. Including delicacies like Panzanella, with local tomatoes, inhouse focaccia, allotment basil & shredded onion. Our Caesar Salad has been a real winner, with Kos and gem leaves, homemade Caesar dressing, crispy parmesan, focaccia croutons and aged parmesan shavings.
One of my favourites is the Tuk Tuk, inspired by Thai and Asian flavours. This rice based salad features toasted sesame, peas, toasted seeds, coriander, lime, ginger and garlic. It is a really fresh option and goes beautifully with meat, fish and plant based mains.
Finally, we launched two new themed menus for 2023, our Tapas and Festival menus. These have both proven to be really popular and are a fun take on wedding day dining. If you have not seen them yet, click here to take a look.
Photography: Ruby Roux Photography