Norfolk Table recipes: The Duck Inn, Stanhoe

The team at The Duck Inn

The team at The Duck Inn - Credit: Archant

Salty sea air gives a special coastal flavour to the beef on The Duck Inn menu, in our latest extract from Norfolk Table: One County, Twenty Chefs

Belted Galloways from Chalk Hill Farm on the Holkham estate

Belted Galloways from Chalk Hill Farm on the Holkham estate - Credit: Archant

Try as you might, you won’t get Ben Handley to share his scotch egg recipe. The quails’ eggs are lightly cooked, then cocooned in a mix of his butcher Arthur Howell’s sausagemeat and black pudding, before being crumbed and deep-fried, very precisely, to order. Slice through the crisp crust, the dark meat and just-firm egg white, and the golden-orange yolk runs out slowly, just as it ought.

‘Original Mr H scotch quails’ eggs’, served with home-made mustard and tarragon mayonnaise, are one of The Duck Inn’s most popular bar bites. “They’re up there with our lager and lime whitebait, and the scampi,” says Ben. “Dishes like this are a bit retro but there’s pure pleasure in eating them.”

Ben’s compact kitchen is a hard-working space from which a six-strong brigade is capable of turning out 300 meals on the busiest days. With the oven under his six-burner stove more useful as storage, and the top rammed with pans, he couldn’t manage without a sous-vide water bath. “Everything depends on the quality of the initial ingredient, but you can’t get a more reliable end result,” he says. With a busy weekend in the offing, Ben anticipates six whole sirloins going into the water bath – and emerging perfectly cooked.

Little of the beef that comes into the Stanhoe kitchen is wasted. Prime steak cuts might be offered with onions, mushrooms and skinny fries, or as a fillet and short rib dish, richly-flavoured and supremely tender.

Ben Handley, chef patron of The Duck Inn, Stanhope

Ben Handley, chef patron of The Duck Inn, Stanhope - Credit: Archant

For the non-carnivorous, Brancaster mussels cooked classically with cream, shallots and white wine; fish and chips; and a leek and Norfolk Dapple gratin are among the popular options, but this is a place to enjoy meat. Ben and his chefs glam up pub staples such as liver, bacon and mash by using ox liver with cubes of pancetta, confit onions, and smoked mash, or turn a simple dish of locally-shot pigeon into something special.

Ben’s supplier of choice is Arthur Howell, a fifth-generation butcher from Wells-next-the-Sea – est. 1889, no less. Like his father before him, he buys cattle from the 25,000-acre Holkham Estate, slaughtering at his on-site abattoir, one of the last remaining small operations in Norfolk.

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He swings out a carcass from the coldstore. “Look at the fat, just the right amount, and the colour of that meat. That’s a well-reared animal.

“I see how well-looked after the cattle are, that they have a good life. The North Sea mists give the grass a flavour that you really can taste in the meat too.”

Pear Tarte Tatin

Pear Tarte Tatin - Credit: Archant

Ben is no stranger to the hospitality industry, his parents having owned the Lifeboat Inn at Thornham, and having worked as head chef at The White Horse, Brancaster Staithe, and, most formatively, at the Melbourne restaurant, Ruby Ruby. “It was there that I first experienced the notion of cooking with passion, something that has never left me.”

Seared Belted Galloway beef fillet, honey and ale-braised short rib, wild mushroom risotto

For this indulgent main course, we braise the ribs in our landlord’s Elgood’s Cambridge Ale but you can choose a rich malty Norfolk beer. I suggest you sauté the fillet steak from raw for ease, though we poach ours first. Start the fillet and mushrooms to coincide with beginning the risotto. (Serves 4)

Seared Belted Galloway beef fillet, hone and ale-braised short rib, wild mushroom risotto

Seared Belted Galloway beef fillet, hone and ale-braised short rib, wild mushroom risotto - Credit: Archant

Braised beef

1 large piece of beef short rib on the bone

Rapeseed oil

1 onion, roughly chopped

2 sticks celery, roughly chopped

3 carrots, roughly chopped

1 pint rich malty beer

2 bay leaves

1 sprig fresh thyme

1 tbsp Norfolk honey

2 pints beef stock, warmed

(good bouillon or home-made)

Pre-heat the oven to 150c. Seal the seasoned short rib in a very hot, oiled, frying pan until well-browned. In a very hot, oiled, casserole dish (ovenproof and lidded), caramelise the roughly-chopped vegetables before adding the rib. Deglaze the frying pan with the beer, add the bay leaves, thyme, honey and stock, then bring to a simmer. Cover and bake for 5 hours or until tender. Cool for an hour and then carefully remove from the stock. Sieve the liquor into a saucepan and boil to reduce to a glossy sauce. Cut the rib into 4 boneless pieces and cover with the sauce in a snug container. Keep warm or refrigerate.


800g thick end of beef fillet, trimmed

Local rapeseed oil

100g unsalted butter, melted

1 tsp thyme leaves

Before starting the risotto, pre-heat your oven to 200c and put in a snug roasting tin. Brown the beef in a very hot oiled pan on all sides. Transfer to the tin and brush all over with the butter, season, and scatter with thyme leaves. Bake for approx. 20 minutes for rare (check it after 12 minutes and every few thereafter, until cooked to your liking). Remove

to rest somewhere warm.


100g unsalted butter

1 onion, finely chopped

2 sticks celery, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1 tsp thyme leaves

200g arborio rice

1 litre vegetable stock, simmering

200g wild mushrooms, cleaned and in bite-size pieces

Good rapeseed or extra virgin olive oil

70g Parmesan cheese, grated

White truffle oil

1 lemon, halved

In a deep, heavy, frying pan, melt 50g of the butter over

a low-medium heat and sweat the onion, celery, garlic and thyme leaves together. Once they are softened but not browned, turn up to medium heat, add in the rice and stir until it is translucent and ‘crackles’. Season lightly at this stage. Gradually add the stock a ladleful at a time, stirring and allowing the rice to absorb the liquid before the next. Meanwhile cook the beef fillet and rest somewhere warm. In a separate pan, fry the mushrooms in a little oil until just tender and keep warm. Depending on how you like the ‘bite’ of your risotto will influence the cooking time of the rice,

we suggest around 15 minutes for al dente grains, avoiding

it becoming ‘porridgy’. When the risotto is nearly cooked, add the drained mushrooms, the remaining butter, Parmesan and a good drizzle of truffle oil. Stir in seasoning and lemon juice to taste.

To serve

Spoon out the risotto, place the hot braised beef to one side, carved fillet on the other and sauce generously.

Pear tarte tatin

We like to put a little of our own twist on dishes at The Duck. With this classic French pâtisserie recipe, a crisp pastry galette of caramel and pear, it’s a black pepper honeycomb for contrast and rich vanilla ice cream for indulgence. Individual tart cases look good. (Serves 4)

2 firm local pears (we use Williams)

1 litre stock syrup (equal volumes of sugar and water gently dissolved)

1 sprig rosemary

1 star anise

100ml dry white wine

150g golden caster sugar

150g unsalted butter, cold, in small cubes

Good puff pastry, ready rolled to fit

1 free range egg

Splash of milk

In a large pan, bring the stock syrup to the boil and carefully add in the rosemary, star anise and white wine. Bring back to the simmer, turn off and allow to infuse while you peel the pears. Lower the peeled pears into the syrup and cover the pan. Bring back to a simmer and cook gently over a low heat until the pears are cooked and soft. Remove the pears and leave to cool. Halve and carefully scoop out the core. Keep warm.

Pre-heat the oven to 180c. Warm your metal tart cases in the oven on a baking sheet. Heat the sugar gently without stirring over a low-medium heat in a wide frying pan. As it starts to caramelise and become syrupy, scatter in the butter and start to move the pan very carefully, swirling in the butter to mix. Use a wooden spatula to bring it together. Stir in a pinch of freshly-ground black pepper and then remove the caramel from the heat. Add a shallow layer to the bottom of each tin. Lay in a pear half. Cut a square of pastry to completely cover the top, trim the edge to a small overlap and tuck inside the tin carefully. Repeat for all four.

Whisk the egg and a little milk for an eggwash glaze and brush over the pastry. Bake until golden-brown, remove and allow to cool for 20 minutes. Invert a warm plate over each tart, and holding both parts tightly with a tea towel, very carefully turn over. Tease out the tarts from the cases and serve.

Norfolk Table: One County, Twenty Chefs, by Tessa Allingham and Glyn Williams, is priced at £19.95 and available from Jarrold of Norwich book department and fine food retailers as well as the 20 featured restaurants