Books – The Sportsman by Stephen Harris

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Stephen Harris took over the Sportsman pub in 1999.  He has since transformed the formerly rundown Kent boozer into a food destination.  Situated on a salt marsh by the Thames Estuary, which  provides them with oysters and fish, they also grow some ingredients themselves, in a small kitchen garden and a polytunnel.  Meat, vegetables, and game come from the surrounding fertile soils and forests.  Restaurant Magazine has voted it the National Restaurant of the Year for the last two years, and they have held a Michelin star since 2008.  In his new book, simply called The Sportsman, Stephen details the old and the modern, guiding the home cook in producing some beautiful dishes, as well as giving some insight on the life and times of the pub.  Locavore is pleased to present two of these recipes below.

Lamb breast and mint sauce

This is a small snack, which we serve as part of the tasting menu just before the lamb main course. I am always conscious that English food is considered quite bland, so I like to present this as a way of showing how exciting it can be. The crisp breadcrumbs, the heat of the mustard and the cooling effect of the mint put you in mind of Southeast Asia rather than England. By turning the lamb breast into finger food and serving it with a mint dipping sauce, it also demonstrates the importance of presentation.

Serves 6-8 as part of a tasting menu

1 whole lamb breast

sel gris

4 sprigs fresh rosemary

6 garlic cloves, roughly crushed

Crumb coating

groundnut (peanut) oil, for deep frying

200 g/7 oz (1 cups) plain (all-purpose) flour

3 eggs, beaten

200 g/7 oz (scant 3 cups) slightly dried breadcrumbs

Dijon mustard, to coat

Mint sauce

200 g/7 oz (1 cup) demerara (turbinado) sugar

200 ml/7 oz (scant 1 cup) malt vinegar

1 small bunch mint, finely chopped


Use a very sharp knife to remove the rib bones from the breast in one swooping motion. Cut the breast into two even portions.

Scatter a layer of sel gris over the bottom of a deep roasting tin, just large enough to contain the meat comfortably. Arrange the lamb pieces in the pan, and cover evenly with more salt. Cover with cold water and refrigerate for around 6 hours so the meat can brine.

Drain off the water then rinse the lamb pieces and pat dry with paper towel. Vacuum-pack the breast pieces (in 2 bags) with the garlic and rosemary and cook, sous-vide, at 82.2oC/180oF for around 12 hours.

Remove from the water bath and let the meat cool, at, as quickly as you can. Remove from the vacuum bag and separate the pure meat from the sinews. Cut the meat into strips, a bit like ‘soldiers’.

For the mint sauce, Bring 200 ml/7 oz (scant 1 cup) water to a boil in a small pan. Stir in the sugar, to dissolve, then boil for 5 minutes. Leave to cool completely before adding the vinegar and mint.

When ready to serve, preheat a deep fryer to 180oC/350oF. Arrange shallow bowls of flour, beaten egg and breadcrumbs on your work counter.

Coat the lamb strips generously in mustard, then coat them in our, egg and breadcrumbs. For a really crisp result it is important to achieve even single layers of each coating, rather than crumbing them twice.

Deep-fry the lamb in batches for around 3 minutes, or until crisp and golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool slightly. Pat dry with paper towel. Serve with the mint sauce.

Mushroom and celeriac tart

I wanted to serve a tart at the beginning of our tasting menu that looked the same as the chocolate tart that we served at the end, but tasting completely different. It doesn’t look anything like the chocolate tart, but it’s a great recipe.

Makes 6

Mushroom mix

10 g/ ¼ oz dried ceps

50 g/2 oz (¾ cup) butter

250 g/9 oz chestnut mushrooms, finely diced

sea salt

few drops of truffle oil or grated black truffle

20 g/ ¾ oz grated Parmesan

squeeze of lemon juice

a little double (heavy) cream, if required

6 egg yolks

Celeriac purée

50 g/2 oz (¾ cup) butter

300 g/11 oz celeriac, peeled and diced

sea salt

100 ml/3 oz (scant cup) full-fat (whole) milk

Cabbage crisps

1 Savoy cabbage, outer leaves discarded

vegetable oil, for deep-frying

Pastry cases (shells)

200 g/7 oz (1 2⁄3 cups) soft pastry flour

100 g/3 oz (½ cup) cold butter, diced

pinch of sea salt

2 tablespoons double (heavy) cream

Celeriac foam

380 g/13 oz Celeriac Purée (above), chilled

225 ml /8 oz (1 cup) double (heavy) cream, chilled

225 g/8 oz (1 cup) egg whites, chilled

Cep Powder [below], to serve


For the mushroom mix, first soak the ceps in hot water (enough to cover) for around 15 minutes. Strain the liquid and reserve. Chop the ceps finely.

Heat the butter in a pan until nut brown and it smells ‘toasty’. Add the mushrooms. Sauté for 10 minutes, then add the soaking liquid. Add a pinch of salt and a little truffle oil and sweat on a medium heat until the moisture has evaporated. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. Stir in the Parmesan then check the seasoning and adjust with salt and lemon juice, to taste.

For the celeriac purée, melt the butter in a pan, then add the celeriac and a pinch of salt. Sweat on a medium heat until soft but not completely cooked. In a separate pan, heat the milk to a gentle simmer, then pour over the celeriac and simmer for 2 minutes. Tip into a blender and blitz to a smooth purée. Pass through a sieve and allow to cool. Refrigerate until required.

To make the crisps, blanch the cabbage leaves then pat dry and leave to cool. Turn the oven on to its lowest temperature. Arrange the leaves on a baking sheet and leave overnight until they have dehydrated and become crisp.

For the pastry cases (shells), mix the our and butter together until they resemble breadcrumbs. Add the salt and cream and knead until you have a pliable dough. Wrap in cling lm (plastic wrap) and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 180oC/350oF. Remove the pastry from the refrigerator and roll out to 5 mm/¼ inch thick. Line 6 x 8 cm/3¼ inch non-stick tart cases with the pastry and bake for 25 minutes, until golden.

About 1 hour before serving, make the celeriac foam. Whisk the cold ingredients together with the celeriac purée until smooth. Pour into an iSi whipper and t with two N20 cream chargers. Sit in a 65oC/150oF water bath for 1 hour, shaking every now and then to equalise the temperature.

Preheat the oven to 80oC/175oF. Warm the mushroom mixture, loosening with a little cream if needed. Divide among the cases. Make a dent and carefully add the yolks. Bake for 10 minutes, then remove from the oven. While the tarts are baking, deep-fry the dehydrated cabbage leaves until crisp. Drain well on paper towels then crumble into rough pieces.

To serve, lift the tarts onto plates, then cover evenly with celeriac foam. Dust the surface of each tart with cep powder and finish with cabbage crisps.

Cep powder

Makes 10g/¼ oz


10 g/¼ oz dried ceps


Arrange the ceps on a baking sheet and warm in a 150C/300F oven for 5 minutes. Transfer to a coffee grinder and blitz to a powder. Store in an airtight container until ready to serve.

The Sportsman by Stephen Harris is published by Phaidon (£29.95), and is available to buy here.