This Summer, Alnwick Castle will be throwing open its Hotspur Restaurant every week for Northumbrian Nights, a unique chance to enjoy the finest local food and music, at the same time and setting.
The evenings will be held every Wednesday from July 4 until September and will extend the opportunity already taken by up to 3,000 visitors a day to enjoy another aspect of the castle – and literally to taste the magic at the heart of the region.
Alnwick Castle attracts huge numbers every day at the peak of its season, with visitors from across the country flocking to see Northumberland’s most exquisite castle.
Surrounding the castle is a region synonymous with fresh seafood, produce and some of the finest chefs around.
Its music makes a perfect evening’s entertainment. Bringing them together, for the first time in a setting like this, was thought to be an opportunity too good to miss.
Food and beverage general manger Lesley Williamson said: “Each evening will take on a Northumberland theme, including local food and drink, local music and entertainers, and local guest speakers to enlighten guests on some of our stories and history.”
Tickets will be priced at £40 for adults and £20 for children including a welcome drink, three-course meal and two glasses of wine. The menu will comprise traditional Northumbrian fare such as ham hock terrine and pease pudding, daube of beef, pan haggerty and singin’ hinnies, but all with a modern twist.
The Hotspur Restaurant where the Northumbrian Nights will be held is named after the Castle’s most illustrious Percy – Harry ‘Hotspur’ Percy (1364-1403) who was known for his great courage against the Scots.
The restaurant prides itself on making use of the abundance of fantastic produce and local suppliers in the Northumberland area. Open from 11.30am until 5pm, 7 days-a-week, Hotspur Restaurant is a unique and impressive dining experience.
Head chef Jonny McManus grew up in Northumberland and is passionate about buying locally, he also knows the benefits of using locally-produced and seasonal ingredients in his food
He said: “All meats are from Turnbulls Butcher’s in Alnwick, the cheeses are made by Doddington Dairy and smoked fish from L Robson & Sons in Craster. Sunny Hill Farm Scotch Egg, Potted Amble Crab and Craster Kipper Risotto – these are just a handful of the locally-sourced produce on my menu. We know we are helping to boost our local economy and we also know exactly where those products came from – just down the road.”
Guests can look forward to sampling a selection from Jonny’s Hotspur Menu.
Lesley Williamson added: “We are really looking forward to hosting the Northumbrian Nights at Alnwick Castle.
“They are a wonderful opportunity for Northumberland residents and visitors to the county to sample and enjoy the very best of Northumbrian life – good food, good company and a chance to experience more of our wonderful county.”
Alnwick Castle has been in the Percy Family for more than 700 years and has a very turbulent history. First purchased by Henry Lord Percy in 1309, it has been in the Percy Family ever since, and is the home of the Duke and Duchess of Northumberland. Now, many generations later, the castle is also home to fine art and collections that have been put together over the centuries, and is justifiably thought of as the heart of Northumberland.
Alnwick Castle are also now offering an ‘unlocked’ annual ticket. Just £14 grants you a year’s access to enjoy and experience the castle from the date first purchased. And at £24 visitors can purchase a combined ‘unlocked’ ticket to both Alnwick Castle and The Alnwick Garden.
The unlocked ticket will give you access to Hotspur Restaurant for the entire season Alnwick Castle is open.
Tickets for the Northumbrian Nights will be available from the beginning of June from www.alnwickcastle.com or by telephoning 01665 511350.
Tweedside honey panna cotta with honeycomb and raspberries
1½ gelatine leaves (soaked in cold water)
1 vanilla pod
600g caster sugar
8 tbsp Honey
2 tbsp bicarbonated of soda
Place the cream in a thick bottom pan with honey and vanilla and slowly bring to the boil. Allow to boil for one minute then whisk in the soaked gelatine. Pass through a fine sieve and pour into a jug and allow to cool to room temperature stirring occasionally. When cooled pour into dariole moulds or ramekins lined with a small amount of vegetable oil to prevent sticking. Place in the fridge to set for a couple of hours.
To make the honeycomb put the sugar and honey in a heavy bottomed pan and allow to melt on a low heat. Cook to a rusty brown colour (not to much or it will taste bitter). When colour is achieved whisk in the bicarb and be very careful as the mixture will fizz up and treble in volume, pour directly into a tin lined with greaseproof (the tin must be prepared in advance as you won’t have time once the bicarb is added). Leave to cool then break into rough shards and store in an air tight container.
To serve turn the panna cotta out into the centre of a round white plate and surround with pieces of honeycomb and dot 4 or 5 raspberries around the honeycomb.
Potted Crab and Pickled Cucumber and Fennel
Serves 6 - 8
500g Crab Meat (white and brown mixed)
½ flat teaspoon of cayenne pepper
Good pinch ground nutmeg
Salt and pepper
1 large cucumber, deseeded and thinly sliced on an angle
1 bulb of fennel finely sliced.
500g white wine vinegar
10 black peppercorns
3 Egg yolks
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
300ml vegetable oil
1 tbsp English mustard
Salt and white pepper
For the crab, clarify the butter by leaving it somewhere warm in a saucepan until it has melted. When melted pour the clear butter from the pan leaving behind the milky solids which can be discarded. While the butter is still hot stir in the cayenne and nutmeg and allow to cool slightly, and then stir 2/3 of the butter into the crab meat.
Season the mixture with salt, pepper and lemon juice.
Put the crab mixture into Kilner jars or dishes of your choice patting it down to flatten the surface leaving 1 cm gap at the top. Fill the gap by pouring in the remaining butter and place in fridge to set. (The butter will seal the top of the mixture helping to preserve it).
For the cucumber, place the water, vinegar, sugar, salt and peppercorns in a pan and bring to the boil.
While the liquid is coming to the boil slice the cucumber and fennel and place together in a bowl.
After the liquid has boiled allow to cool for 1 minute and pour over the cucumber and fennel. Store in the fridge in an air tight container for up to one week.
For the mayonnaise place egg yolks, mustard, vinegar and a pinch of salt and pepper in a mixing bowl and whisk well then slowly whisk in the oil adding it drop by drop to start with and eventually in a thin stream whisking constantly until thick and glossy. Finish with a good squeeze of lemon juice.
Serve on a plate the potted crab, a nice pile of drained cucumber and fennel, some of the mayonnaise and some toasted brown bread.