Hop to it! East Clandon chef wins annual ‘Hop Shoot Challenge’

An East Clandon pub chef has won an annual competition with a ‘Surrey meets Italy’ recipe using freshly-picked hop shoots from Hogs Back Brewery as the basis for a delicious tortellini, seafood and asparagus dish.

Adam Sullens, head chef at the Queen’s Head, was crowned winner of the annual Hogs Back Brewery ‘Hop Shoot Challenge’, run in conjunction with local pub operator Red Mist Leisure. The competition, now in its fourth year, challenges chefs to create new dishes using the tips of hop shoots – also known as ‘poor man’s asparagus’ – harvested from Hogs Back’s hop garden adjacent to the brewery in Tongham, near Farnham.

Adam’s dish used hops in the base pasta, which was then filled with crab and king prawns to create tortellini parcels, and served with asparagus and a fennel and tomato tartare. The dish won points for both its appearance on the plate and its taste, giving Adam the winner’s place ahead of recipes from four other Red Mist pubs.

Rupert Thompson, managing director of Hogs Back Brewery and one of the judges, said, “Judging was tough as the level of entries this year was so impressive and imaginative. All five chefs deserve high praise, but we felt that technically, Adam’s dish made the most of the specific character of the hop shoots, as well as being a delicious course that customers might choose again.”

He added, “We’re grateful to the members of our Tongham TEA Club who joined us to cut the hop shoots last week. Hop shoots don’t last long after cutting, so they were delivered to the pubs and used in the recipes quickly to retain peak freshness.”

Adam said, “As a chef, it’s always great to have new ingredients to work with and I really enjoyed creating this dish. Using hops gave the pasta a fresh green colour and infused it with a distinctive taste, which worked well with the seafood.

“We served the dish as a special on the pub’s menu over the weekend and there was plenty of interest. Hogs Back Brewery is well-known locally, so the dish appealed to the many customers who are interested in local food and drink. Hops are an unusual ingredient so it was certainly a talking point.”

Adam clearly has a talent for creating interesting dishes with hop shoots, as he was the runner up in the challenge last year.

Thompson added, “Hop growing was once a major part of Surrey’s economy, and hop shoots were a rural delicacy. We’re delighted that, as well as restoring hop growing locally with our hop garden, we’re also reviving the use of hop shoots as a fresh, local ingredient in great pub food.”

Hogs Back Brewery planted its hop garden in 2014. Last year, it harvested four hop varieties: Farnham White Bine, a traditional but near-extinct variety which it has revived; Fuggles, used in their flagship TEA, or Traditional English Ale; English Cascade, used in Hogstar English Craft Lager; and a newer dwarf variety, Pioneer, used in its 2017 Home Harvest Ale. Once fully mature, the hop garden will provide 25% of the brewery’s hop requirements.