Welcome to our May newsletter
We are working hard behind the scenes planning and preparing for when we can start delivering amazing events again, with our team liaising with those clients, both corporate and private, who have had to postpone their events. Despite everything, we are bursting with positive energy and creative ideas on how we can proceed safely when the time comes. In this spirit we bring you a few stories to inform and distract you. Enjoy, stay safe, and keep following our updates and news on social too.
We predict a surge in marquee weddings and events next year and beyond, as more people opt to control their environment and either stay at home or hire an exclusive-use home from home.
Hickory has loads of experience in creating beautiful catered events in fields and on garden lawns throughout Scotland and the north east of England – working with the best suppliers in the business, with a glorious array of tent options from classic white marquees to funky giant yurts and teepees available, they can be a great option for really distinctive and original events. Quite literally a blank canvas, a marquee wedding allows you to easily stamp your own style, think of dedicated spaces for eating, drinking, relaxing, dancing and styled to fit your theme, we can use a combo of vintage and new, or bring the outside in with a summer scene perfect for that afternoon tea (think Ascot or Henley Regatta).
We’ve recently launched a new marquee package with partner venue The Old Millhouse, an exquisitely refurbished 18th century property that is exclusive use for 10 lucky people. With its vast expanse of flat velvety grass sitting alongside the river setting, it’s the ideal location for a large scale marquee wedding. The suntrap of a stone paved terrace is perfect for outdoor drinks or a sizzling Hickory hog roast.
Find out more about marquee weddings at The Old Millhouse and other Hickory venues by calling us on 0131 287 0530 or email email@example.com
Introducing . . .
We were delighted to welcome Gillan Kingstree to Hickory as our new head chef in February, leading the kitchen brigade and bringing with him a wealth of experience from around the world. During lockdown Gillan has been doing a fantastic job volunteering as part of our joint initiative with Musselburgh Resilience Team, cooking tasty, nutritious meals for local vulnerable people in our community. We caught up with him on a break for a quick chat:
Tell us where you’re from, originally, and a bit about your background – was cooking an important part of home life?
I grew up in Dumfries & Galloway and food was a really big part of growing up. I used to go out into the woods with my dad to forage for mushrooms, pick berries for jam, catch salmon, plus we prepared and cooked wild game. My mother was a trained chef, so cooking is definitely in my blood.
What’s your earliest memory of cooking something by yourself?
My grandmother was a big influence and I remembering making scones (normal and tattie!) with her in the kitchen when I was very young. I can still taste today.
What kind of training did you have – how did you start out on this journey?
My parents weren’t exactly thrilled by the idea of cooking as a career, so I started an accountancy course at college after Highers but realised after a year that this was definitely not my destiny! I started helping out at a local gastropub and realised professional kitchens were where I wanted to be. My training has included a degree at what was then the Glasgow College of Food Technology where I won two awards: one for Student of the Year and another for Outstanding Achievement.
How has your career has developed over the years?
I moved to Ireland at the age of 19 and worked in a couple of top hotels there. Since then I have lived and worked all over the world, travelling extensively through south east Asia, India, Australia, the US and Canada. I started a restaurant in Vietnam and worked for a number of years in London which is where I really cut my teeth; it was an exciting time – my first stint was at a restaurant called Sam’s in Chiswick which was backed by Rick Stein. I was blown away by the amazing quality of the ingredients – like fresh mozzarella and produce coming straight from Italy. I also worked at Notting Hill Brasserie, previously Leith’s Restaurant and for Oliver Peyton at the National Gallery and the British Library. I then led a big team at the Royal Albert Hall where I experienced cooking on a very big scale, which has been great preparation for event catering with Hickory.
What attracted you to the role of Head Chef at Hickory?
The name! To begin with I liked the sound of it and looking at the website and so on the brand and I seemed like the perfect fit. My ethos of using high quality, ideally locally sourced ingredients and keeping things clean and pure but using interesting flavours and fusions is really reflected in Hickory’s creative philosophy.
Any new food trends you’re keen to introduce to Hickory clients and guests?
I believe very strongly in the healing and holistic power of food. So while I appreciate good quality meat and fish I’m also evangelical about promoting plant-based dishes. I guess in a similar way to Yotam Ottolenghi and also Sam and Sam Clark of Moro, where vegetables can be the stars of a dish just as much as a fine cut of beef.
Who would your dream dinner guests be and what would you cook for them?
I’m fascinated by the 1920s Paris scene when Ernest Hemingway and his pals were hanging out in cafés, drinking, talking and writing. I would make them a Choucroute Alsaçienne – basically a kind of French fermented sauerkraut slow cooked with different kinds of sausage and confit of duck. I am craving that dish at the moment so it would be for purely selfish reasons!
What’s your foodie guilty pleasure?
Very specifically a double cheeseburger with extra onion and BBQ sauce from McDonalds. The ONLY thing to order there.
Right now we need all the help we can get to make decent meals out of what we’ve got in the house – what’s your go-to easy recipe using store cupboard items?
It has to be dal. After spending six months in India trying everything from street food to high level cuisine, I became addicted to it. It’s so versatile: use any kind of lentils, split peas, even chickpeas and add your spices, garlic, onions and throw in whatever veg you have to hand if you like. Incredibly cheap and nutritious, it’s my lockdown go-to.
Vegetarian or vegan eating and plant-based menus are rapidly becoming more mainstream, with the number of vegans in the UK quadrupling between 2014 and 2019 and a whopping quarter of a million people pledging not to eat animal products during Veganuary last year. It’s no surprise then that Bridebook.co.uk predicts that plant-based food requests for weddings is on the up and set to be a major influence for next year and beyond, especially for the millennium generation.
With all this in mind, Gillan has led the Hickory chefs to revamp our vegan and vegetarian menus, getting back in the kitchen and experimenting with ingredients and flavours to produce some outstanding dishes that will appeal to everyone, even the most ardent meat eaters. Far from being an alternative option, these menus are stars in their own right and bang on trend.
What’s not to love about vegan canapés like roasted asparagus spears in truffle oiled filo pastry with poppy seeds, or dry cured celeriac ‘ham’ with aged balsamic, macadamia and rocket pesto? Starters include a herb falafel, ajo blanco, grilled courgette, mint and grape salsa; main courses are a zingy collection of colourful plates such as slow roasted collar of squash, romesco sauce, edamame salsa, watercress, cauliflower and apple salad. Vegan desserts can be a challenge (no butter, cream, eggs, honey or gelatine) but ours don’t disappoint, with the likes of chocolate chip and peanut butter mousse, torn cherries, macadamia cookies ticking all the indulgence boxes.
While circumstances and guidelines are still changing and evolving, here at Hickory we are defining an even higher level of event cleanliness, to elevate our hygiene practices from start to finish. Director of Strategy, Adam Davies, outlines how we are tackling the current and on-going situation:
“Our standards are already incredibly high, but in order to be as Covid-secure as possible, we are building upon our existing housekeeping and hygiene protocols at Hickory-managed venues. Our goal is to provide clients and guests with reassurance and peace of mind when they attend a Hickory event at the point when hospitality can be resumed in one form or another. Our ‘new normal’ way of working will focus on cleanliness that will be visible to guests throughout their event experience. We are immersed in local and national government policies; we have our own Environmental Advisor and we are committed to observing and exceeding industry standards. We’re also working in tandem with our trusted suppliers making sure that they too are implementing best practice in terms of health and safety. This will effectively ensure a closing of the loop, creating a ‘supplier bubble’ to keep all areas of our operation tightly controlled and super-safe.
Our first priority has always been the safety of our guests and team members. Our enhanced standards will allow guests to rest easy and focus on enjoying themselves.
Throughout the new processes our team members will be provided with personal protective equipment and advanced training designed to protect their well-being while delivering Hickory’s high standards of hospitality. Additional protocols we are looking at include:
- High-touch, deep clean areas
- Replace paper with digital
- Our own brand Hickory alcohol-based hand gel
- Replace hand towels with hand driers
- ‘Clean and Clean Again’
- Guest-accessible disinfecting wipes
- Cashless payments
Website wake up
A couple of months back we launched our sparkly new Hickory website, refreshed for 2020 after some strategic brand exploration sessions at Hickory HQ.
We’re excited to launch a new platform designed solely for the corporate market. In a (locally sourced) nutshell our new site focusses on key elements we think corporate clients need to know about. We still talk about food, drink and brilliant events, our favourite things in the world, but you can also find out instantly about the equally critical matters of event logistics, staffing, our sustainable approach and our venue management service. Above all, we wanted to communicate in a crystal clear fashion, our full event and venue services, and make the user journey as pleasurable and easy as possible.
So, existing, new and potential corporate clients can see what we’re all about, what we offer, and most importantly, what makes us different. That would be our obsession with creating exceptional experiences – be they private board dinners for 20 or a conference for 200. Our bold stamp of a visual identity hasn’t changed and neither have our core values, or our love of sumptuous photography; we just wanted to talk more directly to our customers.
That’s why we’ve also launched a separate site for our wedding business, another key part of what we do, because, well, a newly engaged couple is a completely different kettle of fish from a corporate buyer and we figured they need a site all of their own. The design refresh includes a colour palette tweak and new, super-clear typography, with plenty of useful info about our exclusively-managed and partner venues.
Poached English asparagus, ajo blanco, ripe tomato & brown butter
This is a delicious way of bringing out the flavour of freshly cut asparagus and makes an impressive starter for a dinner party or special meal at home.
- 12 large English asparagus spears
- 120g vine-ripened cherry tomatoes, halved – Kentish & Isle of Wight are available now
- 75g unsalted butter
- 30g chopped parsley
- 30g smoked almonds, crushed – or roasted almonds if you can’t find smoked
- 1 clove of garlic, squashed with the flat of a knife
- ½ lemon
For the Ajo Blanco
- 50g whole blanched almonds
- 150ml iced water
- 20g stale white bread, or 1 slice, crusts removed
- 1 garlic clove
- 50ml extra virgin olive oil
- 1tbs sherry vinegar
- 50g white grapes
Pinch salt & pepper
- Soak the bread in half of the water
- In a food processor blend the almonds with the rest of the water to form a smooth paste, add the grapes, vinegar and garlic
- Remove the bread from the water add it to the mixture and blend – reserve the water
- Slowly add the oil to emulsify the mixture – it should be the consistency of single cream – add some of the reserved water if it’s too thick
- Season with salt and pepper
- Chill for at least 2 hours before using
For the dish
- Poach the asparagus in boiling salty water until just tender – around 60 seconds, but this will depend on the size of the asparagus – dry on a tea towel, then toss in the ajo blanco and lay on the plate
- Heat a frying pan till almost smoking hot and add the butter and garlic. As soon as it has all melted and turned brown add the tomatoes, almonds, parsley and squeeze in half a lemon.
- Season and cook for a further 10 seconds and then turn out over the asparagus – drizzle a little of the brown butter from the frying pan over and top with a little more chopped parsley.