Amazing, aren't they?
Years of training, all for one competition every four years.
All of their hard work, focus, commitment and dedication, it reminded me of when I was in training, back in Hunstrete, enjoying rugby every weekend.
The drive and ambition to be the best!
Normally starting down at the Crown, it involved a couple of pints, a couple of cigarettes and a packet of pork scratchings.
So, set up for the afternoon, all I had to do was wander over the road, and watch the mighty Keynsham First XV beat whoever came in their path, or sometimes not!
And, obviously, after eighty minutes of shouting our support for the players, we were more than ready for some well earned liquid refreshment.
Bitter to start, and then anyones guess, but there was normally cider somewhere in the proceedings.
Quite a lot, actually.
A couple of games of Cardinal Puff, a bracing rendition of the Woodpecker song, and we were off!
Purple Nasties all round then.
A superb mix of cider, blackcurrant and Pernod, it really got the rugby club going on a Saturday evening.
And, believe it, or not, that is how this dish came about.
Well, sort of!
Bath, home of the greatest rugby team in the world.
And "Bath Chaps"
Named after the West Country pre game ritual of going around the changing room, and slapping the other players across the cheeks, whilst shouting "Come on chaps!', it roused the players, ready for the battlefield, and victory would be assured.
I'm not totally convinced that's factually right, but what I do know is that I wanted those chaps on my new summer menu at East Lodge.
What we do is still brine them in a pickling liquor scented with fennel seeds, peppercorns on onions.
Then sealed in a vacuum bag and steamed at 82 degrees for twelve hours.
So, what you have now is ham.
So, all we do is slice it on a gravity slicer, and lay it on one of our rather sexy plates.
Which is, truth be told, the main reason of this blog, showing off our new tableware!
Dressed with some water vinaigrette, which is just an infused olive oil and white wine vinegar dressing, lightened with water.
And it splits out as well which I think looks pretty cool.
I roasted some pork skin and then grated it, a dark caramel was made and the grated crackling and a good pinch of Maldon sea salt was added.
Then it was all blended in the thermomix to produce salted crackling praline.
A new Derbyshire invention I think, and remember it was inspired by my Saturday lunchtime snacks at the Crown!
And of course it adds a nice crunchy texture, some sweetness and another layer of porky flavour.
These are very finely sliced, blanched and put into a sweet and sour pickling liquid, then for service all we need to do is drain them off, toss them with some peppery radishes, and place them onto the chaps.
Chopped chives are sprinkled over the plate as well, so you can now see the aniseed part of the dish.
A reduction of sherry vinegar and brown sugar is spooned around the dish.
This will add to the richness of the dish, while cutting through the pork nicely.
So, all I need now is the purple bit.
Blackberries, mixed with stock syrup, set with gelatine, its cut into little rounds and placed onto the dish.
And, as, often a Saturday night would end up in Kingsmead Square in Bath, tucking in to a kebab, I wanted to have one here as well!
This is then steamed at 62 degrees and pressed overnight, to firm up it's texture.
For service it is then caramelised and brushed with the vinegar reduction.
So, it all hot and cold, sweet and sour, smooth and crunchy.
In fact, its exactly what I'm looking for in a summery starter.
Oh, and a couple of wild meadow flowers complete the dish, one that started life, a few years ago, down the pub, on a Saturday lunchtime!
Right, from purple nasties we leap over to the "Noble Rot".
Sauternes is made this way. It happens when the grapes are infected by a fungus, then partly dried, they then produce a very concentrated sweet wine.
And one that I love.
It must have been my lucky day, as Mr H let me have a case that was in the cellars over at Callow Hall.
Now, I'm sure we've all heard about how good Sauternes is with foie gras and Roquefort cheese.
And it is, but I wanted to use it in a dessert.
A couple of weeks ago I made some apricot Garibaldi biscuits, to serve to the Rowsley school children who come to learn about food and drink at East Lodge each year.
And they were lovely!
I think Tom and myself, along with a couple of the school kids polished most of them off!
But I also thought they would be a nice garnish to a Sauternes pudding.
And the are, although I didn't put any apricots in this time, the biscuits are just made plain, baked, and then crushed. And as the recipe has an awfully large amount of butter in it, it has such a light texture, that I thought would go well with some summer apricots and raspberries.
Pistachios are another ingredient that marry well with Sauternes, so all we had to do is make some pistachio ice cream and little cakes.
These are interesting as they have hazelnut butter and apricot jam in the mix.
Hazelnut butter is just unsalted butter heated until it starts to smell like hazelnuts!
Easy, and its great poured, foaming, over some pan fried fish, mixed with parsley, baby capers and lemon juice.
And the apricot jam keeps the sponge really moist.
A meringue is made in the classical manor, but cooked in the steam oven, its then hollowed out and filled with apricot curd. Apricot sorbet is also made, and finally a super smooth, rich creme Anglaise is cooked and chilled, ready for the plating.
And, then, the easy bit.
Just mixing a good glug of Sauternes with the chilled custard.
The warm pistachio sponges are dusted with icing sugar, biscuit crumbs are arranged, fresh, juicy raspberries are dotted around, small balls of apricot sorbet are added, a larger scoop of pistachio ice cream is also placed on one of our new plates, the curd filled meringue is also on, and then, at last, the luscious, sweet, intense Sauternes Anglaise is poured, generously, flooding the base of the dish.
Such an easy pud to come up with as all the flavours work so well together, and of course, its finally summer!! So everything is bang in season.
So, there we are, a couple of new dishes, on the menu at East Lodge this month.
Its just a white chocolate and vanilla parfait, filled with strawberry sorbet, dusted with dried orange powder, and garnished with strawberry fluid gel, and strawberries and orange segments that have been marinated in Grand Marnier.
Right that's it, I'm off to make a very spicy chicken and green chilli curry.
Tonights music, the amazing "Strobe Light", by the B52's.
Trust me, it will improve your life.
And, finally, it's on.
I know I'm going to get all emotional, but it's going to be amazing!!
Isn't Britain Great!