Meet Alan Clarke, head chef at Maryculter House

I signed up for a professional cookery course when I was 16 or 17. At 21, I joined Ardoe House where I was the runner up in the group’s global competition for young chefs. I worked at Skye’s The Three Chimneys, before heading back to the Ardoe and then moving to Maryculter House Hotel.

When I’m not in the kitchen, Finley, our baby, and our new house keep me busy, though I still like to get out and about when time allows.  

At Maryculter House, we change the menus every three or four weeks to make the most of seasonal produce. We have six starters, six main courses and six desserts, each of which involves a lot of different elements. 

As a chef, I’m always interested in food. Some of the best I’ve ever eaten would be from Michael Smith, of Loch Bay in Skye. His Orbost skink is amazing, though the weirdest thing I’ve tried was during a blind taste test. Let’s just say you’ll never find dried crispy spiders on the menu here!


Castleton Strawberry Crumble (serves 4)

STRAWBERRIES

500g Castleton strawberries
60g caster sugar
14g water
30g butter
1tsp lemon juice

FOR THE TOPPING

80g plain flour
50g caster sugar
20g brown sugar
55g butter

Crème anglaise

150ml double cream
150ml full fat milk
5ml vanilla extract
4 egg yolks
75g granulated sugar

Method:

Crumble topping
Pre-heat the oven to 160oC (fan-assisted) or 180oC (no fan). Rub the butter into the flour until you get a breadcrumbs texture. Mix through both sugars and then spread the mixture evenly onto greaseproof paper on a flat tray. Bake in the oven at 160oC for eight minutes.

Then use a cookie cutter roughly the size of a saucer and cut through it while still warm. Put back in the oven for a further three minutes to fully cook the crumble disk, remove from oven, set aside and allow to cool

Crème anglaise
Put the cream, milk, and vanilla extract into a small saucepan and bring to a slow boil. Then whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until its paste like. Once the liquid has boiled, slowly add the egg and sugar paste and whisk continuously until it thickens. Once thickened remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly before serving.

Strawberries (make once crumble disks are made)
Make a caramel with the caster sugar, water and butter in a small saucepan on a high heat. Add strawberries and lemon juice, then heat through again. Remove from heat
and allow to cool.

Plating
Spoon strawberries and caramel into the base of a bowl and place the crumble dish on top. Serve with the warm custard.

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