Green Shoots of Recovery!

The first asparagus of the season is always cause for celebration and Executive Chef, George Blogg at Gravetye Manor Hotel, reports that their asparagus beds are just starting to produce a decent crop.“The first asparagus I taste every year is eaten raw straight from the ground, and if any of you are lucky enough to grow your own, you will understand the enormous pleasure that this gives.

Like so many quality ingredients, George recommends that a simple preparation is usually the best, and fresh asparagus is a prime example of this. “Try and cook it as soon as you buy or pick it. Bend the spear in half until it snaps and on thicker stems peel the very outside skin from below the tip. Trim the base, then blanch in slightly salted boiling water for 2-3 minutes until just soft. Drain well, then serve brushed with melted butter, a twist of black pepper and some flaked salt. This is heaven and could be served as a starter or a side to a main course. If you really wanted to add something extra how about a poached egg, some grated hard cheese, some chopped herbs like chervil/tarragon/chives, a hollandaise sauce, a tomato salsa, some diced smoked salmon, some fried shallots/bacon lardons/mushrooms, or a little dressed salad.”

Commenting on the amount of unused bits of the asparagus during preparation, I asked George whether there was anything you could do with all the left over peelings and stalk. “A soup is always my go to for these, as it allows you to remove any woody textures but still keep the flavour. Sweat a thinly sliced onion with some salt for 10 minutes until soft, adding a few splashes of water every now and again to prevent the onion from catching. Slice all the leftover asparagus stalks and add this and all the trimmings to the onion, continuing to cook for a further 5 minutes. Add some milk so that it just comes to the top of the vegetables. When the milk starts to simmer, add a knob of butter and either some frozen peas, a few handfuls of chopped wild garlic or a few handfuls of spinach. When the mix has come back to a simmer blitz straight away, preferably in a food processor, then pass through a sieve using the back of a ladle to push it through. Place the bowl of passed soup above some iced water so that it cools straight away. You can then adjust the seasoning if necessary.”

Beauty is Skin Deep: Keeping it Simple with Skincare

With the bewildering array of lotions and potions available these days, it is all too easy to over complicate your daily skincare routine. However, now is the perfect time to go back to basics and return to that tried and tested mantra of Cleanse, Tone and Moisturise.

An indulgent spa session may be out of the question right now but there is no reason not to take some time to pamper yourself and bring the benefits of a facial treatment in home and where better to go to than our local luxury spas at South Lodge Hotel and Ockenden Manor Hotel.

As it suggests, CLEANSING removes not only make-up but all the grime, dirt, dead cells and excess oil that accumulates in our skin from our day to day lives. Arguably, the most important step in your skincare regime, when choosing a cleanser, it is important to bear in mind your skin type. Our complexions tend to fall into one of 3 categories – dry, oil or combination skin. If you have dry skin, it is good to go for the hydrating properties of cleansers with fatty acids or ceramides whilst if your skin is oily you should avoid rich products.

Often it is easy to forget and skip the TONING stage of our skincare routine but the importance of a good toner shouldn’t be overlooked. It is key to closing and protecting the pores after cleansing and also removes any last remaining make-up or dead skin cells.

Your skin can feel tight after toning, so the soothing and hydrating effect of a MOISTURISER is the perfect antidote and provides a smooth canvas to apply your makeup for the day.

The Spa at South LodgeHotel use the Blue Diamond and Gold range of products from Omorovicza, created in the spa capital of Budapest and using the healing muds and thermal waters from Hungary. Their sulphate-free, blue cleansing foam gently purifies and refreshes the skin and their Peachy Micellar cleansing discs, which are scented with peach and patchouli essences and rose-flower water, are a handy cleansing option when you are in a hurry. In terms of a toner, the rather grand sounding Queen of Hungary Mist comes with great credentials having been inspired by ‘Queen of Hungary Water’, claimed to be the world’s first recorded perfume formulated for Queen Elizabeth of Hungary in 14th century! For dry or normal skin in need of hydration throughout the day, the Illuminating Moisturiser is recommended to nourish and smooth dry, ageing skin and blur lines and wrinkles.

The Spa at Ockenden Manor Hotel embrace the Elemental Herbology range, which employ natural and vegan ingredients with inherent skincare benefits. Their trio of liquid Cleansers are adapted for different skin types with Harmonising Cleanse Facial Cleansing Oil, which contains grapefruit, avocado, almond and argan oil, designed for normal or combination skin; Cool & Clear, which combines the antiseptic and anti-bacterial properties of tea tree and green tea and soothing effects of chamomile, for oily skin; and Vital Cleanse, containing honey, green tea and papaya, formulated for dull or tired skin. It is also worth highlighting one of their moisturisers, Moisture Replenish, which combines the cell plumping benefits of Co-enzyme Q10, a naturally occurring antioxidant, with royal jelly and evening primrose oil for dry skin.

In conclusion, it is worth saying that all these products are not the least expensive available but as your most visible asset isn’t your face worth the investment and can you really calculate the cost of finding a product that you love and will use every day and it not have an ingredient list as long as your arm that reads like a foreign language!