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Somerton with Hemsley + Hemsley

The Hemsleys have the most perfectly pastoral weekend (plus karaoke)

After a seemingly endless winter, Nick and I high tailed it out of London to enjoy the first signs of Spring with two of our oldest friends, Casey and Alina. Three hours on the motorway and a few karaoke classics later, we found ourselves in sunny Somerton, Somerset for a quintessential English country escape. Our accommodations? A converted coach house on a picturesque estate dating back to the mid 1700’s, so Jane Austin.

Despite the 6am wakeup call from the clock tower on the west wing, we indulged in late nights and lazy mornings. The boys took over as head chefs, which meant mouthwatering aromas filled the house constantly, culminating in decadent feasts around the huge farmhouse style kitchen table. Friends and family dropped by for supper, card games (the English love a game called ‘Oh Hell!’), and plenty of wine in front of the fire. 

We were mostly low key, but took a few excursions: trips to sample the ale at the local pubs were practically mandatory, and an afternoon shooting clay pigeons (at the same range used by Olympic marksmen, no less) was pretty fantastic. We took full advantage of the estate’s tennis court, which was situated in the most beautiful spot overlooking the valley. The games room above the stables, although chilly, was perfect for table tennis and darts. And on long walks around the estate, we caught the first glimpses of spring flora and fauna—roe deer, pheasants, rabbits and nesting swans (who aggressively ruled the lake and chased the geese) set the scene. Oh and then there was an incident with a party of incredibly vocal guinea fowl…

Every morning we congregated for breakfast—consisting of tea and the most delicious fresh eggs from the estate’s free range chickens—before prepping a roast or stew for the evening meal. Friday was a quick and easy roast chicken and coleslaw; Saturday was slow cooked short ribs of beef in red wine with broccoli and buttered cabbage. We boiled up the beef bones and veg scraps to make a nutritious stock for a Mung Daal with rainbow chard, and Friday’s leftover chicken made a delicious light soup which we finished with wild garlic from the garden of Nick’s mum. On Sunday we shared roast lamb with family and friends, followed by our apple crumble with blueberries and ginger crème fraiche. Casey’s mum brought homemade hot cross buns for tea. Over the next two days we steadily worked our way through the fridge—smorgasbords of leftovers and salads were made special with the addition of Polish meats and cheeses (courtesy of Alina’s mum), as well as the last jar of our own Christmas chutney.

Hemsely & Hemsley’s Roast Lamb

Ingredients
Serves 4 people

Lamb
A shoulder of lamb on the bone approx 2.5kg, at room temperature
2 tablespoons of butter or ghee (we like Pukka)
2 tablespoons of fresh thyme leaves
1 small jar of anchovies
6-8 cloves of garlic, peeled and halved
½ teaspoon of sea salt (the anchovies will already add saltiness)
2 teaspoons of ground black pepper
250ml/large glass red or white wine
2 bay leaves
Cauliflower Mash
3 medium cauliflowers
2 large leeks, finely sliced, save a handful for the kale salad
1 tablespoon of english mustard
2 tablespoons of butter
Sea salt and pepper to taste (use less sea salt if you’re using a salty cheese)

Optional: 2 grated handfuls of a good strong british cheese like a mature cheddar

Mint And Kale Salad
600g kale
1 tablespoon of fresh mint, finely sliced
A handful of finely sliced leek – see above
3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice
1 pinch of sea salt
1 pinch of ground black pepper

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to it’s maximum temperature.
  • Place the lamb in a large ovenproof dish or stainless steel roasting pan and rub with butter or ghee. Season with the sea salt (not too much as the anchovies are salty!) and black pepper.
  • Make 8-10 incisions into the fat of the lamb, approx 1.5 inches deep and fill with the garlic, anchovies and thyme.
  • Pour over the wine, cover with a tight fitting lid and place in the oven.
  • Turn the heat down immediately to 170C and cook for 3.5 – 4 hours until tender enough to fall apart easily.
  • Drain the gravy from the bottom of the pan, reduce if necessary and check for seasoning.
  • Keep the lamb covered and allow to rest in the pan for at least 15 minutes before serving.
  • 25 minutes before serving, start the cauliflower mash and remember to stir in the mustard leek sauce from the recipe. NB the recipe is for 2 people so remember to scale up! The mash can be kept warm in the oven until everything is ready to serve.
  • To prepare the kale salad remove the stalks from the kale (save them for smoothies) and finely chop the kale leaves. Massage the leaves with the extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice and salt for a minute then set aside to marinate. After 10 minutes the kale will relax and soften. Season with black pepper and garnish with the finely sliced mint and leeks to serve.

Photography by Nicholas Hopper