Chris Bell Kitchen Confidential

Chris Bell, head chef at The River Room at Galgorm Resort & Spa in Northern Ireland, serves sweetcorn and blackberries this summer

Chris Bell Photo

Cooking With

Sweetcorn is a summer staple. I make a chicken-liver dish that showcases the many textures of corn. Along with a liver parfait and sautéed livers, I serve toasted sweetcorn, sweetcorn purée, some cornbread and a few kernels of popcorn. It’s the same story with dark fruits. August is the best time to eat them, and we use figs in both savoury and sweet dishes. I’ll pair them with goat’s cheese curd or mozzarella and Iberico ham for a great salad, or, for sweets, poach them in some port, vanilla and brown sugar, and serve them with mascarpone and honey. They also pair brilliantly with caramel, toasted walnuts and heather-honey ice cream. I serve blackberries, which are at their peak and just as versatile, with pigeon terrine or potted duck. And, for dessert, it has to be an apple and blackberry charlotte, served with English custard and vanilla ice cream.

We’re not far from the coast, and, at this time of year, I love using crab. Potted crab, served with flavoured butter, brioche or wheaten bread and some pickles or a cucumber salad is a starter that’s hard to beat.

By the time the end of August comes around, some early autumnal flavours, such as ceps, are starting to creep in. They grow in abundance around the resort, by a river that runs by our perimeter, and I’ll soon be popping out of the kitchen for an hour or so every afternoon to pick them for the evening service. We use the mushrooms in various ways: they can be puréed, roasted or even eaten raw, and are excellent in risottos or salads. However, as this is the start of the game season, I like to serve them with roasted wood pigeon, which happens to be at its peak in my local area during these months. I’ll top the wood pigeon with bread sauce and serve with game chips – a classic combination. A lot of people are afraid of preparing wood pigeon at home because it’s easy to overcook, but it’s worth the effort. Roasting with star anise and sage is a nice way to do it, but you could also try it braised or pan-fried (

Who i'm using

Leggygowan Farm (, a goat-specialist in County Down, supplies us with its beautiful cheese, and our meat comes from K&G McAtamney (, a butcher in Ballymena. Our fish is from Belfast’s Walter Ewing (028 9032 5534).



Chris's recipe for August/September

To make a sweetcorn soup with air-dried ham, basil and pine nuts, first sweat 1 chopped onion and 2 chopped cloves of garlic in a little olive oil until soft. Remove the kernels from 6 corn cobs and add to the onions and garlic. Cover with 1.2 litres of vegetable stock and simmer for 15-20 minutes until the corn is soft. Add 100ml double cream and return to the boil. Pour the soup into a food processor and blend until smooth. Pass through a fine sieve and season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Garnish with 25g toasted pine nuts, some finely chopped basil and 3 torn-up slices of good-quality air-dried ham. Finish with a drizzle of good extra virgin olive oil, and serve with focaccia or ciabatta as a light lunch or a starter to an evening meal.

Chris Bell Photo

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