Hubby and I recently enjoyed a weekend of troughing at The Pig on the Beach – a quirky hotel and restaurant in a spectacular setting overlooking Studland Bay in Dorset. In a review, someone cleverer than I described it as the latest arrival in The Pig litter, as it’s the youngest sibling of branches in The New Forest, Bath and Southampton.
Anyone with any sense should book immediately. I had afternoon tea here a few years back when it was still the Manor House Hotel. Notwithstanding the stale scones and dated interior, it screamed potential, and it’s brilliant that the new owners have made the absolute most of it. The former holiday home of an aristocratic Dorset family, the house itself is slightly mad; original gargoyles and carvings still exist in some of the main bedrooms and fairy tale-style thatched cottages accommodate guests in the grounds.
It’s lovely inside – full of antiques, quirky objects and squishy sofas. Outside a terrace opens out onto lawn, beyond which are fields that lead down to the sea. You can run down to a sheltered cove for a swim or set forth on a bracing walk to Old Harry’s Rocks if you like. But you might find it tricky to heave yourself off the sun loungers or forego a spa treatment in the sweet little shepherd’s huts.
The walled kitchen garden underscores one of the main reasons to visit. Like all the other Pig hotels, every dish on the menu includes at least something foraged locally or grown in the kitchen garden. As a result, each pretty plate of food features flowers, herbs, fruit and vegetables picked fresh that day.
Everything we ate – and that was quite a lot – was delicious. My husband couldn’t quite bring himself to order The Pig’s famous Bath Chaps – a whole piggy mandible, still wearing a few of its teeth – but I, a bit like Hilary, tackled it because it was there. I recommend it for those with an appetite.
We swooned for the chocolate parfait and honeycomb pudding, so much so that I think we ordered it three times. I forgot to ask the chef to share his recipe – I frequently and unashamedly ask when I eat something wonderful. But I managed to devise a version of my own, inspired by the totally delicious one we ate at The Pig.
Parfait is simple to make. Because it’s whipped and aerated before going into the freezer, it doesn’t need churning, so you don’t need an ice cream maker to get it smooth and creamy. It does contains raw eggs, so only use very fresh ones from a reliable source, and avoid if you’re pregnant. I’ve deliberately made the parfait less sweet than you might otherwise like it because it’s designed to go with the sublimely sweet honeycomb. Oink!
Line a small loaf tin or freezer-proof container – about 400ml capacity – with cling film.
Set aside 3 tablespoons of the cream and then, in a large mixing bowl, whip the remainder until soft peaks form. Be careful not to over beat the cream or it will be difficult to incorporate with the chocolate. Cover with cling film and transfer to the fridge
Place the glucose syrup in a pan with 100ml water and stir over a medium heat until boiling. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool a little. Next, melt the chocolate and the remaining cream together in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of gently simmering water. Stir to combine and then remove from the heat.
Beat the egg yolks with electric beaters until pale, thick and creamy. With the beaters running, add the glucose mixture in a very thin stream – the mixture will turn light and creamy. Beat in the melted chocolate a spoonful at a time. Take the cream out of the fridge and gradually fold in the eggy chocolate mixture. Pour into the lined loaf tin and transfer to the freezer. The parfait can take several hours to freeze so it’s best to make it the day before required. Remove from the freezer an hour or so before serving to thaw slightly
To make the honeycomb, line a shallow tin with baking paper or foil brushed with oil. Combine the sugar, golden syrup and honey in a large pan and stir over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved. Stop stirring but leave on the heat until the temperature of the mixture reaches 150°C. Use a confectionary thermometer for this, or test by dropping a little of the mixture into a glass of cold water. If it cracks and turns into a hard ball, it’s ready. If not, continue cooking. With a whisk at the ready, add the bicarbonate of soda, then remove the pan from the heat and whisk: the mixture will froth up dramatically. Quickly pour into the prepared tin and leave to harden – this might take an hour or more – then break into pieces or crumbs, whatever you prefer.
Cut the parfait into slices and arrange on plates with some raspberries, a scattering of honeycomb and a drizzle of honey if you like.