Stephen Harris Kitchen Confidential

Stephen Harris, chef/patron of Michelin-starred pub The Sportsman on the Kent coast, talks purple sprouting broccoli, rhubarb and sea lettuce

Stephen Harris Photo

Cooking With

April can be a bit of a funny month for restaurants. Very often, you’ll get some nice hot weather, which makes everyone crave lighter food, although these types of ingredients are far from at their best yet. Most likely we are still facing the tail-end of winter’s ingredients in the kitchen, but there are a few signs of new life that I always look forward to and one of these is the arrival of purple sprouting broccoli. Strangely, the best way to cook purple sprouting broccoli is in the microwave because it keeps all the flavour in. Just put it on a flat plate, sprinkle it with a bit of water and salt, cover it in cling film and then zap it for about one minute. We like to serve our purple sprouting broccoli in a simple salad with a poached duck egg and our own home-cured ham. My favourite way to dress the salad is with a blood orange or rhubarb vinaigrette. We love to have fun with rhubarb at this time of year. To get the best of its flavour, we chop the stalks into 1cm pieces, place them in a bowl, then cover them with 10 to 20 per cent of their weight in sugar (so for 1kg of rhubarb, you’ll need at least 100g of sugar). Leave this in the fridge for one to two days and you’ll see the sugar start to draw the juices out. Blitz it all in a processor, pass the mixture through a sieve into a tall jar or jug and eventually it will separate. We skim the surface foam off the top and use the concentrated juice left at the bottom as the basis for a sweet and sour salad dressing or sorbet. This is a great time of year to forage on the beach for sea lettuce. It looks exactly like it sounds, smells like the essence of the ocean and brings a wonderful umami flavour to fish dishes. We gather big sheets of it after high tide, wash them thoroughly to get rid of grit, then dry them. I like to add the dried sea lettuce to our home-made salted butter. One of my favourite dishes is our slip sole grilled in seaweed butter.

Who i'm using

I get my oysters, cockles and whelks from West Whelks in Whitstable harbour (01227 266873), and all my pork, lamb, chickens, ducks and eggs from nearby Monkshill Farm.


‘Sea lettuce looks exactly like it sounds, smells like the essence of the ocean and brings a wonderful umami flavour to fish dishes’


Stephen Harris Photo

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