Hop hop hooray! Traditional Surrey ingredient used by county’s pub chefs

Diners in Surrey will have the chance to try an unusual, but traditional, ingredient in a handful of pubs across the county from this weekend as contestants in the annual ‘Hogs Back Hop Shoot Challenge’ serve up delicious dishes containing hop shoots – or ‘Poor Man’s Asparagus’.

The competition, now in its fifth year, challenges chefs across the Red Mist Leisure pub group to create a recipe using the tips of the hop shoots. The shoots were cut on Wednesday in the Hogs Back hop garden next to the brewery in Tongham, and delivered immediately to the pubs for the chefs to work their culinary magic.

The standard was incredibly high across all the pubs but we are glad to say that our winner was The Red Lion in Odiham with Head Chef Simon Lamb’s creation “Hop-in Spring Lamb” – Ale marinated rump of lamb, roasted new potatoes, buttered asparagus, ‘Hoppendaise’ sauce, battered ‘Poor Man’s Asparagus’ with a TEA glaze.

Winning dishes in past years include a ‘Surrey Smorgasbord’ including hop-flavoured bread, a risotto and a ‘Real Ale Salad’.  Last year’s winner was Adam Sullens from the Queen’s Head in East Clandon, who created a hop-infused tortellini.

What’s on the Menu this weekend?

  • The Red Lion, Odiham – “Hop-in Spring Lamb” – Ale marinated rump of lamb, roasted new potatoes, buttered asparagus, ‘Hoppendaise’ sauce, battered ‘Poor Man’s Asparagus’ with a TEA glaze.
  • The Castle Inn, Farnham – Hogs Back cheesy polenta bites with real ale chutney and crispy hops
  • The Duke of Cambridge, Tilford – Fillet of Surrey farm beef, shallot purée, fondant potato, wilted spinach, truffle oil wild mushrooms, crispy tempura hop shoots, red wine jus
  • The Royal Exchange, Lindford – “Lush me with your Hogs Back” – Hogs Back Hazy Hog cider and vanilla butter sauce with king scallops and hops.
  • The Queen’s Head, East Clandon – Crispy scotch duck egg, wrapped in Sussex smoked cheddar and hogs back hop shoots Caper and hop shoot hollandaise, asparagus and radish salad
  • The Stag on the River, Lower Eashing – Devonshire crab pate, pickled Hog Back hop shoots, toasted focaccia with a tomato and avocado salsa

All participating chefs will serve their creations in their pubs over the weekend, for as long as their supply of hop shoots lasts.

Rupert Thompson, managing director of Hogs Back Brewery, said: “Hop shoots aren’t the easiest ingredient to work with – they don’t last long after cutting, so they have to be delivered to the pubs straight away and used quickly as they can only be served while they are new and fresh. Congratulations to Simon on his imaginative and delicious dish. We’d recommend diners visit their local Red Mist Leisure pub early this weekend to be sure of tasting a hop shoot dish.” 

Tongham TEA Club members picking the shoots in the Hop Garden

Thompson added: “The Farnham area was historically one of the most important hop growing regions in the country with hops such as the Farnham White bine prized for their delicate aromas. 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.”  Hop shoots were a country delicacy in the 19th century and today are often served pickled in bars across Belgium.

Mark Robson, managing director of Red Mist Leisure, said: “Our chefs enjoy having new ingredients to work with and applying their culinary flair to create new dishes. The results in previous years have been delicious and popular with our customers so we’re looking forward to serving some hoppy delights on our special boards later this weekend.”